The American Institute of Architects (AIA) awarded international firm LEO A DALY and its design partner D.C.-based Studio Twenty Seven Architecture with a 2015 Housing Award in the Specialized Housing category for designing Washington, D.C.'s first permanent housing project, called La Casa. An award in the Specialized Housing category is meant to recognize an outstanding housing design that meets "unique needs." When designing La Casa, the joint-venture team focused on creating a "home" rather than an institution, according to a statement on the AIA website. To do this, LEO A DALY and Studio Twenty Seven Architecture developed private dwelling units with full living spaces, kitchens, and bathrooms. The building, itself, features large, "individualized" windows so that when occupants walk by, they can say, "That is where I live!"
The building, itself, spans 34,946-square-feet over seven stories. On the ground floor, there is a welcoming lobby, support offices, and a mail area. With a "green roof" and an outdoor terrace, the design received a LEED-Gold certification.
With 40 single-occupancy units, La Casa employs a "housing first" service model, offering permanent housing immediately to reduce the risk of individuals returning to homelessness. Only men are allowed as occupants. Each occupant is trained in life-skills, including finance management and job-readiness.
When designing La Casa, LEO A DALY and Studio Twenty Seven Architecture were challenged to design the development with a quality that either met or exceeded the adjacent market-rate apartments in Columbia Heights.
According to the AIA website, the jury comments were "Inspiring livability. Different depths of transparency make it work. It's slightly enigmatic, and that's great in this type of project. It feels like a building of the city. Amazing combination of privacy, safety, and support without being apart."
"The image is very explicitly not that of a homeless shelter. It's of a permanent housing building," said Jim Spearman, La Casa's project architect at Studio Twenty Seven Architecture.