Search results for "affordable housing"

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Time's Running Out

AN rounds up must-see exhibitions to catch this summer

Summer is a great time to explore the world of art and architecture, whether through tours of an exquisitely restored historic house or through online exhibitions that celebrate the cutting-edge work of the Bauhaus. Here are some openings you might have missed:

Just: The Architectural League Prize Exhibit

June 21 - July 31, 2019 66 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011

In an exhibit closing today, The Architectural League of New York has put work by the winners of its 2019 Architectural League Prize on display, a coveted award that has been recognizing promising young architects since 1981. Provocative models, drawings, and installations produced by the six winners have been assembled in the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design.

The work selected for display covers a wide range of scales and media. With honorees hailing from cities across the United States and Central America, the exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to engage with a diverse array of perspectives and thematic focuses that relate to architecture, urbanism, and the design world at large.

Big Ideas Small Lots

August 1 - November 2, 2019 526 LaGuardia Place New York, NY 10012

Starting tomorrow, New York’s Center for Architecture will exhibit winning submissions from Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC, a competition jointly organized by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter. The competition asked designers to propose ideas for converting small-scale, difficult-to-develop lots across the city into viable affordable housing. Five finalists, including Palette Architecture and Michael Sorkin Studio, emerged from an initial pool of 444 proposals. The exhibition highlighting their work will be on display from August 1 until November 2.

Changing Signs, Changing Times: A History of Wayfinding in Transit

Through November 6 Grand Central Terminal New York, NY

The New York Transit Museum is hosting an exhibit on wayfinding in its satellite gallery at Grand Central Terminal. On view through November 6, the exhibit includes objects, photographs, and other archival materials exploring the evolution of signage in New York’s transit system. The items, which come primarily from the museum’s own collection, shed light on the changing needs of transit users and the ways in which designers have addressed those needs over time.

The gallery is located just off the Main Concourse in the Shuttle Passage, next to the Station Masters’ Office.

Bauhaus: Building the New Artist

Online

Earlier this summer, the Getty launched an online exhibition as a complement to Bauhaus Beginnings, a gallery exhibit on display at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California. Planned as a centennial celebration of the Bauhaus’ groundbreaking approach to architectural education, the web-based exhibition features historical images from the Getty’s archives and information about the Bauhaus, as well as opportunities for visitors to test exercises crafted by the school’s pioneering luminaries, including Josef Albers and Vassily Kandinsky.

Dilexi: Totems and Phenomenology

June 22 - August 10, 2019 Parrasch Heijnen Gallery 1326 South Boyle Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90023

Parrasch Heijnen Gallery in Los Angeles is displaying counter-cultural works of art from San Francisco’s Dilexi Gallery, including pieces by Arlo Acton, Tony DeLap, Deborah Remington, Charles Ross, and Richard Van Buren. Much of the art featured in the exhibition, which ranges in media from photography to sculpture, uses nontraditional materials and explores the very nature of perception.

Pope.L: Conquest

September 21, 2019

New York's Public Art Fund will present Pope.L’s most ambitious participatory project yet. Pope.L: Conquest will involve over one hundred volunteers, who will relay-crawl 1.5 miles from Manhattan's West Village to Union Square. According to the Public Art Fund, participants will “give up their physical privilege” and “satirize their own social and political advantage, creating a comic scene of struggle and vulnerability to share with the entire community.”

Pope.L has organized more than 30 performance art projects since 1978, but this will be the largest of the bunch. The crawl will take place on September 21, beginning at the Corporal John A Seravalli Playground.

It Might Be a Place (for LLH), as part of Unfoldingobject

June 20 - August 11, 2019 Concord Center for the Visual Arts 37 Lexington Road Concord, Ma 01742

The Concord Center for the Visual Arts in Massachusetts is displaying an installation by James Andrew Scott as part of its ongoing exhibition Unfoldingobject. Curated by Todd Bartel, the exhibit compiles collages by 50 different artists, each of whom has a distinct interpretation of the medium. Scott’s work, which is integrated into a skylight in the gallery building, presents a dramatic series of irregular pyramids that protrude from the ceiling at different angles. The entire exhibition is on view through August 11.

