Higher Ground

In response to the “Low-Rise” housing competition sponsored by the Mayor of Los Angeles, We set out to create an economical and inclusive multi-unit housing typology that could provide families and unrelated households access to a rich variety of usable outdoor spaces while also offering them the choice to be socially engaged or disengaged as they see fit. All of this is designed to fit on the site of a typical single-family house in the San Fernando Valley.

While much has, and will continue to be said on this topic, the traditional single family development pattern of mid-20th Century Los Angeles offers benefits that many residents wish to maintain. Chief among these are privacy, individualism, access to sunlight, and outdoor living. We have attempted to incorporate these benefits into a recognizably “suburban” design while increasing the unit count on these two lots up to 650% and going from six beds to thirty-two.

The key to our proposal is to create HIGHER GROUND. An elevated “back yard” ground surface horizontally divides the site between bedrooms below and living areas above. The roof above the bedrooms forms the HIGHER GROUND, and is perforated with openings to the corridors and bedrooms below. At the lower level, each unit has approximately 200 square feet of outdoor courtyard space open to the sky for light and ventilation.

Except for one accessible surface-level unit, each home’s living space is located upstairs in a compact house that sits atop the HIGHER GROUND surface. The individual expression of these “houses” varies and allows for an outward expression of identity for the residents within. Sliding glass doors connect Living, Kitchen, and Dining spaces of each home to a semi-private deck and the rest of the HIGHER GROUND surface. This surface is organized into spaces for home agriculture, children’s recreation, exercise, relaxation, decorative landscaping, and more.

Special thanks to project team member Aidan Atman.


  • Los Angeles, California


  • Multi-Family Residential on Single-Family lot


  • 2021