Densifying the suburban metropolis: Architecture as an instrument for urban planning

Per-Johan Dahl


This paper elucidates a disciplinary context for an emergent building type dubbed Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU. Today, ADU developments add density to metropolitan Los Angeles by undermining the low-density principles of single-family residential zoning. Surfacing within the jurisdiction formally known as the City of Los Angeles, the ADU supplements city planning in the transformation of suburbia. This paper takes three photographic works as lenses through which to trace the role of architecture in the making of L.A. By analyzing the shifting growth patterns that have shaped metropolitan Los Angeles since World War II, the paper frames the suburban backyard as a catalyst of new densities in the City of Los Angeles. The argument put forward in this paper states that the ADU needs to be formalized in order to achieve substantial impact. Taking three built examples of ADU architecture as the subject matter for case study analysis, the paper explicates the significance of backyard architecture and articulates a disciplinary context for ADU architecture. Architecture is too often disconnected from the paroxysmal forces of urbanization. With this paper, some interconnections are proposed.

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