La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing Wins National AIA Housing Award

Awards—————30 April 2015

“Inspiring livability. Different depths of transparency make it work. It’s slightly enigmatic and that’s great in this type of project. It feels like a building of the city. Amazing combination of privacy, safety, and support without being apart.” – Jury Comments

This project is a permanent supportive housing facility designed for the District of Columbia. “La Casa” is the first permanent supportive housing facility for the District’s Department of Human Services. The project consists of forty single-occupancy units with community and support spaces covering almost 25,000 SF. Currently, the City operates a variety of housing types and models to accommodate the homeless, most of which focus on temporary, nightly shelter. La Casa is the first to develop private dwelling units, with full living spaces, kitchens, and baths for the chronically homeless.

In addition to maximizing the number of individual units that could be accommodated on the small site, the City wanted to redefine a homeless care paradigm that typically produces antiseptic institutional facilities. The architects were fortunate in having a municipal client that required design quality that would “meet and/or exceed” that of adjacent market rate condominium buildings. As the first permanent supportive housing facility in the City, La Casa is an important milestone for the District in its efforts to redefine the concept of housing for the homeless community.

A central design challenge was to create “homes” rather than an institution. It was repeatedly stressed that the City wanted a building that defied the homeless shelter archetype. True to the spirit of permanent supportive housing, each resident is provided with a place to call their own. From the exterior, large, operable, individualized windows on the facade identify specific units. Striking design fosters a pride of ownership among the residents, and the security and predictable domestic environment encourages the continual growth of residents. Each living unit is designed for single person efficiency while collectively the facility operates as a community. La Casa communal spaces are interspersed with offices where residents can seek substance abuse counseling, case management, and employment and housing placement assistance, among other services. In doing so, the project is also a welcome addition to a diverse, vibrant, and rapidly growing neighborhood.

The AIA Housing and Custom Residential Knowledge Community established this awards program to emphasize the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource.

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