Students of Historic Preservation Studio Attempt to Save Wyvernwood Garden Apartments

Students of Professor Luis Hoyos’s Arc 401-405 Historic Preservation Studio held their Fall 2011 Final Review at the Lou Costello Community Center that included a jury comprised of the Los Angeles Conservancy, District 14 Councilman Jose Huizar’s office, and members of the local community. The subject of the review was the preservation of the Wyvernwood Housing Project in Boyle Heights.

Wyvernwood is a large, privately-owned housing development designed as a garden apartment composition by Wittmer and Watson Architects. Built in 1939 on 70 acres of land, it has 154 buildings and originally had 1187 housing units. The buildings are all two stories and are sited forming courtyard compositions linked by open space to a large central greensward. The project has been found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Wyvernwood is threatened with demolition as the owners of the project pursue design alternatives that would drastically increase the density as they achieve their goals of a completely re-conceptualized site holding a contemporary retail and market rate housing development. A Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) was released in late 2011. The EIR contained five alternatives including full demolition.

Wyvernwood was found eligible to the National Register as a prominent example of residential multi-family design of the period and as one of the earliest and largest examples of FHA-financed projects. The preservation community as well as the local tenant organizations have mobilized to oppose demolition of the project. The Cal Poly project will attempt to arrive at alternative scenarios for the demolition (total or partial) of Wyvernwood. As the EIR project alternatives were not yet known in Sep. 2011, the studio proposed several project variants that combined new development within the existing fabric while theoretically remaining eligible for listing.

After being organized in teams of three, each student team prepared a project proposal addressing the potential continued use or adaptive reuse of the subject buildings as well as additional new structures that would serve the purpose of continued profitable use of the site for the developer. The project tested the students understanding of the adaptive reuse process as well as their skill as urban designers in the re-integration of the rehabilitated site into the existing urban context. Key to the success of the design is the need to understand the local planning constraints as well as incorporate current building and site sustainability features into the design.

The student teams assessed the condition of the buildings and the landscape and devised their project accordingly. It is expected the site would retain any potential listing in the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historical Resources or a local listing as a City of Los Angeles Cultural Historical Monument. There was considerable freedom to explore programmatic variations for the future of Wyvernwood and any reasonable land use option could be proposed.







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