kanner architects, santa monica

After scrutinizing 26th Street, a judge offered the highest praise an architect of low-income housing could hope to hear: “It's one of the best projects we've seen, period, and the fact that it's affordable is amazing.” The judges applauded the way the large, bold façade breaks down to human scale. The warm brown clapboard siding, checkerboard pattern of shaded balconies, and colorful side walls make all residents feel like they have their own house.

To qualify for state tax credits, the entire project had to be designated residential, leaving Stephen Kanner, FAIA, with the task of figuring out how to buffer the ground-floor units facing a busy intersection. The solution was to give each street-edge apartment a private entry courtyard and wood-slat fencing. “The contractor cut cementitious panels into strips and screwed them to wood posts,” Kanner says. “This means they'll really last—they're very rigid and won't require endless maintenance.”

In back, a spacious courtyard and arty staircase tower create a welcoming portal for the other residents. Each unit enjoys cross-breezes, eliminating the need for air conditioning. And the building is a good neighbor: subterranean parking keeps cars off the street, dry wells collect and disperse rainwater, and the mural—a public art piece—gives it a human face.

principal in charge / project architect: Stephen Kanner, FAIA, Kanner Architects
developer: Joan Ling, Community Corp. of Santa Monica, Santa Monica
general contractor: Louis Laxineta, Alpha Construction Co., Van Nuys, Calif.
project size: 950 square feet to 1,350 square feet per unit
site size: 0.3 acre
construction cost: $200 per square foot
rental price: $422 to $1,059 per unit per month
units in project: 44
photography: johnlindenphotographs.com

product specs
bathroom and kitchen plumbing fittings:Delta Faucet Co.

; bathroom and kitchen plumbing fixtures:American Standard; countertops:Formica Corp.; dishwasher, garbage disposer, oven, refrigerator, trash compactor:Kenmore; exterior siding:James Hardie Building Products; flooring (vinyl): Forbo Flooring North America (Marmoleum); hardware:Schlage Lock Co.; insulation:Owens Corning; lighting fixtures:Capri Lighting; paints/stains:Frazee Paint; patio doors:Fleetwood Windows & Doors; perforated metal railings:McNichols Co.; windows:Arcadia