Toa Alta, Puerto Rico (2012)
This suburban residential walk-up apartment development, located near San Juan, establishes an essential new variation on a typical building type in Puerto Rico. Its overall composition is a series of three, 3-story buildings, each containing five or six apartments each are clustered into an ensemble, enclosing a semi-private landscaped common courtyard.
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.
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 of landscaped courtyards, the site’s organization is a bay site design rather than the typical grid or cove layout. This organization reduces the length of the access road and associated infrastructure. Also, by 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, leaving more of the natural landscape undisturbed.