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Factory Finish

Autodesk invests in prefab home startup to help with disaster housing
Autodesk is making a bet on the future of prefabrication for disaster housing with an investment in FactoryOS and the company’s California-based “Rapid Response Factory.” In addition to allowing the startup to begin experimenting with constructing post-natural disaster homes on the factory floor, the funding will reportedly allow the Bay Area startup to create a Factory Floor Learning Center that will focus on housing policy in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. FactoryOS founder Rick Holiday explained to Fast Company that after several major natural disasters in California, like the recent forest fires, he received requests to build disaster housing; however, the company was not equipped to meet that demand, nor to build the smaller homes required. Thanks to the investment from Autodesk, Holiday told Fast Company that FactoryOS is “going to explore if [they] can create a standardized unit that could be used for supportive housing, or could be stitched together to create a small-to-medium to a larger-sized building after a natural disaster quickly.” FactoryOS has been able to streamline homebuilding through vertically integrating the construction process and creating a factory floor that can be used in all weather by union labor while easily integrating digital design and manufacturing. They claim that this precision has allowed them to reduce waste over traditional construction by as much as 40 percent, and costs by over 30 percent. The company believes that prefabrication could be a major answer during this time of national housing crises, when productivity in construction is not only stagnating but decreasing. At the moment, FactoryOS reports that they can create four-to-six apartment units in a day, however, with their continued growth and the addition of the Rapid Response Factory, they are hoping to bring that number up to as many as 16 units in 2021. According to Fast Company, this new deal will also require intensive data collection and tracking of social impact metrics, as well as environmental impact and cost. FactoryOS, which previously received an investment from Alphabet, has also just received an influx of cash from a Citigroup-funded incubator focused on affordable housing, according to The Verge's weekly newsletter.
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Swoooooosh

Renderings revealed for the Clippers’ new net-shaped stadium
The Los Angeles Clippers have released initial renderings of their brand new 18,500-seat arena expected to open in 2024. Team owner Steve Ballmer and the city of Inglewood are moving forward with the $1 billion, 900,000-square-foot NBA arena over neighborhood concerns and lawsuits over the project.  Designed by local architecture and engineering firm AECOM, the metal-clad, oval-shaped arena is said to be inspired by the "swoosh" of a basketball net. Ballmer told ESPN, "I want it to be a noisy building… I really want that kind of energy." The grand vision includes a basketball arena, corporate office building, sports medicine clinic, retail, community and youth-oriented spaces, parking garages, a solar-panel-clad roof, indoor-outdoor "sky gardens," and an outdoor game-viewing area with massive digital screens. Ballmer's goal is to create, "the best home in all of sports," he said in a statement accompanying the release of the renderings. "What that means to me is an unparalleled environment for players, for fans, for sponsors and for the community of Inglewood. Our goal is to build a facility that resets fans' expectations while having a transformative impact on the city we will call home." Ballmer, one of the richest people in the world, will privately finance the mixed-use development. The project must overcome several legal challenges that cloud its potential success. First, from the Uplight Inglewood Coalition, an organization looking to strengthen Inglewood residents' political power, is suing the city on allegations that the city's deal to sell the land for the arena violated California state law. The California Surplus Land Act requires that public land be prioritized for affordable housing development before any other uses. Housing costs in the area had soared since 2016, when the NFL agreed to let the Rams and Chargers relocate to Inglewood. "In the midst of booming development—which has caused skyrocketing rents and the loss of affordable housing—it simply does not make any sense to prioritize an NBA arena over the needs of Inglewood residents without investing in the needs of residents," Uplift Inglewood member D'artagnan Scorza said in a recent press release, "Public land should be used for the public good, and access to housing is central to building strong communities." Second, James Dolan, owner and CEO of Madison Square Garden, owner of the New York Knicks and the nearby Forum has also sued the city, accusing leaders of secretly negotiating with the Clippers to build on land that it once leased. The 26-acre complex will house all team operations, from corporate headquarters to the team's training facility. The Clippers currently practice in Playa Vista, have a business office in downtown Los Angeles, and play at the Staples Center (shared with rival Lakers and NHL's Kings since 1999). Their lease ends in 2024, putting pressure on team ownership to finish construction on time for the next season.
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Not a Literal Baby Shark

