The Laurelwood Apartments, designed by R.M. Schindler in 1946, recently underwent a complete exterior restoration after years of neglect and disrepair. The 22-unit hillside housing complex, located in Studio City California, is Schindler’s largest completed work and a designated Historic Landmark. It demonstrates the innovation and experimentation of the last phase of his career. Constructed in the “Schindler Frame”, a modular construction system Schindler developed during WWII, it was built with inexpensive and efficient building materials and methods, such as exposed framing used as screens and trellises or grape stakes used as fencing. Schindler was an early critic of the International Style, and here its prevailing principles were challenged through the use of rotated, staggered forms built from common or low materials and adapted to site-specific conditions.
From the street, the carports create a buffer and point of entry. A central walkway connects the two halves of the complex, which are seen dramatically stepping up the hillside beyond. All of the living units are rotated 15 degrees in plan, creating a sawtooth effect that affords a sense of privacy and autonomy for each dwelling. Adding to this effect are the separate exterior stairs or walkways to each unit, along with private yards for ground floor dwellings and balconies for upper dwellings.
Over the years, the complex deteriorated and narrowly avoided demolition twice. Even though the previous owner saved Laurelwood from the wrecking ball, the property continually declined to the point where part of it was cited as a life-safety hazard by the City of Los Angeles. When the current owner inherited the property in 2009, the restoration work was soon begun. Necessary major work included rebuilding all of the deficient stairs and screens, replacing rotten structural beams and correcting the many roof leaks throughout. The property had also suffered from years of deferred maintenance, evidenced by missing signage, mismatched tongue and groove soffits, rotten fascias, missing light fixtures, exposed plumbing and conduit, and cracking and peeling stucco. Also, an unsightly metal coping, which was applied to the top of every wall and fascia throughout the complex, was removed and restored to the original concealed coping detail.
The interiors of individual rental units, which are of varying condition, will be restored over the next several years as they become available.
Architect: R.M. Schindler
Architect of Renovation: Martin Fenlon Architecture (martinfenlon.com)
Location: Studio City, California
Original Project Year: 1946-1948
Renovation Project Year: 2010-2011
Owner: Vincent Jameson
Property Manager: Howard Management Group
Contractor: JS Building Construction Inc. (jsbuild.com)
Photography: Wundr Studio (wundrstudio.blogspot.com)