Search results for "affordable housing"

Placeholder Alt Text

a tall order

KPF’s skyline-altering residential towers get green-lit in London
A pair of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)-designed high-rises are set to become two of the tallest all-residential towers in London after receiving a crucial blessing from the Ealing council. This marks a major step forward for a rather contentious project that has residents and officials in Acton, West London, taking opposing sides since it was first announced last year. As Architects’ Journal reported, a relatively new Holiday Inn will be razed to make for the snugly situated twin buildings, one of which will be 45 stories and the other 55 stories, with the tallest topping out at about 705 feet. A sky bridge will connect the towers between their 26th and 34th floors while a podium with a sizable hotel, retail, and some office space will link the residential towers at their respective bases. Composed of nine habitable floors, the sky bridge is decidedly more substantial—more of a bulky suspended housing block wedged into two slender volumes than a proper bridge—than other notable skyscraper-linking appendages found at buildings like SHoP Architects’ American Copper Buildings in Manhattan or César Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Building Design noted that 36 of the development’s apartments will be located within the sky bridge, and that the sky bridge along with both towers will have rooftop garden terraces. There will be 702 new residential units in total between the towers, which are being developed by Egyptian company Aldau. Currently, the tallest residential towers in London are One Blackfriars (557 feet) and the St George Wharf Tower (594 feet). The Aldau project may ultimately not be the tallest in London, however, when considering that work on another lanky residential tower, Landmark Pinnacle, is underway on the Isle of Dogs. When complete, the 75-floor Landmark Pinnacle will top out at 764 feet, making it the tallest residential building in all of the United Kingdom, a title currently held by a 659-foot tower at the Deansgate Square development in Manchester. In addition to getting an all-important go-ahead from the borough, council planning officers gave the yet-to-be-named development a warm reception, noting in a report that “in its own context, the scheme will act as a catalyst for change in the surrounding area whilst providing an acceptable balance of employment generating uses and animated street frontages, combined with a substantial amount of much-needed housing and including a significant number of affordable homes.” “This brings to life our vision for a mixed-use ‘hub’ with a hotel, flexible workspace, residential use and a public venue at the top of the building,” said John Bushell, design principal with KPF, in a statement. “It will be an active anchor to the emerging area and we are very pleased to see this vision received a resolution to grant.” Other reactions to the highway-flanking, skyline-altering project, located in the Old Oak Common section of Acton on Portal Way, have been less gracious. Per The Guardian, local residents have called KPF’s design “extremely aggressive,” while Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, a London based research institute that champions high-density but low-rise/street-scale residential development, referred to the twin Acton high-rises as “London’s Trump Tower.” “This is solving London’s housing needs with false logic,” Boys Smith explained to The Guardian. “We need housing. This is housing. Therefore we need this. But human beings don’t appreciate being reduced to the scale of ants.” Planners with the office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan are also not entirely keen on the development, noting last year that “the bulk, height and massing of this very tall building raises concern in terms of its impacts on townscape and on the Old Oak & Wormholt conservation area.” Khan, who has the authority to squash Ealing Council’s approval and veto the development, also found that dedicating only 35 percent of the towers’ 702 units to affordable housing to be “not acceptable.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Skyscraper in the Seaport

Howard Hughes and SOM attempt another tower in South Street Seaport
Manhattan’s South Street Seaport might look pretty different in a few years if the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) moves ahead with its new residential development. The Lower Manhattan historic district could soon have a new 990-foot tower. HHC has hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to master plan a new mixed-use development for the Seaport. The project could feature a new building with four floors of office and retail space topped with a residential tower that could range from 570 to 990 feet at 250 Water Street. The tower could have between 550 and 700 units, 200 of which would be designated affordable housing, following the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing goals of the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “Together with the community, and with the necessary approvals, we have a rare opportunity to bring affordable housing to an area where it’s in short supply,” an HHC spokesperson told AN. “Following the stakeholder workshops, we are continuing to engage with a diverse range of neighbors, businesses, and civic groups as well as elected and government officials as we further develop our plans for the 250 Water site and other district improvements.” The current zoning for the Seaport only allows for 12-story buildings, and the proposal requires Howard Hughes to negotiate the purchase of up to 700,000 square feet of air rights from three surrounding properties with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, as well as complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which ends in a city council vote. This project comes after earlier HHC’s failed attempt at building a 600-foot tower in the neighborhood in 2014. The project was ultimately rejected by the Seaport Working Group, a community task force, for being out of scale with the lower-rise Federal-style brick context. The HHC spokesperson said the company is looking forward to continuing the conversation with the community to create a long-term solution for the neighborhood. “Through our extensive community engagement process, we have been working to generate a planning framework for the Seaport historic district that everyone can get behind.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Instant Icons