West Palm Beach deploys "Baby Shark" against the homeless

In a strange attempt to deter homeless people from camping out at a waterfront pavilion (and a great example of hostile urbanism), authorities in West Palm Beach, Florida have been blasting children’s songs from a public address system on loop overnight. The Lake Pavilion, which is adjacent to a public park and a promenade facing the Intracoastal Waterway, regularly hosts private events that rake in around $240,000 each year. The low-slung building has floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive terrace that make it particularly popular with guests, especially as a wedding venue. West Palm Beach Director of Parks and Recreation Leah Rockwell told the Palm Beach Post that playing such recent hits as "Baby Shark" and "Raining Tacos" on a continuous loop is necessary to keep the event space “clean and open” for paying customers.

The decision to weaponize music against those who sleep on the property highlights Palm Beach County’s relatively pronounced homelessness problem. West Palm Beach alone accounts for a large portion of the county’s 1,400 homeless people, whose plight has been exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing in the Greater Miami Area. According to a report published by the Miami Urban Future Initiative, the metropolitan region’s enormous housing stock of 2.5 million units consists primarily of high-priced condominiums and single-family homes. Greater Miami, which encompasses urban centers like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, ranks among the top ten most expensive rental markets in the nation.

While hostile architecture is nothing new, West Palm Beach’s deployment of "Baby Shark" against the homeless has generated considerable pushback from both locals and observers across the country. Critics argue that the city should focus its resources on support for the unsheltered, but Rockwell insists that the music is only a temporary solution. Once the park’s hours are finalized, she says, the municipal government will be better equipped to control who is at the pavilion during nighttime hours. It is unclear, however, how targeting the homeless for trespassing will resolve the broader issues at hand. It's also worth noting that this type of sonic warfare is nothing new; retail stores and local governments across the U.S. have been playing high-pitched squeals that only young people can hear to deter loitering teens for decades. Another place music is played all night long to deter sleeping? Guantanamo Bay, where the government has reportedly used non-stop rock, metal, and children's song playlists to keep detainees up for days on end.

