Search results for "affordable housing"

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Quayside on the B-side

Sidewalk Labs reveals Snøhetta and Heatherwick designs for its Toronto development
Toronto’s interconnected “smart neighborhood” is inching ever closer to reality. Sidewalk Labs has released a batch of new renderings from Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio, as well as documents detailing how the company plans to pay for the ground-up development. Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside waterfront Toronto neighborhood is being touted as a smart, interconnected, “100 percent timber” development. In a February 14 Medium post, the company released a progress report detailing its progress before the finalization of its draft Master Innovation and Development Plan. One proposal that’s drawing flak is an arrangement where Sidewalk Labs would build infrastructure such as light rail on the site in exchange for a share of the revenue generated by increased property values—diverting tax revenue from public coffers. Sidewalk Labs claims the arrangement would allow the neighborhood to rise “years, if not decades, sooner than it would otherwise. This would unlock the potential of the Eastern Waterfront, and the jobs, housing, and economic growth that will come with it.” The company also clarified how many units of housing it would be building in the neighborhood, which would contain 12 mass timber towers. The project will adhere to the site’s existing zoning and will be 90 percent residential. That means 2,500 units total, 1,000 of which would be rented at below-market rates, and 50 percent of which would be “purpose-built rental apartments.” Half of the below-market housing would be affordable (and a quarter of that marked as “deeply affordable”) and the other half would be designated for middle-income earners. To meet the high demand for timber that the 12-acre project requires, Sidewalk Labs has announced that they would build a tall-timber factory in Ontario, which would supply up to 4,000 new jobs. Google’s 600,000-to-one-million-square-foot Canadian headquarters could also be in the making on the western side of Villiers Island along the planned light rail loop. Retail, an educational component, and amenities are likely headed to the campus as well. The neighborhood will also become a testbed for innovative urban technologies. Other than the weather-responsive “skirts” deployed at the open-air bases of each building, the entire project will be networked with high-speed Wi-Fi. A civic data trust would be responsible for removing identifying markers from any information gathered and aggregating it. On the design side, Michael Green Architecture has developed a mass timber kit-of-parts, and Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio have designed building concepts for the campus, innovation zone, common areas, and other spaces. Of note are the “scalloped” balconies found throughout the residential developments and post-and-beam styled open-air “stoas” at the base of each tower. The design will continue to change as Sidewalk Labs solicits feedback from stakeholders, the Canadian and provincial government, and Alphabet, Sidewalk Labs' parent company. The entire presentation can be viewed here.
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Inclusive Recovery

Five years after Detroit’s bankruptcy, design fuels recovery
Could Detroit be pioneering a new type of gentrification? It is possible. The recovery—with its innovative experiments in revitalization—is set to become a laboratory of ideas that will redefine gentrification, learning from the urban renaissance of the last 20 years in other cities. The Detroit of the late aughts was a desolate place: The municipal government had all but crumbled in the wake of a depopulation that saw the city go from over 2 million residents to around 700,000. With the loss of people and jobs came the loss of density and infrastructure, which left Detroit the poster child for apocalyptic Rust Belt landscapes. During this period of the late 2000s to the early 2010s, steep real estate discounts allowed artists and entrepreneurs to buy houses and commercial buildings extremely cheap. This legendary scenario led The New York Times to publish an article titled "Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit,” in 2015.  And it certainly feels that way, with vibrant music, arts, food, and design scenes in the city that seem to be linked together by a small community of like-minded people working on a host of cultural projects together. However, much of the buzz about Detroit in the national media has died down. How is Detroit doing five years after becoming the largest city ever to go through a structured bankruptcy, and how is design helping to speculate on new future urbanisms? Today’s Detroit is a different place than five years ago. The days of $500 houses bought at auction and dark, empty landscapes are becoming a thing of the past. Developers and speculators have bought up much of the land around the city center, with Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Ventures owning almost 95 percent of the downtown area. This area could now pass for a street in downtown Chicago, with high-end boutiques and chains like Warby Parker and lululemon. In