3D-printed houses completed for Austin’s homeless population
ICON, a robotics and advanced materials startup based in Austin, Texas, made headlines on the grounds of the 2018 South by Southwest Festival when it presented a prototype for a 3D-printed home created under 24 hours at a cost of $10,000. Two years later, the company applied its tools to the city's affordable housing crisis when it recently unveiled a small neighborhood of six 3D printed homes that will soon be ready for occupancy. The 400-square-foot dwellings, the first full 3D-printed homes in the country, are now a part of Community First Village, a 51-acre master-planned community in northeastern Austin providing affordable, permanent housing and social services for the city’s former homeless community. The structures, designed by local firm Logan Architecture with finishings by Franklin Alan, all feature a single bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen, living room, and porch. “The promise of ICON’s 3D-printing technology is really exciting,” Alan Graham, the founder of the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes which opened the village in 2016, said in a press statement, “and what better place to start putting it to use than in one of the country’s most innovative neighborhoods designed to serve men and women who have experienced the trauma of homelessness? Vulnerable populations like the homeless are never among the first to access leading-edge anything, but now here in Austin, they’re among the first in line who will be living in some of the most unique homes ever built—and we think that’s a beautiful thing.” To produce the homes, ICON used their 2-ton, 11-foot-tall Vultan II printer, which extrudes a proprietary concrete mixture the team refers to as “Lavacrete.” ICON cofounder and CEO Jason Ballard believes the technology can be easily applied to the country’s affordable housing crisis in light of the relatively short construction time it affords, as well as the often small environmental footprint and design flexibility. Thanks to the ability to print the walls of three homes at a time, the Community First Village project is nearly complete and will open to its first occupants this spring. More tiny home communities will likely pop up across the country in the near future given the recent passing of the YIMBY Act, a bill written to streamline affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing, by the House of Representatives. A similar community of 40 units traditionally-built shelters was recently completed in San Jose, California, on a formerly vacant property owned by the Valley Transit Authority.
Placeholder Alt Text

Yes In Our Backyard

YIMBY Act passes House of Representatives, could pave the way for more affordable housing
Last Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act, which directly addresses the affordable housing crisis currently felt throughout the country by streamlining affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing. The piece of legislation, H.R. 4351, was first put forth in September 2019 by Dennis Heck and Trey Hollingsworth, the US Representatives for Washington’s 10th congressional district and Indiana’s 9th congressional district, respectively. They introduced the bill at the time by stating that the US currently faces an estimated shortage of seven to ten million housing units, significantly more than at any other time in the country’s history. “America is missing millions of homes, and solving our nationwide housing crisis will require federal, state and local governments to work together towards this shared goal,” Heck said in a press statement. In response to that monumental challenge, the bill proposes several efforts to reduce the hurdles currently associated with affordable housing production, including the reduction of minimum lot sizes, increasing development in areas close to transit centers, and allowing for the construction of duplexes and manufactured homes in areas currently zoned for single-family homes. Increasing the allowable floor area ratio in multifamily housing areas and providing incentives to produce adaptive reuse projects are just a few of the measures listed throughout the bill that could dramatically improve the housing crisis. Many of the measures included, in fact, are similar to those in other, smaller bills passed throughout the country, such as SB-13 in California, which streamlined the process to produce accessory dwelling units in an effort to increase the state's housing density. Prior to receiving approval from the House without opposition, the YIMBY Act received support from multiple nonprofit organizations dedicated to the affordable housing crisis, including the American Planning Association, the Congress for New Urbanism, the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, and Habitat for Humanity International. Hollingsworth said in a press statement that its bipartisan passage "signals strong support across the aisle to reform our nation’s housing regulations at all levels of government.” The YIMBY act must still pass the Senate and ultimately receive a presidential signature before being signed into law.
Placeholder Alt Text

