Over their 30 years of practice, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA] have won a succession of awards for their urban and university housing projects. They have become adept at inserting multiple units into low-rise neighborhoods, creating buildings that stand out while fitting in. Their goal is to create modest landmarks in harmony with the urban grain and enrich the lives of students and tenants of limited means. Most of their work is concentrated in southern California, close to their Los Angeles office, but recently they opened a satellite studio in Detroit, a depressed industrial city that is busily reinventing itself.
South E8 is LOHA’s first completed project in the American South and a model of densification on a single residential lot.
It is located in a central district of modest homes in Raleigh, one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. and a hub of technology. Merge Capital, a small local developer commissioned LOHA to masterplan a 3-ha mixed-use project before they sold the site and used the profit to develop South E8, a ten-minute walk from the State Capitol.
In contrast to Los Angeles, where neighborhood associations and a sclerotic bureaucracy impede every innovation, Raleigh is an optimistic city that is open to change. South E8 was permitted as a flexible complex that could contain eight studio units or four apartments on two floors. LOHA laid it out as eight, but it could easily be reconfigured in the future. Lorcan O’Herlihy describes it as a nimble building that provides basic live-work space for students and young professionals, or family apartments. This contrasts with the prevailing pattern in L.A., 70% of which is zoned for single family houses; an inflexible pattern unresponsive to a volatile market. The acute shortage of affordable apartments and the restrictions on new multi-unit dwellings is driving people away from Californian cities, often to places like Raleigh.
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