other neighborhoods, such as the more industrial Milwaukee Junction, near the Russell Industrial Center—an icon of gritty urban reuse—land and property have been claimed by those waiting to sell or develop it. Other neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown have seen a resurgence in development, an increase in market-rate housing, and more traditional forms of urban revitalization. Infamously abandoned sites have been bought for eventual redevelopment or reuse. Most strikingly, a Ford-branded security Ford Escape is parked outside the Ford-emblazoned fence at Detroit Central Train Station, a ruin-porn poster child now slated for redevelopment as the auto giant’s “innovation” hub, focusing on autonomous vehicles. Now the challenge will be to deliver on some of the potential that has been so evident over the last decade. Detroit’s municipal government has long been seen as incapable of addressing the city’s problems, such as abandoned buildings, vacant lots, lack of infrastructure, and general disinvestment. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2013, the city has implemented a series of initiatives that have in many ways stabilized it. These include basic things like improving emergency services and transportation. Perhaps most important, new LED streetlights were installed, ending the days when residents carried flashlights in their cars. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Detroit’s governance has been in the city planning department. Architect and former Charlottesville mayor Maurice Cox has been tasked with overseeing the recovery. His first step? Hiring a diverse, interdisciplinary team of 36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers to rethink how a city can incentivize investment, rebuild infrastructure, redensify targeted neighborhoods, and provide services to new residents while preventing displacement of existing residents and cultures that have endured the city’s darker times. Cox calls it “inclusive recovery.” This comprises measures that harness one of the unique things about Detroit—a high level of community engagement. As a majority African-American city, it is an especially promising place to pioneer these ideas. At a recent event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the artist Tyree Guyton sat down for a talk at the closing for a show about his Heidelberg Project, a self-started community art project he has developed since 1986. Rather than a typical artist’s talk, the event was more like a community town hall, where residents of the nearby neighborhood spoke in detail about how they see the neighborhood changing, and how the evolution could be better. This kind of community-led development will be key to making sure that Detroit can innovate without displacing people or local cultures. The most important priority of the plan is to recover while preserving both local neighborhood culture and affordable housing. Cox’s initiatives include framework plans for targeted neighborhoods that have strong residential numbers and some active housing stock. The planning department identified weak spots surrounded by higher-density areas that could be tied together with coordinated investment, resulting in—thus far—six quarter-mile-by-quarter-mile areas where recovery could be easiest. The proposed Joe Louis Greenway will be a 31.5-mile bike-pedestrian loop that passes mostly through neighborhoods with a median income under $27,500 a year and a 70 percent rate of car access. The greenway will incorporate existing routes, such as the Dequindre Cut, a below-grade rail-line-turned-pedestrian-promenade that is being used as a gentrification vehicle to spur development of a mix of affordable housing embedded in market-rate developments. Development group The Platform will be developing a housing complex at the north end of the cut. This could lead to displacement, but because the city owns so much land along the path, it will experiment with ways to provide affordable housing and transportation without driving people out. Local housing research includes a joint venture between the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the City of Detroit. In studios led by Lars Gräbner and Christina Hansen, students generate ideas about what housing might look like in Detroit, some of which are displayed in exhibitions such as 2017’s A City For All: Future Housing Models for the City of Detroit. These studios also helped produce a series of design guidelines. For example, one line reads: “Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.” As design thinking ramps up, so too will design excellence. Detroit has a long legacy of designers and architects who have called Michigan home, such as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Albert Kahn. But in recent years, there have been fewer high-quality projects. This is changing, however, with firms such as Lorcan O’Herlihy, SCAPE, Walter Hood, Adjaye Associates, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and others signing up to design housing, parks, and urban farms. O’Herlihy, for instance, is working on a housing study for Brush Park, the first of Cox’s targeted neighborhoods just outside downtown, designing a 24-building, 410-unit densification plan. And design is baked into the new planning department