Building (Tiny) Bridges

San Jose debuts tiny house community for the homeless
Over three years in the making, a San Jose, California, pilot community composed of 40 ultra-tiny houses that will provide temporary shelter to Californians transitioning out of homelessness. Dubbed the Mabury Bridge Housing Project, the village is located on a vacant parcel of land owned by the Valley Transit Authority and is one of two tiny house clusters planned for California’s third most populous city. The second community, located on Caltrans-owned land, is slated to open to residents later this year. Like the rest of California, San Jose, the county seat of wildly affluent Santa Clara County and the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, is in the midst of a homelessness epidemic. As of January 2019, the number of people sleeping in their cars, on the streets, and in shelters within San Jose city limits had increased by 42 percent to 6,172 when compared to 2017 when the last Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated homelessness census was taken. The current number is likely higher. Built by a small army of Habitat for Humanity volunteers at a cost of $6,500 each, the micro-homes—or “emergency sleeping cabins,” as San Jose officials have dubbed them—measure a mere 80-square-feet, and two are slightly larger to accommodate residents with disabilities. Each single-occupancy living space is equipped with air conditioning/heating units, a twin bed, desk, and shelving. Laundry, shower, and storage facilities are located on-site along with a shared kitchen and ample communal space for socializing and stretching out. A community garden and resource center equipped with computers and job boards are also available to residents. The compound, which includes on-site parking, staff offices, and around-the-clock security, is fenced-in to “control foot traffic in and out of the site,” according to the pilot website. HomeFirst, a San Jose-based nonprofit dedicated to lifting people out of homelessness, is the community’s operator and provides residents with resources beyond temporary housing including healthcare assistance and career training. Residents at Mabury Bridge Housing Project are limited to 60-day stays as they continue down the path to self-sufficiency with the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. As the Mercury News explained, the “unconventional” community located off of Mabury Road in the shadow of the Bayshore Freeway and opposite the yet-to-open Berryessa BART station to the northeast of downtown San Jose, “offers a mix of stability and compassion for those trying to stay afloat in spite of the region’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.” The Mercury News explained that officials aim to house roughly 120 permanent housing-seeking residents each year, rotating 40 people out—and into permanent housing—every four months. San Jose Inside also noted that two residents have already moved on to permanent housing since the community first opened. Yet at the grand opening ceremony in late February, an event attended by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, only eight of the community’s 40 cabins were occupied due to restrictions, including background checks, placed on eligible residents, who must be part of Santa Clara County’s rapid rehousing voucher program and actively be seeking permanent housing. Although the community has only been open for a little over a month, there’s been an early struggle in finding qualified people in need to populate the community. “People get lost in the system,” Jacky Morales-Ferrand, housing director for the City of San Jose, told the Mercury News. “And, that’s actually one of the benefits of creating these interim sites, because as we create housing opportunities for people to move in, we know that we can connect them very quickly.” In total, the pilot program on Mabury Road cost roughly $2 million, a sum that includes the 40 volunteer-built cabins, site development, and building out the community’s various support structures. “It's a question of scale. It's a question of capacity. It’s a question of resolve, and so I just want you to know that we are resolved to scale programs like this,” said Newsom at the grand opening of the community. “The state vision to solve this crisis will be realized at the local level, project by project.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Sunny Days Ahead?