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On Mexican SO - IL

SO - IL is building a social housing prototype in the heart of Mexico
For many in Mexico, the phrase “social housing” conjures images of vast housing tracts falling into disrepair, abandoned by workers tired of two-hour commutes. While architects and planners look back to understand what went wrong in the country’s early-2000s push to build affordable housing on city outskirts, authorities and designers are also looking ahead to explore alternative strategies. The Municipal Housing Institute (IMUVI) of León, a city of 1.6 million people in the central state of Guanajuato, invited Brooklyn firm SO – IL to collaborate on the design of a new prototype for social housing in the city’s center, and the team broke ground on the result, the Las Américas project, in May. Designed for low-income families, the building includes 56 apartments, most of which will be sold at far-below-market rates. Guanajuato is traditionally known for its artisanal leatherworking, but more recently, rapid growth in the auto-manufacturing industry has transformed the region; León’s population has doubled since the 1980s. Like many Mexican cities, it grew outward, with limited government planning. Some new arrivals built informal settlements on the city edges or, with access to credit, bought into exurban subdivisions. IMUVI faces two monumental tasks: regularizing the informal settlements, which requires extending utility services and other infrastructure and building housing for those who still need it. According to Amador Rodríguez, director of IMUVI León, 45 percent of the city’s residents don’t have access to federal housing credit or traditional bank loans. Rodríguez estimates that the city needs another 80,000 housing units to meet the demand. Instead of building more units on the outskirts, far from schools, jobs, and services, IMUVI has committed to densifying the city center. Working with SO – IL, IMUVI identified a lot in a downtown neighborhood to build Las Américas, a 62,431-square-foot complex of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. SO – IL’s partnership with IMUVI began when Florian Idenburg, the firm’s Dutch co-founder, was invited to Mexico to share his experience with the firm’s New York City micro-housing project tiNY, lessons from which informed Las Américas. “Affordability should not go against quality,” said Idenburg. “And one of the qualities that is very important to us is light.” Thanks to single-loaded open-air corridors, the apartments in Las Américas receive natural light from at least two sides. No two units directly face each other, maintaining both density and privacy. The housing block wraps around two shared courtyards, while openings in the building’s mass create additional, elevated common spaces. Exterior stairwells link each level. Idenburg said these features foster interaction between neighbors and a sense of community. “It was very refreshing to work with this team in León,” Idenburg said. Even with a limited budget, he said, there are opportunities for customization in Mexico that can lend character to what could otherwise be a uniform building. The team worked with local fabricators to develop a precast concrete brick that can be installed in different positions, creating a variety of wall textures for the apartments. “We made really nice custom windows that are hand-welded,” he added. “You probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the United States because of cost.” The design process included workshops and meetings in León to understand the needs of low-income families. SO – IL worked pro bono on the project. “It was a very productive collaboration,” said Idenburg. “Everything was very collective.” While construction continues, IMUVI is identifying families to move into Las Américas. Out of a total of 56 apartments, 44 will be priced at just under half a million Mexican pesos (about $25,000), the legal limit for a social housing unit. The remaining 12 units will be available at market price to families with federal Infonavit (workers’ housing) credit. “I hope other people will see our project and think it is possible to achieve density and affordability in the city center,” Idenburg said. Finding central but affordable lots is an ongoing challenge for agencies like IMUVI, but Idenburg hopes Las Américas can become a model for social housing in city centers and inspire projects in developing economies facing similar conditions.
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No Little Plans

Detroit’s planning and development director Maurice Cox is leaving for Chicago
Detroit’s Director of Planning and Development, Maurice Cox, will be the next top planning executive for the city of Chicago, according to Detroit News, and will step down from his current post in September. Cox boosted the city’s planning staff from six to 36 and is credited with attracting world-renowned urban planners, designers, and architects to the city. Cox was appointed as Detroit’s planning director in 2015 to strengthen its neighborhoods and land reuse policies. His past work experience in Detroit aligns with incumbent Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot’s urgencies for affordable housing, neighborhood equity, and economic development, and the news follows the city’s recent announcement to modernize city building codes for the first time in over seventy years. Cox revitalized Detroit's planning office after decades of decline and powered a design-minded recovery. His term was marked by improving infrastructure, streets, parks, and amenities as a strategy for building communities that residents would want to live in long term. His major initiative, “20-Minute Neighborhoods,” pushed for reforms that would allow residents to walk or bike to get everyday necessities instead of driving. A New York native, Cox has previously held public office as a council member and then mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, from 1996 through 2004. He is also a former design director at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C, and associate dean of Tulane University’s School of Architecture and director of Tulane City Center, a city-based design resource center.
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See You Soon