goals and regulations. What could be design’s biggest impact is the preservation of existing cultures, which includes the existing building culture, one of the goals for “inclusive recovery.” To prevent the loss of the visual character of the neighborhoods, incentives such as a double density allowance are offered for projects that preserve the existing shell of a building. Layering history in this way will inevitably lead to interesting new adaptive reuses. These building refills are a good metaphor for the new type of gentrification being pioneered here: They redensify the abandoned fabric with useful infill, but do not take away the texture that makes Detroit unique. As part of VolumeOne, Gräbner and Hansen’s private practice, the pair is working on a redevelopment of the historic Stone Soap Building, an historic 1907 factory. The structural concrete frame and brick infill will be preserved, and a minimal, floating addition will be clad in a galvanized metal panel system. The strong visual contrast between old and new will articulate a strategy of respect for the existing structure while implying continuity through the use of industrial materials. Imagining new uses for vacant land will also play a big part in making the future of Detroit, and nature is integral to the next image of the city. There are about 24 square miles of vacant land that are very costly to maintain. In collaboration with developers and designers, the city is programming many experiments in urban agriculture and self-reliant landscapes. The ad-hoc, community-initiated urban farming pioneered by projects such as Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has become a staple of Detroit urbanism and is becoming part of larger, city-led projects as well. Walter Hood Studio’s Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan does not propose any new buildings but rather infills vacant lots with tree nursery gardens that will provide jobs and act as productive landscapes. In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, local developers Fitz Forward have set out to improve 100 vacant houses and 200 vacant lots. The strategy included some 28 community meetings and 50 neighborhood meetings that resulted in creating a park—a connective tissue—for the neighborhood, as well as flowering meadows in vacant lots. Cox sees it as a success in testing the idea of using design to create a place and restore beauty and community. Detroit is not without its issues, of course, but the future looks bright for the city. Its unique problems, such as the over-the-top reliance on the car built into the city’s planning, and its sprawling, vacant lots, could become assets when coupled with its strengths: relatively cheap land, strong communities, diverse leadership, and many cultural artifacts that have survived the dark times. Five years after bankruptcy, it is an exciting time in Detroit, and there is reason to believe it will provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.
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Ballad of the Ballot

Mayoral hopefuls talk architecture and policy before Chicago votes
On February 26, Chicagoans will go to the polls and choose one of fourteen candidates for mayor, the most seen on a general election ballot since 1901. Once Rahm Emanuel announced he would not be running for a third term and the cohort of dozens of candidates began whittling itself down, The Architect’s Newspaper began looking into the crowded field of candidates to see how they might address critical issues relating to the built environment, architecture, and historic preservation. The 2019 election is a cacophonous mix of candidates, and even with a number of familiar names from across the county and state, determining a probable winner is difficult. While former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have shown to be frontrunners in recent polls, Illinois Comptroller Susanna Mendoza, former Chicago Public Schools President Gery Chico, and entrepreneur Willie Wilson aren’t far behind, and no candidate has been able to crack a majority. Other candidates rounding out the ballot include former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, former Alderman Bob Fioretti, State Representative La Shawn Ford, lawyers Jerry Joyce and John Kozlar, and Community Organizer Amara Enyia, who received a surge via a nod and a campaign contribution from Chance the Rapper. All bets are off if no candidate receives a majority of the votes and a runoff election is held April 2. In November, FBI agents raided the office of 14th Ward alderman Edward Burke, the longest serving alderman in Chicago, over allegations that he extorted the owners of a Burger King after they sought permits to remodel. While both mayoral candidates Preckwinkle and Mendoza have connections with Burke, it’s difficult to gauge how that association will play out at the polls. In January it was revealed that 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis was also under federal investigation for misusing his official office, and that Solis had served as a confidential informant against Burke and had worn a wire in order to deal with his own federal investigation. Chicago has a long history of political corruption and apparently intends to live up to that reputation. The next mayor