Omgivning Wins 2021 AIA Next LA Award for Sub/Merge and Hidden Gardens

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Omgivning is the 2021 AIA Los Angeles Design Awards recipient of the Next LA Multi Unit Residential Merit Award for both Hidden Gardens and Sub/Merge.

These are the two entries that we submitted and won for the Los Angeles Low Rise Challenge from earlier in the year. Both concepts focus on creating community-based housing using existing lots in the city.

AIA Los Angeles had two events in the Fall of 2021, one live at SoFi Stadium where Karin accepted the award, and a virtual event where lead designer Albert Escobar spoke a bit about the project and the win.

Watch this portion of the acceptance speech (it's only three and a half minutes).

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Our Recommendations to reform policies related to L.A.’s Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings

NDC Construction photo

Thinking Beyond The Ordinance

Creating a framework for reform to ensure economic viability, improve housing security, and foster sustainability

An Omgivning-led white paper report aims to contribute ideas and solutions for Los Angeles' post-earthquake resilience of non-ductile concrete buildings. To better prepare for Southern California’s next big earthquake, we spearheaded a team of stakeholders, including architects, engineers, city agencies and advocacy groups, with a white paper seeking to provide recommendations to reform the City of L.A.’s Non-Ductile Concrete (NDC) Ordinance. Constituting most concrete buildings erected before the 1976 L.A. City Building Code, “Non-Ductile” buildings are often brittle or inflexible due to minimal steel reinforcing, and therefore have not been safely reinforced to sustain earthquake damage. As currently written, L.A.’s NDC Ordinance requires all concrete buildings designed prior to January 13, 1977 to achieve minimum structural requirements within 25 years, or be demolished.

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WATCH: Omgivning Speaks on the Lesser Known Historic Buildings in Los Angeles

AIA LA Background Buildings

In sync with the relaunch of the AIA Los Angeles Historic Resources Committee and a refocused mission centered on Adaptive Reuse (historic preservation that is future oriented), this inaugural event from AIA Los Angeles brings together four distinguished panelists listed below to bring attention to both “Background Buildings” that define the character of Downtown Los Angeles, as well as the forthcoming Downtown Community Plan Update (DTLA 2040) that will incentivize their preservation.

In addition to learning about “Background Buildings” and DTLA 2040, attendees were also presented case studies of recent projects that exemplify the latest efforts to preserve and celebrate “Background Buildings,” which inlcludes Omgvining projects. Attendees also were invited to engage the panelists during a Q&A.

Watch the full talk.

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Low Rise Featured in the New York Times

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The New York Times Architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes about the Low Rise Design Competition. This nationwide recognition of our winning entries puts a spotlight on the need for sustainable communities in Los Angeles.

Read the article here.

NYT "Los Angeles Has a Housing Crisis. Can Design Help?" PDF Article

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Alta Roundtable: The Great Reset

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Alta Magazine inteviews Karin on the Future of Coworking Space Design

Alta Journal organized a virtual roundtable with the heads of three prominent California-based design firms: our very own, Karin Liljegren, David Galullo, the CEO and chief creative officer of San Francisco–based Rapt Studio, and Primo Orpilla, the principal and cofounder of S.F.-based Studio O+A. Their prognosis: you’ll be more productive—and happier to see your colleagues—than ever before.

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Sub/Merge by Omgivning and Studio MLA

2021 Low Rise LA Rendering Alley Subdivision

Omgivning and Studio MLA teamed up to win second place in the Subdivision category of the Low-Rise design competition.

Sub / Merge : Subdivisions that Connect

Consideration for sensitive densification in Los Angeles as a response to the city's ongoing housing shortage should focus on the organic evolution of neighborhoods toward a more sustainable community. The gentrification that so commonly follows densification has potential to be combatted through strategies of retention of existing residents, and more inclusive and affordable models of ownership. Sub/Merge is a model for a versatile framework that seeks to subdivide existing single family residential parcels into smaller lots that afford a greater range of family types with varying income levels the possibility of owning their own home, while retaining the scale and character of the existing neighborhood. This model addresses the fabric of Los Angeles’ single-family residential communities, from Vermont Square to Atwater Village to Van Nuys, while allowing for flexibility that serves the specific needs of each neighborhood.

1 Subdivision axon

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Hidden Gardens by Omgivning and Studio MLA

Fourplex Winner Low Rise LA

Omgivning and Studio MLA teamed up to win first place in the Fourplex category of the Low-Rise design competition.

