Work

Market Rate Multifamily Housing

Palacios de Versalles

Toa Alta, Puerto Rico (2008)

Site Plan

Concept
This suburban residential walk-up apartment development, located in a community near San Juan establishes an important new variation on a common building type in Puerto Rico. Its overall composition a series of three, 3-story buildings, each containing five or six apartments each is clustered into an ensemble, enclosing a semi-private landscaped common courtyard.

Precedent
This design recalls the dominant Southern California multifamily dwelling type: the low-rise, high density Courtyard Housing of Los Angeles - in particular, the Monterey Apartments, Los Feliz, C. K. Smithley (1925), or the Ronda, West Hollywood, Arthur Zwebell (1927). Modern Architects, practicing in Los Angeles, including Rudolf Schindler, Korsen Apartments, Hollywood (1921), and Richard Neutra, Strathmore Apartments, Westwood (1938), also adopted this variation on the typology.

Economy
While this organization of buildings provides a safe, cloistered outdoor space for families and their children, the design does not significantly increase the developer's construction cost. The economy of repetitive mirrored floor plans front to back and side to side avoids an increase to construction costs over the traditional linear configuration for moderately priced walk-up apartment housing in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, to offset any added cost associated with landscaped courtyards, the organization of the site is a bay site design rather than the typical grid or cove layout. This organization reduces the length of access road and associated infrastructure. Also, by the placing parking areas between each cluster, rather than parallel to the access road, the distance between the main utility lines and the buildings is reduced. The dense, but detached clusters of buildings also significantly reduce the amount of earth movement and retention needed to prepare the sloping site for construction, while leaving more of the natural landscape undisturbed.

Innovation
The greatest benefit of this alternative arrangement, for the ubiquitous walk-up apartment in Puerto Rico, is a marked improvement in lifestyle for those families living in this building type. Secure, landscaped outdoor space is accessed directly in front of each apartment unit, for adult relaxation, and parental supervision, without necessarily leaving the immediate area of a resident's apartment for a remote recreation area.