of Chicago faces a number of issues connected to the built environment. The city’s tax increment financing (TIF) program, established to jump-start development in blighted areas, has been used on wealthy downtown development projects that arguably need little assistance getting off the ground. With the program running a surplus, City Council members have been calling for reform, a demand that has become increasingly louder as megadevelopments like Lincoln Yards, expected to become a new TIF district, breeze through the Chicago Planning Commission. Every candidate has spoken out on making the TIF program more transparent and accountable. Candidates have also spoken out about the need for more affordable housing across the city, with some advocating for the return of small accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a way to increase the number of affordable homes, and others calling for an elimination of the opt-out clause of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO). Mayoral candidates also have Rahm Emanuel’s legacy to deal with, whether that means dismantling it or using the initiatives he created and executed during his two terms as a springboard for the future. Aligning with Emanuel and his policies could mean alienating voters who are looking for change, yet Chicago’s political web is threaded so tightly that denouncing Rahm could mean denouncing some of his powerful friends. AN contacted each of the candidates looking for answers to questions relating to public policy about the built environment. Below are the edited questions and answers provided by every candidate who responded. The Architect’s Newspaper: The Obama Presidential Center (OPC) promises to bring economic and cultural benefits to the south side of Chicago, yet the Obama Foundation will not sign a community benefits agreement (CBA), and the OPC will subtract public parkland from Jackson Park for private use. How might you as mayor work to ensure that the development will have tangible positive effects on the communities that will be impacted by its construction? Lori Lightfoot: I am pleased that the OPC will be in Chicago. It represents a significant investment in a community that needs it. Credit should be given to Jackson Park residents who have and continue to raise issues with the OPC’s impact on surrounding neighborhoods. I would work to bridge the current divides to come to an equitable and respectful solution to the remaining outstanding issues. Paul Vallas: The OPC is an exciting new development. I do believe that the Center would have provided Chicago with even greater benefits had it been sited on the west side of Washington Park where it would have been more directly accessible to CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) rapid transit and could have provided even greater catalyst activity to a neglected corner of the South Side. It is regrettable that the City has agreed to relocate Cornell Drive to accommodate the current plan. At $200 million, the relocation of Cornell is a costly undertaking for a City that is facing severe financial challenges. I would prefer to see the site altered to have the center be less intrusive on public lands, though I realize that this deal may be final—barring any actions on the pending federal lawsuit.  Bob Fioretti: We need a CBA. Period. A community benefits agreement, as well as conditions, including a new trauma center on the South Side, were aspects I asked for from the start from the project. City council agreed to a CBA on the Olympic bid. There are other properties in the area that are better suited for the OPC. Jackson Park is not the place to put it. AN: Mayor Rahm Emanuel has stated that he will block the sale of the Thompson Center by the State of Illinois over concerns that the building’s liquidation and potential demolition will disrupt Chicago’s busiest public transit hub. There have also been calls that the structure is a representation of political waste and should be demolished, and a counter argument by preservationists that the building is a masterpiece of architecture.  What do you see in the future for the Thompson Center? LL: As a lover of Chicago’s architectural history, in general, my first instinct will always be to protect historical treasures. The Thompson Center has had a checkered history and there are valid concerns about maintenance. The fight between outgoing Governor Rauner and Mayor Emanuel should be in the rearview mirror. I would welcome dialogue with the Pritzker administration to devise a plan for the building’s future. PV: The demolition of the Thompson Center would be a terrible waste. Though it has its design issues and needs work to address the years of deferred maintenance, it strains credulity to think that a sale of the center and moving state workers to other quarters would eventually produce a net savings to taxpayers. I also believe that the center is an important piece of architecture that is worthy of preservation. I think the best option may well be the redesign proposal of the center's architect, Helmut Jahn, which envisions constructing a tower on the southwest corner of the complex. Such a tower could provide a valuable income stream to the state if properly executed. BF: I’ve been to Berlin and seen other structures that Helmut Jahn has