Master plan for Sunnyside Yard megadevelopment places affordable housing front and center
The master plan for Sunnyside Yard, the second rail yard-blanketing megadevelopment to take root in New York City in less than a decade, has been unveiled. But when comparing Sunnyside Yard, in western Queens, to its predecessor, the upmarket enclave Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s far West Side, similarities between the two, aside from their positioning atop active rail yards and their massive size—28 acres for Hudson Yards and a staggering 144 acres for Sunnyside Yard—are far and few between. When the first of Hudson Yards’ two phases opened in March 2019 seven years after breaking ground, the new neighborhood, studded with skyscrapers designed by an impressive roster of top architects, became an instant magnet for controversy over, among other things, its preponderance of multimillion-dollar condos. (To be clear, there isn’t a total dearth of affordable housing at Hudson Yards.) Sunnyside Yard takes a dramatically different approach, and much-needed affordable housing is at the very core of the sprawling development master-planned by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU). In total, Sunnyside Yard will include 12,000 affordable housing units—the most in New York City since Co-Op City in the Bronx was completed in 1973—as the Wall Street Journal reports. Half of Sunnyside Yard’s apartments will be earmarked as affordable rentals for New Yorkers earning 50 percent below the area median income and the other half reserved for affordable homeownership initiatives. Half of the aforementioned affordable rentals would be reserved for very low-income New York families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income. In addition to housing, the ground-up carbon-neutral neighborhood, a project of the New York City Economic Development Corp (EDC) co-planned with Amtrak, will include 60 acres of parkland and open public space, multiple libraries, a score of healthcare facilities, and up to a dozen new schools. “While the overall program is flexible in terms of location and quantities,” explained PAU, “the plan calls for 100 percent affordable housing; a mix of office, retail, light-manufacturing and institutional programs; and lays out an armature of public goods to support these uses.” While Sunnyside Yard has yet to be slapped with a total price tag, the cost to build a protective deck over most of the 180-acre rail yard partly owned by Amtrak—the master plan encompasses 80 percent of the total site—is estimated at $14.4 billion. This also includes the cost of building out necessary street-level infrastructure, utilities, and more. New Yorkers shouldn’t hold their breaths for a huge influx of affordable housing soon, as the project will take decades to complete, with a new regional transit hub, Sunnyside Station, taking priority over housing in terms of what will come first. PAU notes that “the team has identified a series of early investments that respond to pressing community needs and could be implemented in the near term.” Sunnyside Station, identified through community engagement as one of the pressing needs, is one of these early investments. Developers have yet to be selected for the project although the plan gives priority to women- and minority-owned firms and community-centered nonprofits. A consortium composed of Amtrak, the MTA, and the city, along with “community and elected officials will guide the planning process,” wrote the Journal. Writes PAU:
Encircled by thriving neighborhoods that are both tall and small, artistic and prosaic, diverse and even more diverse, Sunnyside should connect, celebrate, and enhance its surroundings. Like the rest of Queens, with its vast industrial and residential neighborhoods, the World’s Fair grounds, MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Gantry Plaza State Park, the ideas for Sunnyside must be diverse, creative, and contemporary. These places—like the future-facing borough they call home that led New York into the Jet Age—have never been about the same old same old, never about nostalgia, and never succumb to the banal. Neither should Sunnyside Yard, which could portend our future as a city.
“It’s unprecedented in the last 50 years and it’s amazing,” Jonathan F.P. Rose, an urban planner and affordable housing developer, told the Journal. “When you combine those things with schools, parks, health care, social services, it creates the platform for people to move forward economically with their lives.” How Sunnyside Yard will be paid for is a detail that’s yet to be ironed out, and backers of the project admit funding will be an uphill battle moving forward. Cash will likely come from a mix of federal, state, and city resources including affordable housing subsidies and tax-exempt bonds. Sunnyside Yard recently made news when the project's EDC-organized steering committee lost Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sylvia White of the Justice for All Coalition as members. Their resignation came after local residents and leaders strongly objected to the project during a months-long public outreach period. Those in opposition believe that the funds that would be allocated by the city to develop and build Sunnyside Yard should instead be used for more urgent community needs. In her resignation letter, Ocasio-Cortez argued that funds “should be invested in shoring up the existing transportation infrastructure that already exists there or investing it in other under-funded public resources that our community relies on.” “Sunnyside Yards presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York for generations to come that includes more open space, transit, affordable housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens,” wrote an EDC spokesperson in response. “This planning process has always put community engagement at the center. We’re committed to continuing our work with the community to build a strategic vision that can better serve local residents and all New Yorkers.” It was first announced that the New York-based PAU had been selected to develop the project master plan in May 2018. Landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz and Carlo Ratti Associati are among the collaborators that worked alongside PAU in realizing the vision, which as the Sunnyside Yard executive summary states, is “not a shovel-ready mega-development plan, but rather a long-term framework to guide decisions, ensuring that they are led by public priorities, and centered on human needs.” “As an architecture firm deeply committed to advancing equitable, ecological, and joyful cities, PAU has been honored to collaborate with the City, Amtrak, the Steering Committee, our extraordinary consulting team, and innumerable local stakeholders on this intensively community-based, long-term vision for Sunnyside Yard,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU, in a statement. “At over 180 acres, the Yard represents our city’s most significant opportunity to realize shared progressive goals all in a carbon neutral environment that will set a model globally for sustainable urban growth while maintaining a scale and density reflective of Western Queens. Neighboring communities now have a unique opportunity to leverage this Plan to address long-standing needs in terms of transportation, housing, jobs, open space, social infrastructure, and environmental resilience.” In a 2019 article about Sunnyside Yard, AN editor-in-chief William Menking speculated that “we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.” Although nothing yet is set in stone, PAU's ambitious master plan helps to ensure that this won't be the case.
Placeholder Alt Text

