Affordable / Grand
Faced with reconciling artistry with the constraints of a limited budget, architect David Baker, FAIA, brought dignity and a sense of play to a building for very-low-income tenants. Pensione Esperanza, a residential hotel, does indeed look optimistic in its spot on the edge of a blighted business strip. Baker avoided a barracks look by shifting the plan's axis within the rectangular site and using colored stucco and steel to create discrete volumes. The skewed corner elevation, taking its cue from the plan, adds some drama to the street. "It's a quirky site plan and does a lot with a limited budget," the judges said.
Double-loaded corridors, with their dead ends and dark corners, usually give buildings a bad name. But there's daylight at the end of every hallway here, thanks to the banks of windows and widened areas for lounging. Although the units are tiny, "this is something people coming out of crummy hotels can afford," Baker says. For seniors, in particular, the rooms are simple to furnish.
"One of the struggles we had was convincing people we wouldn't be downgrading the neighborhood," Baker says. Now, they claim the building as their own.