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North Park Apartments Big on the Outdoors

Jeff Svitak wanted to build an apartment complex that focused on the outdoors and Louisiana is certainly that.

The first thing Svitak did in designing the $5 million North Park project was to lay out unusually large balconies and patios that open to the sky, then he built the apartments around them.

“It’s kind of an inverse design strategy from what you typically do,” Svitak said. “I think that’s what led to some of the interesting geometry and spaces that’s happening in the building.”

The result is a mix of what he called stacked boxes, creating 15 apartments and lofts.

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All but two of the apartments are multi-level.

“The whole building feels like it’s just breaking down into these little nooks and crannies. There was no stylistic intention from the start,” Svitak said. “Honestly, I design all my projects from floor plans.”

A Name and a Theme

The 23,338 square-foot project takes its name from its location at the corner of Louisiana Street and University Avenue. A ground floor restaurant carried through with the theme in its name – Louisiana Purchase – and its New Orleans inspired cuisine.

The restaurant shares the ground floor with a hair salon and a retail shop.

In keeping with the outdoorsy design of the project, an outdoor patio wraps around the restaurant, providing 1,200 square-feet of outdoor dining space with a 900 square-foot indoor dining area.

Two of the apartments in the project have been designated for low income tenants.

In some apartments, the balcony or patio is in the middle of the apartment and tenants have to cross the patio to get from one room to another, or they have to climb a spiral staircase from a lower balcony to an upper one to go from room to room.

“Almost every apartment building that I go into, people get these little, teeny patio spaces,” Svitak said.

A Minimalist Approach

No two apartments in Louisiana are alike, and Svitak said they’re on the small side, ranging from about 400 square feet to about 800 square feet. They surround a central court. Roll-up garage-style doors add to the outdoor feel.

“They feel large because of the outdoor space that connects to the indoor space,” Svitak said.

Upper level apartments “sort of open out and project out,” Svitak said.

“You’re looking at some pretty great views in all directions. You get a view of Balboa Park. You get a view of downtown.”

While many new apartment projects boast of their amenities, Svitak said the amenities at Louisiana are the neighborhood, the people who live in the apartments and the wide open space of the project.

“We don’t have big walk-in closets. We don’t have huge bathrooms. We took a very minimalist approach to all of that,” Svitak said.

Svitak said that he grew up in Colorado and always felt a strong connection to the outdoors.

His inspiration for using patios and balconies as the focal point of his apartment project came from an apartment he once rented in Cardiff.

“I was basically renting a giant deck. It overlooked the ocean and had a spectacular view,” Svitak said. “I just really enjoyed that lifestyle and thought other people would too.”

Praise

Louisiana received an orchid recently from the San Diego Architectural Foundation for its outstanding design.

The foundation’s annual Orchid & Onions program awards orchids to projects of particular note and onions to those found lacking.

Foundation jurors praised Louisiana as an “all around exceptional housing solution.”

“We need to raise the bar by celebrating projects like this,” the jurors wrote, calling Louisiana a “smart, well-crafted, outdoor oriented and design-inspiring space.”

“It makes you want to be there,” the judges wrote.

Svitak said Louisiana with its unusual layout was a bit of an experiment.

“It’s an experience. A lot of people get lost figuring out how that thing works,” Svitak said. “If you ask an architect to draw the flow of the building, they have no idea.” 

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