Gratis for All

Luxembourg becomes first country to make all public transit free
In a big move to reduce traffic congestion, the tiny European country of Luxembourg has scraped transit fares and made all modes of public transportation free. Various European municipalities have enacted free public transit schemes, some on a restricted or resident-only basis, with Dunkirk, France, and Tallinn, Estonia, being among the largest cities to do so. Luxembourg, however, is the first country in Europe or elsewhere to do away with fares almost entirely on a nationwide basis. As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, some evening bus services, as well as first-class domestic train travel, will still be subject to fares. Now that Luxembourg’s free transit plan has been unrolled throughout the entire castle-stuffed, landlocked country, officials hope that its congestion-curbing impact will prove most potent in the capital of the Grand Duchy, Luxembourg City. Historic Luxembourg City is home to roughly 122,000 of the Rhode Island-sized nation’s nearly 614,000 residents but the majority of its traffic woes. As reported by the Luxembourg Times, Luxembourg City has the sixth-worst congestion for a global city with a population of less than 800,000. Only the Polish cities of Lodz, Krakow, Poznan, and Wroclaw, along with the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, fare worse. This data, pulled from an illuminating/horrifying annual index produced by Dutch location technology firm TomTom, ranks Luxembourg City as having the 25th worst urban congestion of any European city of any size trailing Budapest, London, Brussels, Rome, Paris, and the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. The European cities where drivers sit in traffic the least are almost exclusively Spanish. Per the index, Luxembourg City motorists spent, on average, 163 hour—nearly a full week of their lives—stuck in weekday rush hour traffic in 2019. AFP notes that Luxembourgish transit officials expect that eliminating fares will affect roughly 40 percent of the country’s households, with each saving about $112 in transit fares annually—a figure that demonstrates that getting around the wealthy nation via public transportation was affordable to begin with. Per a 2018 transportation study cited by AFP, Luxembourgers are heavily dependent on private cars, using them for 47 percent of business-related excursions and 71 percent of leisure travel. But as CNN points out, much of Luxembourg City’s notorious rush-hour traffic isn’t generated by native Luxembourg residents. Germany, France, and Belgium can all be reached from Luxembourg City within a half-hour. This means that a large, non-Luxembourgish contingent of workers clog the roads every morning and evening as they stream in and out of the city. Many of those working in Luxembourg City that commute from other countries daily—roughly 214,000 people per Deutsch Welle—choose to live in neighboring countries due to the astronomical cost of housing in the capital city. These commuters are encouraged to ditch their cars at the border and take advantage of Luxembourg’s now-free public transit system instead. To help further alleviate congestion and enable commuters to get around with more ease is a new, growing modern tramway line in Luxembourg City. The first phase of the tramway was finished in 2017 and work on subsequent phases is expected to wrap up within the next several years. When completed, the line will link the southern outskirts of the Luxembourg City to Findel, a small village just north of the city limits that’s home to the country’s only international airport. Luxembourg’s national public transit system costs roughly $562 million annually to operate. Fare sales contribute about $46 million, about 8 percent, a year to those costs and the government will cover the lost fares. “The country at this very moment is in really good shape,” Dany Frank, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mobility and Public Works, told CNN. “We, the government, want the people to benefit from the good economy.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Brick-and-Aluminum

Magnusson Architecture delivers high-design affordable housing to the Bronx
  facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
The design and construction of affordable housing in New York is a formidable task; between labor and material costs, and the hurdles of municipal zoning and housing regulation, even the grandest of projects are budget engineered into imitations of the original concept. Magnusson Architecture and Planning’s (MAP) St. Augustine Terrace, a low-income residential tower located in the Bronx, challenges that trend with a thoughtful design consisting of dark brick and matted aluminum composite panels. Over the last three decades, MAP has led a broad range of affordable housing projects across New York City and the Hudson Valley. St. Augustine Terrace is located just south of Cortona Park in the Morrisania neighborhood, the project and joins the practice’s particular focus on urban regeneration in the Bronx—the building was also awarded a merit in the 2020 AIANY Design Awards and an AIA New York State Design Award.
  • Facade Manufacturer Alcoa Glen Gerry
  • Architect Magnusson Architecture and Planning
  • Facade Installer D&G Construction Arco Construction Commercial Window Group
  • Location The Bronx, New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System CMU and metal stud
  • Products Glen Gery "Dark Iron" Roman Brick Platinum Reynobond FR by Alcoa
The tower rises on the triangular plot of the former site of the Church of St. Augustine, which was demolished in 2013 after decades of decay stemming from a dwindling congregation. In total, the project provides 112 affordable housing units, of which approximately a quarter are devoted to adults with mental illness. The elevator lobbies of each floor are located on the primary south elevation and provide views of the Manhattan skyline through significant glazing bays. To mitigate glare, MAP wrapped each elevator lobby with a four-ringed set of brise soleil produced by Kawneer. “We designed the sunshades to wrap around the entire glazed portion of the elevator lobby from very early in the design phase, and sized them so that they would shade a majority of the floor-to-ceiling glazing during peak sun hours in the hottest months of the year,” said MAP principal Fernando Villa. “We typically work these calculations out through drawing sections, calculating the angle of the sun at several points in the year, and sometimes with schematic sun studies.” Outside of the significant glazing on the south elevation, the bulk of the tower’s cladding is composed of aluminum composite and brick. The aluminum composite panels are just over an eighth-of-an-inch thick and are arranged in alternating bands of dimensions; narrow panels line spandrels while those of larger height span from floor to ceiling. The tower’s Roman-style bricks are in keeping with the surrounding turn-of-the-century context and are arranged according to a standard running bond.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Small but Mighty

