Situated in North Hollywood, the adaptive reuse project establishes a seamless connection between the front and rear of the site by strategically slicing the existing building diagonally. This approach created a newly land- scaped open-air public plaza connecting the parking lot with public access on Victory Boulevard. The plaza greets visitors with amenities such as outdoor seating, grassy areas, bicycle parking, and an outdoor staircase suitable for seating and lunch. Photos courtesy © HANA / Paul Vu

The Healthy Transformation of a Los Angeles Warehouse

Architecture firm Patterns turns a 1940s building into a senior care facility, resisting the carcentricity of the area.

While L.A.’s San Fernando Valley contains many lovely people centered residential streets, most of its commercial thoroughfares are anything but. Lined by row after row of standoffish horizontal sprawl, they’ve been designed (if you can call it that) with practicality in mind: to be seen from cars, parked in, and populated with little connection to community, humanity, or nature.

Los Angeles architects Patterns, helmed by Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina, set out to challenge this condition when they designed a multilevel medical and wellness facility along Victory Boulevard.

The project centers on the adaptive reuse of a 1940s bowstring-truss supermarket warehouse into two floors of space for WelbeHealth, a full-service senior care facility, along with forthcoming upper-floor wellness facilities for yoga, Pilates, physical therapy, and psychotherapy.

Visitors enter the building at ground level through a transparent storefront, blending indoor and outdoor spaces. The mezzanine level features new medical offices with terrace access, offering a view of the open plaza. The refurbished existing sign adds a commanding vertical element to the project, imbuing it with newfound iconicity that is both integrated with and distinct from its surroundings.

Despite increasing the building’s usable square footage significantly, the firm’s most important moves involved taking pieces away, or “liberating” the boxy, sealed-off design, as Spina puts it, and creating a sense of connection and community.

“We managed to do things that are more human,” adds Spina. “We kept the spirit of the original building but made it better with meaningful interventions. Light comes in in surprising directions. You’re surrounded by existing things in new ways.”

The first interventions you notice are the unification of the campus via a palette of dark gray paint, the retrofit of the old facility’s signage with a more subtle corrugated tower, and an expanded outdoor plaza filled with fixed and movable seating, grassy areas, and steps for seating and events. Beyond that, the firm carved out four vertical courtyards—one on each side of the building, and all but one dug into the ground—pulling natural light into all levels and creating unique public sites lined with furnishings, concrete planters, and layers of lush greenery, all of which can be enjoyed in person or simply via views from the inside.

Four interior courtyards provide doctors and patients with ample natural light and fresh air. Additionally, they offer the convenience of direct access to the open plaza from both the main street and the basement.

Inspired by (among other things) the sharp angles of the beams making up the building’s central truss, the firm “played with the mass,” slicing diagonal cuts into exterior brick walls that bring still more light and air into the building while creating a unique sense of visual tension.

(An uneven rhythm of windows along the edge adds to this sense of off-kilter visual variety.) Above the base of the bowstring truss, the firm installed a level of podlike volumes that break down the complex’s overall scale, creating a village-like feeling that subtly alludes to the Valley’s singlefamily residential tradition. Clad in dark gray corrugated metal walls (matching the standing seam roofs here), this upper zone provides large windows and balconies, enhancing the connection to the street. These spaces hadn’t yet been leased at the time of writing, but a tour through them revealed spacious, light-filled rooms shaped by the original bow truss’s arches and energized by forests of exposed wood and steel columns and beams.

Most spaces are bathed in natural light, thanks to their openings onto interior courtyards and balconies. These areas are furnished to enable visitors and staff to enjoy both the outdoor surroundings and the glazed interiors.

Patterns did not design WelbeHealth’s interiors, but the company, which has facilities around California, has fit nicely into the architects’ core and shell with modern, light-filled interiors that take advantage of the project’s natural light, spacious interiors, and lovely courtyards. One hopes the firm gets a chance to redevelop the client’s adjacent building, a 1970s “Valley Brutalist” structure that thus far has only been repainted. And that local taggers stop using the building as their dramatic new palette.

Indeed, hope springs eternal in the effort to bring the midcentury Valley into the 21st century. “It still feels familiar, but it’s not what you expect,” notes Spina. And that’s exactly the kind of approach that this dated urban/ suburban realm needs.

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