Here’s what we know about the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial so far
This May, the Chicago Architecture Biennial announced this year’s participants for the upcoming ...and other such stories biennial. Architects, designers, and artists from all over the world will participate in projects that engage with land, memory, rights, and civic participation. “For this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, the curatorial focus brings to light architectural stories that are often overshadowed by more familiar narratives,” said executive director Todd Palmer. “The Chicago contributors' works for 2019 draw from their ongoing engagement with local communities working towards a more equitable architectural landscape in this city.” Here is what we know so far about Chicago-based participants featured in the upcoming biennial: Artist and University of Chicago professor Theaster Gates will center his project around the vacant buildings he has purchased in Chicago and the complexities of land ownership. When Gates originally purchased the buildings, there was a severe lack of interest in those areas due to violence and disinvestment from the city. He plans to create found poetry from the legal land documents between himself, the banks, and the city—what he claims are the pieces that no one sees but are intrinsically personal to him. Gates said, “I want to talk about my love of space, and how a commitment to contracts will ultimately create new opportunities for emerging artists and affordable housing.” Artist Maria Gaspar will exhibit an interactive installation reflecting her artistic practice both inside and outside the Cook County Jail, located in her childhood neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. “It will be interesting for me to see how my own spatial research engages with the broader field of architecture and how borders impact communities,” said Gaspar. Artist Santiago X is partnering with the American Indian Center of Chicago and Chicago Public Art Group to produce a large-scale installation that will express a vision to construct indigenous future-scapes. “Participating in this year's Chicago Architecture Biennial is an incredible opportunity for me to contribute to the revitalization of indigenous landscapes throughout Chicago,” said the artist. Design practice Borderless Studio will examine social infrastructure in the context of unprecedented public-school closures in 2013. The studio’s Creative Grounds initiative offers a framework for how art, design, and architecture can create a more inclusive process for repurposing closed schools. Artists Iker Gil and the Luftwerk duo of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero will splash the Farnsworth House in lasers. The Chicago Architecture Biennial ...and other such stories will run from September 19, 2019, to January 5, 2020. Altogether, there will be more than 40 participating organizations and sites citywide. For the full list of contributors, see here.
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Tatooine Vernacular

Kanye West is designing Star Wars–themed affordable housing
Not content with a sneaker empire, Kanye West has entered the affordable housing game with structures straight out of Star Wars. In a profile of the rapper-producer, designer, and business mogul, Forbes writer Zack O'Malley Greenburg described how West drove him to a wooded area near his home in Calabasas, California, to show him prototypes for igloo-like modular housing units that the author compared to what was found on Tatooine, Star Wars protagonist Luke Skywalker's home planet. While West didn't provide images of the top-secret structures, in the original Star Wars, Tatooine is a desert planet populated by humans and other settlers who live in groups of adobe huts with rounded roofs. In actuality, the movie was shot in the deserts of Tunisia, where George Lucas took inspiration from the country's vernacular architecture to build the structures and vehicles of Tatooine. West's minimalist concept models—there were three of them in the woods—will we deployed as low-income housing if the project moves forward. According to the article, West is hoping to lure deep-pocketed investors from San Francisco to bankroll construction but hasn't managed to land any yet. According to Greenburg, the homes resemble "the skeletons of wooden spaceships ... each oblong and dozens of feet tall." West said they could be dwelled in at-grade or submerged in the earth and daylit from up top. This isn't West's first foray into architecture or affordable housing design, and marks a notable departure from what he's shown in the past. Last year, he founded his own architecture studio, Yeezy Home (Yeezy is West's pseudonym), and soon after West and four collaborators revealed renderings of concrete-paneled affordable housing around a courtyard. The stark interiors are similar to the ones in the celebrity's own California home, designed in collaboration with Axel Vervoordt.    
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Turning The Tide