developed, and I like the Berlin design better. At $300 million it should have been sold a long time ago, and I want to listen to the purchaser and the community. If the whole community says “yes, let’s take it down,” then take it down. AN: Chicago is world-renowned as a center for architectural thought and practice, as evident by the presence of many American masterpieces and new favorites by Frank Gehry and Jeanne Gang. Yet neighborhoods are losing their historic building stock, many of it designed and built for and by average working Chicagoans. Demolition is changing the character of neighborhoods and making way for developments that could cause displacement, affecting the ability for a community to be affordable. What can we do as a city to better preserve the architectural history of working-class Chicago while also encouraging growth and development? LL: Much of the city’s history, beauty, and character is found in its neighborhoods. In my 32 years in Chicago, I have lived on the south, west, and north sides. And in that time, I have seen how our neighborhoods have changed. Sometimes for the better, as can be seen from the considerable efforts to preserve and revitalize the Pullman neighborhood, and sometimes not—as is evident in parts of the Southport Corridor and Lincoln Avenue in North Center, where historic two- and three-story buildings have given way to generic, monolithic three- and four-story condominiums. PV: More needs to be done to make certain that redevelopment in historic neighborhoods be done with as much sensitivity as possible, both to reuse as much of the historic housing stock as possible while also reducing potential blight resulting from insensitive, out-of-scale development projects. Some of this could be achieved by exploring landmarking of additional historic areas. Chicago also needs to develop more programs to spur development of the large inventory of abandoned properties throughout the city's more economically challenged areas. BF: It seems like every time we turn around another building is being demolished. I want to slow down this demolition and increase the importance of Chicago’s historic housing stock. As the former president of the Pullman Foundation, I look at what we did there in 1965 as a blueprint. The people rose up to fight the construction of an industrial complex between 111th and 115th Street and Cottage Grove. AN: In 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed 49 elementary schools and one high school, promising students that closing underperforming schools would provide a boost in the quality of education and help liquidate CPS debt. Many of these schools remain vacant and unsold, and their closure has proven to have had a negative effect on CPS students and families. As schools sit empty, they affect neighborhood health, public safety, and economic development. How will you resolve the negative effects of school closures on students and neighborhoods? LL: We need to give communities the opportunity to improve underperforming schools before deciding on further closures. The mayor and CPS must examine the condition of each building to determine a possible future use. This must be done sooner rather than later so CPS can eliminate unnecessary carrying costs where possible, return land to the property tax rolls, or prevent buildings from deteriorating. If a building is going to be sold, then CPS should work with the surrounding community to identify future uses that can benefit the community. This could include selling a vacant school to a non-profit or for-profit affordable housing developer that will make units available for rent or sale. I envision converting some of these buildings into business incubators that are easily accessible for people on the west and south sides, and using others to provide wrap-around services, such as daycare, job training programs, ESL classes, and health care. PV: As the former CEO of CPS, I have an intimate knowledge of CPS's real estate portfolio. I lead the efforts to renovate many of those structures, most of which are solid buildings. My time at CPS was the only period in the last 40 years when CPS's enrollment actually grew, and as CEO, I never closed a single school. In that time, I also conducted the major renovations of over 350 buildings. I led the effort to purchase and restore the historic Bronzeville Armory, maintaining its exterior and interior design, while reopening it as the nation’s first public high school military academy. Sadly, Chicago is confronted with the reality of declining enrollment and something must be done with these valuable structures to again make them centers for the community. Months ago, I detailed a plan to re-purpose many of those structures, especially as centers for adult learners, many of whom are in need of career and vocational training. Significant untapped state, federal, and foundation funding could be tapped to help pay for these efforts. BF: The problem is that the black middle class is leaving, and the exodus continues. We had 150,000 empty seats at CPS. Now we have 362,000. Families aren’t going to come back until we make economic changes. I said from day one that CPS won’t be able to resell or repurpose these schools. Homelessness disrupts the atmosphere, so perhaps we transform them to help our homeless kids.
