S M A Stephen Moser Architects

Growing Rows —

Growing Rows
Skid Row, LA

Growing Rows is conceived as a transformational urbanistic seed for Skid Row by reimagining the neighborhood as green oasis within Los Angeles’ urban desert.

When the much-sought droplets of the mid-November showers of LA hit the roofs and walls of Growing Rows, they begin their journey to give life to the myriads of people, plants, and animals inside and help to sustain the community. Collected at multiple points across the complex, this water trickles down from terrace to terrace to feed small garden beds full of tomatoes, strawberries, and carrots outside each unit. Once done traversing these personal green spaces, the collected water reaches the extensive community farm at the heart of Growing Rows where it is soaked up by rows of vegetables and fruit which help to feed and nurture the Rows community and neighborhood.

Previously unhoused in the neighborhood, residents of Growing Rows find a community and building centered on urban farming. Planting, tending, and harvesting are woven into the cycle of daily activities. Older farmer residents teach new arrivals. When the plants ripen and are harvested, they are brought down to a processing area and kitchen immediately below the rooftop gardens. There the vegetables and fruits are made into delicious meals that are delivered to the Rows community dining room, street-front public fridge, and adjacent food bank which provides for the Skid Row neighborhood. Next to the kitchen and food processing area, within the ground level plinth, are the Rows community spaces: health clinic, library, classroom, barber, laundromat, and baths. A skylight corridor that traces the same path as the overhead waterways connects them. Much like the soil the droplets trickle into, this bed of public services provides holistic vital support to the surrounding community existing beyond the Rows, as growth is much more sustainable when achieved together.

Above the bed of neighborhood services and below the terracing apartments is the community cove for the residents of Growing Rows. The cove provides a breezy shade to share meals, decide what to grow the next season, meditate, celebrate community anniversaries, and discuss the status of the expanding gardens at the surrounding rooftops above.

Two wings of housing frame the Rows. A three-story, fifteen-unit wing in the front that is suspended above the stair leading up to the urban farm. A four-story, eighteen-unit terraced structure in the rear. Both buildings are clad with green walls and frame the urban farm in the middle. The typical unit is 25' by 10' with living/kitchenette, bath, and bed. There are combined units which are 25' x 20' for small families.

The roofscapes flanking the Rows provide valuable growing real estate with abundant California sun, and built-in pools for gathering precious rainfall. And the terraced units and elevator in an act of vertical integration have been designed to provide easy access to them. As a part of the master plan, Growing Rows would work in partnership with the neighboring hotel, foodbank, and mission to tend these underutilized roofs.

To expand the network of partnership across the neighborhood and provide more green space for all sheltering around, the master plan for Growing Rows includes a greening of the one-block stretch of 5th Street with large drought-resistant trees and planting beds. Complete street, lane narrowing is also proposed to calm traffic and make 5th Street a more humane environment.

Project Size

7,500 sf

SMA Team

Stephen Moser, principal
Ekin Bilal, Helene Lee, Nikki Markim, Ryan Griffin