The first phase of DS+R's linear London park is now open to the public
The first phase of The Tide, London’s version of the High Line, officially opened to the public on Friday. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with London-based firm Neiheiser Argyros, the inaugural section of the linear park marks one-fifth of the overall three-mile-long landscape coming to the banks of the River Thames. As an outdoor cultural destination set in the city’s burgeoning creative district, Greenwich Peninsula, The Tide features what Kerri Sibson, director of the local development office, calls a “bold 3D landscape” that’s perfect for enjoying nature and absorbing art. “The Tide brings to London an unrivaled outdoor experience in the city,” Sibson said in a statement. “Most importantly, it’s a place for everyone.” When fully finished, the elevated and at-grade park will weave through and connect the seven different neighborhoods being constructed as part of the 150-acre Greenwich Peninsula district. This new urban enclave will boast architecture by Santiago Calatrava, C.F. Moeller, SOM, and SelgasCano, among others, and is currently being marketed as London’s emerging art and design community. The Tide is just one element that’s slated to attract future residents to the Peninsula over the next two decades as it is built. The mega-plan includes adding 15,000 new homes, nearly 4,000 affordable housing units, 13,000 new jobs, two new schools, and 48 acres of public green space to the formerly industrial zone—a move prompted by the area’s recent regeneration sparked by enhanced transit connections to downtown London. Though this level of development is substantially larger than what DS+R’s High Line has inspired in New York’s Chelsea, The Tide is actually a project that’s been envisioned ahead of future growth in the district, and of course, it’s being done from scratch. Unlike DS+R's seminal urban park project, the British iteration will be built in tandem with the buildings that will rise above and around it, while still making nature, art, and city views the focal point of the landscape. And it won’t necessarily be a tourist destination either, according to the architects, who have envisioned it as a source of respite for locals with ample programming for meditation, running, and waking. The first section of The Tide features curvaceous walkways that mirror the ebb and flow of the river, as well as terraces, and overlooks, all which are supported by 28 angular steel stems. Some parts of the park’s initial viewpoints feature support structures as tall as 29 feet high. The paths themselves also stand out with a striped pattern that doubles as a wayfinding tool, guiding visitors from one section to the next. Giant sculptures by Damien Hirst and Allen Jones already populate the introductory segment  The Tide’s above-ground routes act as canopies covering the plazas below, which DS+R used asphalt and granite Portuguese paving stones to surface. Edinburgh-based landscape studio GROSS.MAX designed a textured vision for the park’s many elevated and sunken gardens, of which phase one includes native birch and pine, waterside trees, seasonable bulbs, ornamental grasses, and sections of groundcover. All of the open spaces above, below, and within the park, including the jetty garden and a picnic area that boasts an 88-foot-long communal table, were intended to invite incoming locals to experience the city from the waterfront and create community through it. These activation areas make up a network for recreation, culture, and wellness. Benjamin Gilmartin, partner-in-charge of the project at DS+R, said The Tide aims to “embed a new public realm into the daily rhythms of Greenwich Peninsula” as it grows.  “Diverse programming along the way will act as islands that welcome the surges of commuters, visitors, cyclists, and runners,” Gilmartin said in a statement, “while also providing intimate places for pause contemplation, conversation, and people watching.”
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Maybe?