Toward a cooperative network of small architecture practices
You might be small…. In the United States, architecture firms composed of fewer than twenty people make up 92 percent of all firms—a percentage virtually unchanged since the 1970s—though in total they represent only 44 percent of all architectural workers (Economic Census 2012, table 5). Firms of 1- to-9 people make up 76 percent of the total number of U.S. architecture firms while capturing a mere 14 percent of total billings. If you are one of these small firms, you probably bemoan those tasks that transcend your basic competence and your engaged sensibilities. Unable to afford the specialized staff that tackles vital administrative, managerial, financial, legal, development, and marketing tasks commonplace to large firms, it is difficult to efficiently dispense with these realities to concentrate on the advantages of being small: programmatic experimentation, design detail, personal relationships with clients, work-life balance, and thwarting corporate divisions of labor. Flummoxed by the realization that an uncertain percent of your time is spent on the non-billable and uncreative aspect of running an architectural office, the possibility of sharing both relevant information about and expenses of administration might be attractive. More attractive still is a structure that makes the firm less vulnerable to the vagaries of the market and then next potential client call and taking more control of getting the projects that matter. But you can operate big… Rethinking the nature of practice in small firms is part of a broader need to reconsider the value of cooperation, cooperatives, and cooperativization in cities more broadly. The Architecture Lobby wants to facilitate this by viewing small firms in tandem with the social, economic, and political potentials offered by a cooperative network that leverages economies of scale, consolidates power, and expands collective professional and political capabilities. On the one hand, the cooperative network can leverage economies of scale by centralizing much of the business operations and in turn helping member firms reduce cost and risk. On the other hand, the cooperative network serves as a knowledge and trade network for small firms to help one another. By meaningfully sharing costs systems, labor, knowledge, benefits, and optimal surplus revenue, members build resilience that allows a firm to take large control of the direction of their firms and the projects it wants to pursue. A cooperative, technically, is a worker-owned organization, and the network would help these cooperative firms work together in predetermined ways. The network is open to all firms that have the willingness to share necessary information, and they do not need to be worker-owned—although this would be a positive step toward a larger democratic shift. The network joining these firms will share resources at the level comfortable for its members: Use the economies of scale to jointly hire consultants, share knowledge, share software, share knowledge, share employees as projects recede or expand, share space. Clients get the benefit of a firm with specialties it desires with an assurance that there is access to more complete expertise. Firms get the benefit of specific identities with the stamp of expanded expertise and stability. Coming Together... There are institutional challenges to forming both a coop and a cooperative network in the US: capitalism is based on competition, something that is reinforced in everything from our education to institutional modes. Also, cooperation between firms can trigger fears of monopolization and antitrust legislation. But laws allowing cooperativization that were first enacted to support struggling small farmers in the US are increasingly being applied to other industries, although professions, where licensed and unlicensed workers mix in a typical firm organization, are prohibited from legally forming as a coop. But again, coops can function cooperatively despite these restrictions. The Architecture Lobby has found several firms pushing the envelope in the U.S. Warrenstreet Architects of Concord, New Hampshire, for example, has adopted cooperative structures simply for better workplace culture and more responsible firm practices. CoEverything in Somerville, Massachusetts, offers a variety of cooperative-based architectural, education, and real estate services. South Mountain Company, based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, operates a straightforward ecological design-build cooperative and has grown enough to self-initiate affordable housing developments. In search for the most equitable structure of practice, Lobby members at uxo architects in the Bay Area, California, have tapped into their local cooperative experts to help them navigate the opaque legal waters of incorporating as a legal cooperative and worked with coop law experts to remove barriers to the formation and operation of professional cooperatives in the U.S., as well as The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, a group that backs democratically controlled workplaces across sectors. All it takes is a desire to move beyond the current system that doesn’t work for small firms, as forced competition guaranteed a race to the bottom. If you are interested in learning more and being a part of the alternative that we are building, please visit our website (architecture-lobby.org/coop) and become involved.
Placeholder Alt Text

