Dorms for Adults

What grads often miss most about college is the sociality of dorm life. A professor in San Diego saw the benefits of community living beyond college and created La Esquina, a kind of dorm for adults.

The exterior of La Esquina, which means "the corner" in Spanish, complete with a 3D mural of Cesar Chavez created by Perez' son. Photos: Ye Rin Mok/Dwell. 

Ten years ago, Hector Perez, a professor at Woodbury University, organized a group of architects to buy nine lots in the historic Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego, near the Mexican border. The original vision was to develop the lots as campus space for the school, but with the economic downturn, and the university changing its development plans to another area, the architects were forced to change direction.

Designer, artist, and Woodbury University professor Patrick Shields (above) chats with Hector Perez. Photo: Ye Rin Mok/Dwell

On his lot, Perez created eight community-focused live-work units for instructors, graduates, and students from Woodbury. The individual lofts, which are 450 square feet, each have double-high ceilings and outdoor space. Combined, they offer plenty of space for community interaction. As Dwell reports,

On any given day, the tenants...can be found working on art and architecture projects in their apartments, their doors left open to maximize light and welcome the ever-present sea breezes. They meander into one another’s spaces to share meals, to collaborate, or to spontaneously gather in the afternoon. “I’m fascinated and inspired by the work that every single one of these people does,” says Perez, who often drops by on his way to and from Woodbury, just blocks away. “There are creative collaborations happening all the time.”

The La Esquina lofts are small, but they let in plenty of light and invite community connection. Photo: Ye Rin Mok/Dwell

Perez, who was the first to develop his lot, describes himself as “sort of the canary in the coal mine,” but he counts himself lucky that all the units were leased by word of mouth before construction was even complete. Now, La Esquina is a thriving, community housing space.

“When the nine of us bought these lots, we knew a dynamic would evolve,” he says. “Being the first one out, I was concerned that the dynamic would not be as lively as it is, but it’s so alive. I only know that you have to build the project that you would love to live in.”

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