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As we’ve embarked on this journey with Watts House Project, we’ve been struck by an amazing intersection of the homeowner to the public through the process of engaging with the design team made up of architects, artists and builders. The ability to bring these constituents together in a common effort to improve a space which is at once private and yet part of the public sphere—a functional part of life as well as an artistic statement, is an impressive task that provides a fascinating condition in which to present a design solution.
At first glance, one sees an impoverished neighborhood that has suffered neglect. Take a second look and one sees a resilient community thriving with culture and the desire to transform itself through art and redevelopment. SWA, B.A.D. (Bureau for Art and Design), and artist Ana Rodriguez have joined Watts House Project to provide designs for two houses on either side of the Towers; The Sanchez residence and The Villegas residence. Each design is a reflection of the homeowner, the contextual relationship to the Towers, and the design team that is collaborating on the project.
For the Villegas House, we are collaborating with B.A.D. In this house, we see the project as mediation between the public and private realm, a way for the homeowner to interact with the Towers and the public attention they garner yet maintain definition of his space and security for his property. The mediation occurs through a give and take, spatially through giving a piece of the property to the public realm in the form of a bench and socially through sharing the homeowner’s love of gardening. The bench and lush garden will provide a great public amenity, but more importantly will inform the public about the character of the homeowner, a man who cares about the well-being of the visitors in his neighborhood and enjoys sharing his hospitality.
At the Sanchez House, we are collaborating with artist Ana Rodriguez. Here, the homeowner wishes to express the richness of the family’s Latino culture, pulling from decorative paper-cut motifs to inform a space that needs to support an extended family’s various living patterns. With the house facing south, it has a superb view of the Towers but also needs protection from the vibrant California sun. The design direction seeks to incorporate the rich decorative motifs of paper-cuts into a functional space that responds to the various needs of the homeowner and site. We find this intersection of functional needs and artistic expression to be the perfect correlation to the larger neighborhood that is at once a vibrant active community and also a museum to an incredible work of art.
Both homeowners, although separated by the Towers, share a common goal. By transforming their homes, they help transform the community. The Watts Towers were originally known as Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town) and they sit at the core of the neighborhood where they serve a constant reminder of the resiliency of the community and city. This is indeed their pueblo and although it is too soon for us to measure the impact, one can see that the change is contagious and surrounding residences wants to “keep up with the joneses.” For once this is embraced and encouraged as we see neighbors apply fresh coats of paint on their homes or simply care for their landscapes.
Miguel Rivera + Andrew Watkins
©2021 Watts House Project