My way or the highway

MVRDV’s revamp of Amsterdam’s Tripolis Park includes a noise-buffering groundscraper
Dutch firm MVRDV has unveiled plans for Tripolis Park, a large-scale redevelopment project calling for the renovation and expansion of an architecturally significant Amsterdam office park that sits directly next to the A10 motorway (Rijksweg 10), the city’s bustling primary ring road. The most significant new addition to the existing Tripolis campus will be a rectangular, 11-story office block; a proper “groundscraper” per MVRDV, that will pull double-duty as a sound screen. Spanning nearly 400,000 square feet parallel to the A10, the photovoltaic array-topped structure will help muffle the constant roar of traffic produced by the highway. And, only fitting for a shiny, ultramodern office building situated nearly atop a traffic-clogged ring road, the star tenant will be Uber. Completed in 1994, Tripolis, which will be rebranded as Tripolis Park once the redevelopment of the site is complete, is one of the final works of influential Dutch architect and theorist, Aldo van Eyck. An outspoken proponent of Structuralism, van Eyck is best known for the Amsterdam Orphanage (1960) and for the hundreds of public playgrounds that he created across the city in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Located a stone’s throw from Van Eyck’s iconic, national monument-listed orphanage, Tripolis—itself a monument site since 2019—has historically suffered from low occupancy rates despite its eye-catching design, desirable location in Amsterdam’s fast-growing Zuidas business district, and attractive, courtyard-centered orientation. Composed of a trio of curvy mid-rises in which clusters of office suites fan out from central staircases, the existing buildings will be fully renovated by MVRDV to ensure that they “become commercially viable” according to a press release. Amsterdam-based real estate developer Flow is spearheading the project. The buildings’ signature design characteristics, namely their wood and granite facades and colorful window frames, will remain while MVRDV will add new elements such as rooftop gardens. The northernmost of the three existing buildings, Tripolis 100, will remain separate from the new groundscraper-slash-highway noise-blocker and eventually be converted into an affordable housing complex. Tripolis 200 and 300, the two existing buildings not slated for conversion into future housing, and those located closest to the A10, will be woven into the footprint of MVRDV’s new building. “This block is indented where it meets the existing buildings, adapting its grid structure to the complex geometry of Van Eyck’s offices,” explained MVRDV. “The relation between the austere, regimented south façade and the playfully indented north façade is revealed by a high-transparency eight-storey window that provides a glimpse of the existing Tripolis buildings where the indentation punches almost all the way through the new structure.” This melding of old and new at Tripolis Park is certainly dramatic, especially when considering the newer building’s hulking rigidity and the wavy, organic forms of Van Eyck’s older structures. “So I am a fan of Aldo van Eyck’s oeuvre and I think we should treat his design as respectfully as possible,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a statement. “The new building guards and shelters the existing Tripolis complex as it were, thanks to the protective layer we create. We literally echo Tripolis, as if it was imprinting its neighbour. The space between will be given a public dimension and will be accessible to passers-by. As a visionary in his time, Aldo already saw office spaces as meeting places. I want to continue that idea by promoting interaction between the two buildings in various ways.” Uber, whose international headquarters are currently located elsewhere in Amsterdam, will also take up residence in the largest of the existing Van Eyck buildings in addition to occupying several lower floors of MVRDV's A10-abutting structure. As reported by Bloomberg, Uber will occupy two-thirds of the Tripolis campus in total starting in 2022. The San Francisco-based tech giant will have the option to rent even more space as its Amsterdam workforce continues to grow. Since 2017, the number of Amsterdam-based Uber employees has jumped from 400 to 1,700, prompting the company to seek out a more spacious home.
Placeholder Alt Text

Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers get financial boost from the city after Parasite

Hot off the staggering success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is extending a helping hand to those living in the city’s cramped and famously flood-prone semi-basement apartments. As reported by English-language daily the Korea Herald, a total of 1,500 households living in semi-basement apartments, or Banjiha, will be eligible for up to ₩3.2 million (approximately $2,654) to invest in new flooring, improved HVAC systems, air purifiers, smoke detectors, and other items that are in need of replacement or altogether lacking in Seoul’s halfway-subterranean homes. According to the Los Angeles Times, there were over 360,000 semi-basement apartments in South Korea as of 2015, with a majority located in the country’s ultra-dense capital region. Many of the units were originally built as bunkers in the 1970s—an era when military tension with North Korea was at a boiling point—and later converted into ultra-cheap rental units with little regard for comfort or safety. Although a more affordable option compared to high-rise apartment blocks that a majority of Seoul residents call home, Banjiha are dark, damp, poorly ventilated, and often too compact to support the number of people living in them. Seventy-eight percent of Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers are in the bottom 30 percent income bracket, per city statistics cited by the Korea Herald. The Banjiha upgrade initiative, spearheaded by the city in partnership with the Korean Energy Foundation, will begin accepting applications from households in March with plans to expand the range of applications eligible to apply in subsequent years. The financial aid is being dispersed as a larger effort to help low-income Seoul residents improve and boost efficiency in their aging, with priority given to semi-basement apartment dwellers. Featured prominently in Parasite as the primary residence of the scheming Kim family, Seoul’s semi-basement apartments have garnered a significant amount of attention since the film’s release. As detailed by AN in a recent article, Bong used the built environment—specifically two very different modes of housing, the dreary semi-basement apartment and the ultramodern, quasi-suburban luxury home—to propel the film’s pointed social commentary. “Banjiha is a space with a peculiar connotation... It’s undeniably underground, and yet you want to believe it’s above ground,” the Times quoted Bong as saying following Parasite’s premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. “There’s also the fear that if you sink any lower, you may go completely underground.” While the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Banjiha-earmarked financial aid program won’t lift semi-basement dwellers fully above ground, it does function as a life preserver of sorts, helping to prevent thousands from sinking even further. Just call it the Parasite Effect.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Spirit of 78