This design challenge was organized by the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, Christopher Hawthorne. It received a total of 380 submissions from around the world, responding to a brief with four categories: Corners, Fourplex (1st Place, Omgivning), (Re)Distribution, and Subdivision (2nd Place, Omgivning).

Details on the categories, as well as the community-engagement listening sessions that were required viewing for all entrants, can be found at

Hidden Gardens: A Balance Between Inside and Outside

As Los Angeles neighborhoods continue to densify, the future of multi-family housing depends even more on finding the right balance between indoor and outdoor space. This balance is critical to the health of urban residents and the success of the places they call home. Planning for density and open space creates and opportunity for a more porous city with spaces that increase access to natural light, landscape, and human-centered places. Hidden Gardens is a model for a versatile framework that creates relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces, and offers a compelling connection between views, neighbors, and the city. These spaces lead to a stronger sense of community within the complex and neighborhood by fostering dialogue and social connections.

Low Rise Omgivning Winner Image Fourplex Rendering

Fourplex Strategy
Hidden Gardens places three individual two-story housing blocks, each inter-connected with multiple variations of internal and external spaces make the whole site feel like a series of gardens. This porosity creates spaces between the units that act as a buffer to help with privacy and noise reduction while allowing each space to have access to natural daylight and ventilation. The model also grants residents their own private indoor and outdoor spaces where they can relax and enjoy themselves within the garden setting. Even though there is more building surface than a typical fourplex apartment, the use of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) as a construction method allows the units to be erected at a faster speed than traditional stick frame construction at an affordable cost.

The Community Easement provides a community-driven space for planned and spontaneous interactions, enhancing the connection between the residents, their families and neighbors. The front portion of the parcel could be managed and maintained by a Community Land Trust (CLT) to create a passive community park or community garden serving as a productive landscape that also acts as a buffer between the public way and the private spaces.

While the car remains an iconic form of transportation in Los Angeles, the proposed model allows for flexibility to host parking dependent on specific community needs. The site can host one parking spot per unit, up to four parking spots on-site inclusive of an accessible parking stall, that can be supplemented with electric vehicle charging, or bike storage to provide residents with access to a variety of mobility options regardless of proximity to public transportation. The public way can be treated as Green Alleys and Slow Streets to create protected lanes and additional open space for pedestrians to run, bike or scoot through their neighborhood.

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Omgivning Wins Low Rise LA Design Competition

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Omgivning and landscape architects Studio-MLA were announced as winners in a first-ever competition, the Low-Rise: Housing Ideas for Los Angeles design challenge.

Organized by the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Christopher Hawthorne, the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, the new design competition asked “architects and landscape architects to imagine appealing and sustainable new models of low-rise, multi-unit housing.” Low Rise Competition Winner Omgivning Patio Out of nearly 400 local, national, and international submissions in four design categories, the team of Omgivning and Studio-MLA emerged as the only team to win twice: first place in Fourplex and second place in Subdivision. That's two of the four categories. Details on the categories, jury members, as well as the community-engagement listening sessions required for all entrants, can be found at

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Hybrid Workspaces with Hybrid Workspaces Natural Evolution Omgivning

NorCal's diverse community of transportation, HR, Facilities, and Operations professionals attended’s three-day Annual Symposium for 2021, Natural Evolution: Thriving Hybrid Workplaces. We have learned much in the past year about our interconnectedness, and where we work is no exception. The symposium consisted of a line up of speakers who took us upstream to the latest insights on where workplaces are headed with an evolution in commuting.

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Omgivning Project Manager, Brianne Hunter presented Hybrid Workspaces. She explains how space design is entering a whole new post-pandemic era, exploring the potential of this design evolution, and examining the implications for workplaces. She discusses the fundamental human needs in workplace environments and explores the concepts of flexibility and adaptability in the built environment.

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Karin featured on XX|LA Architects Podcast, Episode 34


XX|LA Architects Podcast is a show featuring Los Angeles’s leading women in architecture and issues relevant to the profession. Hosted by Audrey Sato, AIA, LEED-AP, this podcast is dedicated to LA's community of feminist architects, highlighting the achievements of female architects, share their stories and insights, and promote equity in the profession.

In Karin's episode, Sato states,"I’m constantly impressed by Karin’s go-getter attitude and entrepreneurial talents, which you’ll hear more about in this episode, as she talks about the way she purposefully designed her collaborative practice, and continues to evolve it beyond architecture, incorporating interiors, product design, and even real estate development into her operations."

Give a listen

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