A view of one of many unique entryways at Lincoln Place Apartment Homes
January 4, 2016

The Same, But Different: A Look at Lincoln Place Apartments

  • By: Lauren Walser
  • Photography: Dave Lauridsen

If pressed, Laura Burns couldn’t pinpoint just one thing back in 1996 that drew her to Lincoln Place, a 38-acre garden apartment complex in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. “I only knew that I felt good there,” says Burns, a documentary film editor. “I looked at apartments all over [the city], and Lincoln Place was the only one that felt right.”

Burns isn’t alone in that feeling. In fact, Lincoln Place was designed specifically to make people feel good. That's what drove its architect Heth Wharton and designer Ralph Vaughn, a pioneering African-American designer who worked for a time at MGM Studios.

Completed in 1951, Lincoln Place originally had 795 units in 52 buildings, and it embodied the ideals of garden apartment design: low-density, two-story buildings that are staggered to allow for maximum amounts of natural light, airflow, and privacy; lots of green space; buildings that open onto common courtyards rather than busy city streets; and a promotion of social life through shared spaces. The eaves extend out from each building, creating a greater sense of tranquility and privacy to those inside. Everything feels designed to a human scale.

“It was the closest thing to feeling like you owned your own home,” Burns says. “You had the space and the privacy of a single-family home, but in an apartment complex.”

The designs for Lincoln Place are simple, yes. At a glance, the complex looks like a series of identical pastel-colored buildings placed around lush, green courtyards. But look closely, and you’ll notice that the exterior of each building has its own unique look. There are subtle differences. Each building has a different entryway from its neighbor. Each cluster of windows above those entryways is unique to its building. And each building has its own distinctive roof line.

These features were left intact after the property underwent a major two-year, $200 million rehabilitation led by its owners, Aimco. You can read about the rehab and the long fight to save Lincoln Place in the Winter 2016 issue of Preservation magazine. But here, we present a closer look at the fine details that have made Lincoln Place feel so right to so many residents.

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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