Related reveals first phase of Chicago’s massive The 78 development
Related Midwest, the Chicago-based arm of New York real estate development firm Related Companies, has revealed concrete design details for the first phase of its The 78 project, a 62-acre “vibrant, mixed-use community” (according to the developer) that’s poised to transform a long-vacant riverside parcel along Chicago’s South Loop. A Related megadevelopment through and through, it’s tempting to compare this $7 billion built-from-scratch neighborhood—master-planned by Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—as the Windy City’s answer to the shiny, supertall-stuffed Hudson Yards enclave that opened last year on the far western fringes of Manhattan. And there are myriad similarities, minus any climbable sculptures for now, anyway. Yet whereas at the heart of the critically walloped Hudson Yards was a luxury shopping mall and a Björk-christened arts center, the focal point of The 78, in its first phase at least, will be focused on research and innovation in the form of a world-class new home for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), which is part of the Illinois Innovation Network. In a press statement, Related Midwest credited DPI for helping to “set the stage for The 78’s future as a global technology and innovation hub.” Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest, described the project as such:
“Our vision for The 78 is to create Chicago’s next great neighborhood. With a dynamic Phase 1 plan that includes DPI as its centerpiece, we’re showing how a 21st-century neighborhood, created from the ground-up and connected to so many exceptional areas, will bring new opportunities to all of Chicago. DPI’s organizational model will drive long-term innovation across critical growth industries and draw corporate tenants, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists— from across Chicago and around the globe  to The 78, where they will find top talent, groundbreaking research and new technologies that support future expansion.”
Joining the 50,000 square-foot DPI campus in Phase 1 will be 1.5 million square feet of office space spread across a mix of high-rise and “loft-style” buildings; 700,000 square feet of residential space, with 20 percent of that earmarked for affordable housing, and 100,000 square feet dedicated to eateries, shops, hotels, and fitness locations. Phase 1 also marks the beginnings of what will eventually amount to 12 acres of publicly-accessible green space woven throughout The 78. This includes 5 acres of Crescent Park, a curvy 7-acre urban refuge/outdoor recreation hotspot following the natural path of the Chicago River. Various infrastructural tweaks are set to begin within the next year as part of Phase 1. They include appending and renovating streets, as well as reconstruction of the Chicago River Seawall. Work is already underway on the Wells-Wentworth Connector, a pedestrian-centric main street of sorts with protected bike lanes that will link The 78 with adjacent neighborhoods. Envisioned as a southward extension of Chicago’s central business district, The 78}s name is a reference to the development’s future status as the newest community to join Chicago’s 77 established neighborhoods. As for the DPI's new home, the “state-of-the-art immersion facility” will be nestled on land donated by Related Midwest along the Chicago River between Crescent Park and bustling Wells Street on the Loop’s northern edge. STL Architects, the Chicago-based firm behind the DPI complex's initial conceptual renderings, noted that the building’s “distinct” design was directly inspired by its park-flanked riverfront location. Sporting a central atrium that will act as an indoor public square, the building is intended to foster social interaction between students, and the facility is expected to attract 2,000 of them annually from the U.S. and abroad. Per Related Midwest, academic activities at DPI will initially zero in on “applying the Illinois economy’s existing strengths in data analytics and computing to drive innovation in food and agriculture; environment and water; health and wellness; transportation and logistics; and finance and insurance.” In addition to creating 9,000 permanent jobs, Phase 1 of The 78 is expected to generate over 9,500 construction, trade, and professional services jobs. It’s slated for completion in 2024.