New York's public housing is in crisis. Can architects design the way out?
The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has selected architects Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich of Peterson Rich Office (PRO) to dream up housing and maintenance strategies for New York City’s deteriorating public housing for the nonprofit planning think tank’s newly-funded chair of urban design. The joint appointment will give the pair the opportunity to build on past work that reimagined the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) developments. It’s a tall order to step into a project that’s supposed to help NYCHA, the landlord for 400,000 New Yorkers, though it’s not necessarily the number of tenants that poses a challenge. The authority has been strangled by decades of under-investment, hobbled by long-running scandals, and faces an estimated $45 million backlog for repairs and capital projects. A December 2018 RPA report stated that maintaining the status quo of broken-down buildings could cost the city an additional $700 million every year that maintenance is deferred. The funding options for public housing are scarce, but nascent development plans aim to fill the gap created by missing funds at the federal level. Over the past five years, PRO has delivered concepts for building out the roofs of NYCHA high-rises and the transforming parking lots that surround the towers into units that scale to the size of two contiguous parking spaces. This time, PRO will have more financial resources and access to RPA experts at their disposal, allowing them to explore housing provision and maintenance in-depth.  While Peterson and Rich have a year to develop a book of scalable public housing concepts, RPA—not NYCHA—is PRO’s primary client. Moses Gates, RPA's vice president for Housing and Neighborhood Development, confirmed that NYCHA is not a partner on the project. He added that the no-NYCHA approach aligns with the organization’s usual M.O. of giving experts free rein to explore ideas that might not be feasible within an agency’s framework. Richard Kaplan, the architect who endowed the chair at RPA, gave the organization the funds so it could focus some of its efforts on urban design. Gates emphasized that here, and with subsequent Kaplan chairs, the architects' ideas are springboards for future action, not prescriptions. For inspiration, Rich told The Architect's Newspaper that they’re looking to London, where public (social) housing is similar in age and design to many NYCHA projects and has similarly struggled with disinvestment. But, unlike centralized NYCHA, London social housing is delivered on a borough-by-borough basis. Borough councils may act as developers, borrowing money against the value of their assets to build market-rate housing that subsidizes the upkeep of social housing units. That approach fits in with an emerging strategy in New York, where the city is entertaining plans to sell air rights and underutilized developable land in certain NYCHA projects to generate revenue for the cash-strapped agency. In a press release, the RPA stated that PRO’s mandate is to deliver ideas that will “bring NYCHA into financial solvency, while better integrating NYCHA into the surrounding communities.” Housing projects in New York are islands, separated spatially—and often socially—from their surroundings, especially in neighborhoods that are whiter and wealthier. From Chelsea to Canarsie, NYCHA stewards the largest portfolio of affordable housing within the five boroughs: If NYCHA residents had their own city, it would be larger than New Orleans, Cleveland, or Pittsburg. However, chronic mismanagement has impaired the agency’s ability to provide safe affordable housing. Last year, the New York Times reported that NYCHA officials routinely disputed the results of lead paint tests in its apartments and exposed children to the dangerous heavy metal. Elsewhere, thousands of families contend with vermin infestations and repair requests that go unanswered. The shameful conditions in the developments, as well as the opportunity to rework the modernist tower-in-the-park paradigm, make NYCHA housing a prime target for architects and planners looking for a do-good project. Most white-collar urbanists, however, have never lived in public housing, nor do they have personal connections to the projects beyond observing them from the sidewalk or reading about them in the paper. Designers also have to contend with a real fear on the part of some NYCHA residents that new development will catalyze displacement and spur neighborhood-wide gentrification. Under these conditions, how can a firm that’s best known for designing art galleries and high-end homes effectively design with, or for New Yorkers who live in public housing? First and foremost, Rich said, PRO intends to address immediate needs, like the mold that afflicts tenants in some developments and heating systems that fail in the dead of winter. This will be the firm’s first go at spearheading a community consultation, so they intend to collaborate with RPA-affiliates to help organize and guide the process.  “It’s just crucial that residents have buy-in during the process and into the project,” said Peterson. “We’re thinking about phasing, how to create a process that sets a project up for success.” RPA has a relationship with Community Voices Heard, a social justice organization primarily led by low-income women and people of color, and together they will work to facilitate connections with NYCHA residents.  NYCHA did not respond to multiple requests for comment on how it regards design proposals from outside the agency. Peterson and Rich first became interested in NYCHA after a 2014 fellowship with the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) where they, along with urban designer Sagi Golan, thought through public housing in 9x18, a project that would infill development on NYCHA parking lots. The goal now, said Rich, is to think about incremental changes instead of jumping straight from an idea to a construction proposal. "NYCHA is a source of fascination for people in design and planning because it’s a city in a city; it’s just so big," Peterson said. "What we’re trying to do here is focus on actionable ideas."
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Chicago Chic

