Step Up on Fifth by Pugh + Scarpa Architects



Santa Monica practice Pugh + Scarpa Architects have completed a building to provide homes, support services and rehabilitation for homeless and mentally disabled people in Santa Monica, California.


Called Step Up on Fifth, the facade is covered with water jet-cut, anodised-aluminium panels that provide shade and privacy.


The building comprises 46 studio apartments offering permanent, affordable housing plus retail space at ground level.


Community rooms on alternate floors overlook two private courtyards on the first floor.


Photographs by John Linden; drawings by Pugh + Scarpa Architects.


Here's some more information from Pugh + Scarpa Architects:


Step Up on 5th is a bright new spot in downtown Santa Monica. The new building provides a home, support services and rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally disabled population. The new structure provides 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing. The project also includes ground level commercial/retail space and subterranean parking.


A striking yet light-hearted exterior makes the new building a welcome landmark in downtown Santa Monica. Custom water jet-anodized aluminum panels on the main façade creates a dramatic screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while also acting as sun protection and privacy screens. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens on east and south-facing walls, lending a subtle rhythm to the exterior circulation walkways and stairs.


South-facing walls filter direct sunlight with asymmetrical horizontal openings that lend unexpected visual depth while creating a sense of security for the emotionally sensitive occupants. Enhancing the structure’s geometric texture, the irregular array of openings variably extrudes from the building’s surface.


The small-scale elements on the façade enhance the existing streetscape and promote a lively pedestrian environment. By visually breaking up the façade into smaller articulated elements, the building appears to move with the passing cars and people.


At the second level above the retail space two private courtyards provide residents with a secure and welcoming surrounding while connecting directly to 5th street and downtown Santa Monica via a secured stairway integrated into the building storefront at street level.


Community rooms are located on every other floor of the project overlooking the private courtyards protected from the street. These community rooms along with the private courtyards serve as the principal social spaces for the tenants of the building.


Step Up on 5th distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects in that it incorporates energy efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and ensure reduced energy use during all phases of construction and occupancy.


The planning and design of Step Up on 5th emerged from close consideration and employment of passive solar design strategies.


These strategies include: locating and orienting the building to control solar cooling loads; shaping and orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds; shaping the building to induce buoyancy for natural ventilation; designing windows to maximize day lighting; shading south facing windows and minimizing west-facing glazing; designing windows to maximize natural ventilation; shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural air flow distribution.


These passive strategies alone make this building 50% more efficient than a conventionally designed structure.


The building is loaded with energy-saving and environmentally benign or "sustainable" devices. Materials conservation and recycling were employed during construction by requiring all waste to be hauled to a transfer station for recycling. The overall project achieved more than a 75% recycling rate.


Specifying carpet with a high-recycled content, and all-natural linoleum flooring also emphasized resource conservation. The project also uses compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building and double-pane windows.


Each apartment will be equipped with water-saving dual flush toilets and many other energy conserving devices. While California has the most stringent energy efficient requirements in the United States, Step Up incorporates numerous sustainable features that exceed state mandated Title 24 energy measures by more than 30%


Project’s Formal Name: Step Up on Fifth
Location of Project: 1548 5th Street, Downtown Santa Monica, California
Client/Owner: Step Up
Total Square Footage: 31,600 sq. ft.
Total Cost: $10.1 million
Architects: Pugh + Scarpa
Project Team: Lawrence Scarpa, AIA – Design Architect, Angela Brooks, AIA, Principal-in-Charge, Brad Buter, Silke Clemmens, Ching Luk, Matt Maijack, Luis Gomez, Omar Barcena, Dan Safarik, Gwynne Pugh – Project Team
Engineering: John Martin Associates, Jackie Vinkler – Structural IBE, Alan Locke – Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing
Contractor: Ruiz Brothers
Photography: John Edward Linden


Posted on Thursday May 21st 2009 at 12:54 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • juampi Z

    pretty nice! cool!

  • Fatigued

    Very nice. P+S always strike me as lively and responsible. great work.

  • Brett

    I love how the aluminum screen filters the light into the two open courtyards.

    It would be nice if Dezeen allowed the option of larger views of drawings since I can hardly ever read them at the miniature scale that’s necessary to fit into the content column. The plans are just too small.

  • Nice sections.

  • lmnop

    the courtyard and interior facades looks wonderful.

    the front facade is soo ugly, however. the composition is just clunky and too many textures.

    in any case, its a wonderful project with a wonderful use. congratulations!

  • Richie

    It seems a bit overly busy / too much going on.. I like some of the ideas though.

  • M’ster

    Nice project but at $319 a square foot this does not address affordable housing on a broad scale.

  • Des

    I love the textures.. and the “busy” nature of it. The monotony of so many barren “clean” surfaces in the overly recycled ideas of modern architecture are excruciating. This design is the best of many worlds, especially the textures versus materials. Stop being married to the same ol’ same ol’, people.

    Great work!!!!

  • koobrick

    I loved the use of this building, and I felt compelled to take a closer look and read a few articles about it. Upon closer inspection, I think it is a wonderful start to a great idea, but I don’t really feel like it’s a conclusion. To me, there is still a lot to be addressed with the idea of mental health, and this building seems so much like an “institution”. I will admit that I am not fully aware of every facet, but having been mentally challenged myself, I am not sure I would like a facility to be the place I lived.
    The drawings look like they are awesome though, and I would have liked to see them bigger as well!