Working directly with the city of Los Angeles on this homeless navigation center in LA’s Council District 8, JFAK designed a modular two-story building whose height was a necessary design decision that has led to a sense of street presence, architectural dignity, and functionality.
JFAK got the job partially because of a successful fitness center they’d designed for UCLA that used the same modular principles; the council district into which this center went is represented by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the chair of the City Committee on Homelessness.
“He wanted there to be a gallery and a place where the community could meet,” JFAK principal John Friedman says. The result is this multipurpose space dedicated to giving necessary support to a community that often sleeps outside. Among the programs are a personal storage space where each person gets access to what is essentially a safety deposit box; showers, sinks, and toilets; and laundry.
Friedman points out that the ability to store valuables like ID cards or personal effects without worrying about them getting stolen on the street is part of what helps unhoused people be able to take care of themselves, going to doctor’s or vet appointments, applying for jobs, and more.
The term “navigation” is crucial here; the center is conceived of as a place from which to help unhoused people navigate their existing lives, and while the center doesn’t offer direct counseling, the services that it provides have become so vital that what Friedman describes as the queuing area is usually full by the facility’s opening time of seven am.
The queuing area is a central element of the design, as is the multi-colored facade, which brings delineation and structure to the modularly-constructed building.“We didn’t want to express its institutionality,” Friedman says. “We wanted to express something about home.” He and the JFAK team used their experience thinking about homes in their single- family work to create entry spaces and thresholds here that very clearly, like with that staging area, demarcate outside from inside.
The colors and the form are also a way of drawing attention to the structure. “It has the idea of dignity in that it’s different from the things around it,” Friedman says. “People look at it and go, I want to look at that place.”
The reverse gable form and the colorful facade invite visitors in through the joyful warmth they embody, but the majority of the successes are in the invisible parts, the ones that hopefully no one will ever see or think about, but that change and support the lives of thousands of people..
Council District 8 Navigation Center Gallery
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