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Flex or Combust

C.F. Møller's mass-timber vision for Robin Hood Gardens stifled by ban on combustible cladding
C.F. Møller has designed a swath of social housing for an upcoming development called Blackwall Reach atop east London’s famous Robin Hood Gardens, a demolished series of brutalist blocks designed in the 1960s by renowned British architects, Alison and Peter Smithson. Initial plans released in 2017 indicated that the Danish firm would create a 330-unit complex featuring cross-laminated timber (CLT), a resourceful construction method that’s been gaining wide acceptance in the United Kingdom. But a recent government ban on combustible cladding materials has put plans for the engineered product in jeopardy, reported Architects' Journal. The new legislation, which was enacted late last December, was introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 in which one of West London’s tallest residential towers burned down, claiming 72 lives. After a pressure-filled campaign from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and victims’ families, the U.K.’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government introduced a new building safety code last summer that would prohibit the use of cladding materials holding a European fire rating of less than A1 or A2. Per the ruling, architects and developers cannot use such products in the external wall construction of schools, high-rise homes, hospitals, and care facilities, reported AJ. The ruling also calls for local municipalities to begin removing unsafe aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding on existing structures taller than 18 meters (about six stories). Though CLT is not an ACM and has been proven to perform well under fire load, it contains wood and is being cited as hazardous to lawmakers. CF Møller’s affordable housing design for Blackwall Reach is phase 3 of a larger, controversial regeneration plan of Robin Hood Gardens, which the London-based practice Metropolitan Workshop is overseeing. Phase 1b and Phase 2 includes the build-out of 268 homes across four buildings designed by Haworth Tompkins and Metropolitan Workshop. These structures, currently under construction, are slated for completion this year and in 2021. Phase 3 construction is expected to start following the move-in of residents to the new buildings. Overall, the 20-acre Blackwall Reach project is set to replace 250 high-rise homes within the area with a total of 1,575 new units. Swan Housing Association, a community development and management organization, is developing the site alongside the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority. While this is only one project suffering a design setback thanks to the new ban on combustible cladding materials, it signals what could become a major issue with the use of CLT products on future tall buildings in the U.K. and across Europe. Already a world leader in mass timber manufacturing and construction, it’s unclear how the U.K. will now move forward in creating large-scale projects using the material. The ban has recently received major criticism from industry leaders like the Timber Trade Federation and architects who worry about the environmental cost of restricting timber in large construction. The Royal British Institute of Architects came out in support of the ban in November but recommends it only apply to specific cladding applications.
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Yards and Yards of Hudson

Take a sneak peek at Hudson Yards ahead of its March opening
The first phase of Manhattan’s massive Hudson Yards project opens to the public in only a month, and AN took a behind-the-scenes look at the new neighborhood. Much of the office space in 10 Hudson Yards, the Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)–designed glass tower at the corner of 30th Street and 10th Avenue, is occupied, but work on the neighborhood’s public-facing and retail components will continue until the March 15 opening. After that, the Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, the seven-story, one-million-square-foot Elkus Manfredi Architects–designed retail hub will be open for business. Besides multi-floor retail outlets for a number of fashion stalwarts and brick-and-mortar space for formerly online-only retailers, the second floor of the Shops will hold a permanent exhibition space curated by Snarkitecture. The Snark Park will hold open its inaugural show, Lost and Found, on March 15 when visitors will weave between crumbling columns—limited edition recreations of which were given away at KITH’s SoHo store on January 31. That retail integration will follow through to all of Snarkitecture’s future installations in the space, and developer Related is planning to rotate exhibitions three times a year, with associated “retail drops.” The Shops building, which is wedged between KPF’s 10 and 30 Hudson Yards buildings, also features a cogeneration plant that can convert waste heat into thermal energy. All of the buildings are networked in a micro-grid and can send their waste heat to the plant, creating a system that uses less energy than comparably-sized towers. An outdoor dining terrace will also let visitors peer into the Thomas Heatherwick–designed New York Staircase (formerly known as the Vessel) as they eat. The entire building is designed to be porous and allow foot traffic in from the adjacent buildings, the 34th Street 7 train station via an underground corridor, and to visitors from the High Line. To the site’s west is the still-uncovered rail yard, which will eventually be decked over for Hudson Yards’ second phase. Whereas the first phase is 80 percent office and retail space, and 20 percent residential, the second phase will flip those numbers and create more housing. Related claims that the project will create 1,000 affordable units overall, though there is no target completion date for the second phase.