Chicago moves to modernize as city overhauls building codes
On April 10, under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago City Council approved an overhaul to the Chicago Building Code, the first update since 1949. This announcement has invigorated the local design, construction, and real estate industries as it brings the building code in line with national standards and promises greater affordability, sustainability, and innovation to modernize the city. It’s a big win for architects building in Chicago. A couple of major takeaways from the update:
  • A wider range of building materials will be allowed for construction,
  • New sprinkler system and seismic requirements will enhance safety,
  • Cost-effective construction of single-family homes will be incentivized,
  • There will be greater opportunities to convert existing basements and attics into livable space,
  • Additional flexibility for rehab work will be provided, encouraging the preservation of existing buildings,
  • The permitting process will be streamlined,
  • Newer methods and approaches to construct green buildings will be allowed, and,
  • The city will adopt International Building Code standards, making it easier to follow Chicago-specific code requirements.
Chicago’s code changes are meant to improve and encourage new building projects of all sizes by increasing affordability towards materials, construction, and even time spent in the permitting process. A clear emphasis has been placed on making residential projects more accessible and achievable, a potential boon for the real estate industry. It is evident in the city’s lack of new construction—single-family, two- and three-apartment housing typologies have slowly died-out in Chicago—that home renovations and historic rehabs have been difficult to achieve when abiding by Chicago’s existing code. Existing buildings that previously had no hope for a realistic update were felled either by demolition or vacancy, leading to even deeper issues around housing, safety, and social issues. Previously, if an owner added more than 25 percent to the building’s square footage, then the whole project had to comply with new construction building codes no matter if it were a single-family, neighborhood home, or downtown skyscraper. To alleviate such issues, the new code will offer more flexible requirements to differentiate between a project type and its appropriate needs. Moreover, the reduction of the minimum ceiling height requirement and added options to meet light and ventilation requirements will boost accessory dwelling units. Chicago’s need for a more cohesive, citywide strategy to approach affordable housing is more apparent than ever. These changes could attract more investment from the average Joe and developers as projects appear more achievable than resource-sucking and expensive. Within her first days of office, new Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed Chicago’s development community with a strapping message: “Developers can no longer skip their responsibilities by taking tax dollars but leaving it to someone else to solve our affordable housing crisis.” With these code changes, it’s expected that more developers will take on affordable housing projects, a dire need in Chicago and most other cities. Still, developers will need to grapple with the political explosiveness that surrounds gentrification. Neighborhoods like Pilsen and Logan Square are known to fight new construction and developer-led projects, whereas others, such as Garfield Park, struggle to attract interest. The city has anticipated potential drawbacks with the new code and has allowed themselves flexibility in altering it as challenges arise. The overhaul will be gradually phased in, and the first phase is expected to be implemented in Fall 2019, with further phasing between December 1, 2019, to July 31, 2020. Read and download the full ordinance here.
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The Bigger Picture

Mapping Community unveils how public buildings get built in NYC
A new exhibition now on view at the Center for Architecture explains how money moves across New York’s public building sector. It’s a complex system that, if you’re not directly involved in it, can seem unnecessarily confusing and slow. Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC demystifies how things like libraries, schools, and parks pop up, as well as the players behind them. Curated by Faith Rose, former executive director of the NYC Public Design Commission, and David Burney, professor of urban placemaking management at the Pratt Institute, the showcase walks viewers step-by-step through the process of capital planning. It’s spread out over two floors and utilizes a very clear and graphic layout so that the information is distilled to the audience in a digestible yet still visually distinctive manner.  “No one entity is responsible for the entire process, and even people deeply involved in one part aren’t always aware what the other pieces entail,” said Rose in a statement. “I don’t believe there has ever been an exhibition that tracks the mechanisms of capital planning from start to finish.”  There probably hasn’t.  That’s likely because New York City boasts one of the largest local government systems in the United States and its beast-of-a-procurement-process is less than transparent. But things are changing and this big-picture view of the “ecosystem of agencies” involved reveals the work it takes to make tangible improvements to the city. This knowledge, for better or for worse, arguably gives a viewer (or in this case, a local resident), the agency to insert themselves into the planning process and help shape their own neighborhood.  To communicate the complexity of the subject, the curators pieced together an in-depth look into one public project per borough, separated by typology, and detailed the planning process at the community level. One of those case studies centers on Essex Crossing, the massive, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A contentious construction project from the start, it was once an empty six-acre lot but now houses everything from luxury condos by SHoP Architects, to an affordable housing complex by Beyer Blinder Belle, a senior living community by Dattner Architects, and the newly-opened Essex Market.  This part of the exhibition tells the story of how Manhattan Community Board 3 and other local organizations fought over a series of negotiations with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as well as the site’s developer, to get a new K-8 school in the program. Here, it explains why the Department of Education has currently decided not to move forward with building a new school. It also reveals how local needs in other areas can affect capital projects.  Whether it was the right thing to do or not, garnering this information allows locals and exhibition audiences to better understand how the 1.9-million-square-foot Essex Crossing has come to be, what its future may look like, and how they can have a say in that. According to Hayes Slade, 2019 AIANY President and principal of Slade Architecture, that’s the key to improving the city. “New Yorkers should feel empowered to be part of community-building,” she said, “and that is only possible if they are knowledgeable of the process.” Mapping Community will be on view through August 31.