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Push It

From Vienna comes PUSH—a new housing newsletter
Vienna has long been a leader in public housing, and 60 percent of its current population lives in city-built residences. The grand socialist Hofs of the late 1920s, like the Karl Marx and George Washington, have long been influential for affordable housing advocates. But Vienna is still building, following on its socialist tradition that has continued to build innovative housing up to this day. In August the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, California, is hosting an exhibition that features recent public housing from Vienna. The Austrian capital has become a creative center in sustainable planning and housing policies. The former director of Vienna’s Department for Housing Research, Wolfgang Foerster, who oversaw extraordinary housing achievements in the city, has just launched PUSH, an online quarterly newsletter on urbanism and housing. A clearinghouse for housing information, the journal is inviting architects to submit projects on public and affordable housing. There is currently nothing like PUSH, and it should become an important clearinghouse for information on housing.
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The Opposite of Big Lots!

New York City and the AIA team up for a vacant lots competition
New York’s five boroughs are plagued with vacant lots, even as the city finds itself in a housing crisis. Architects and planners have explored potential solutions like modular construction and basement units, and now the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the AIANY are trying to recruit architects to design sensitive infill housing. Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is soliciting design proposals for scalable solutions across 23 vacant lots around the city. The design competition is just one piece of the de Blasio administration’s Housing New York 2.0 plan, which aims to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. For the project’s first phase, competitors have until March 24 to submit their proposals for a 17-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep vacant plot at 113 West 136th Street in East Harlem. Teams that submit the best-realized drawings and project narratives will be given a $3,000 stipend, have their materials exhibited at the Center for Architecture, and will be invited back for the competition’s second phase. Immediately after the finalists are chosen, HPD will assign the remaining teams different lots to develop proposals for, and the most promising may be built. New York currently has 1,023 acres of vacant public land across 1,367 lots citywide, according to Living Lots NYC, and many of them have sat unused for decades. A holistic solution is hard to come by, as some of the lots are as narrow as 13-feet-wide and others are nearly 10,000 square feet. Although the city hasn't exactly defined what “affordable” means for these lots, the New York Times noted that HPD is shooting for two-to-three family homes and may include below-market-rate rents. The nine-person Big Ideas jury reads like a who’s-who of New York–based architects and city officials: Jury Chair: Hayes Slade, AIA, IIDA, president, AIA New York and principal, Slade Architecture Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP, dean, Yale School of Architecture and founder, Deborah Berke Partners Claudia Herasme, chief urban designer, NYC Department of City Planning Nick Lembo, chairman, Monadnock Construction, Inc. Ruchika Modi, studio director and associate partner, Practice for Architecture & Urbanism Justin Garrett Moore, AICP, executive director, NYC Public Design Commission AJ Pires, president, Alloy Development Katherine W. Swenson, vice president of design, Enterprise Community Partners Claire Weisz, FAIA, principal, WXY architecture + urban design
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Future Building

What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”

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...And Other Such Stories

The 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial announces curatorial focus
The third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is coming to the Midwest this fall with a curatorial vision by Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu and co-curators Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares. Under the theme ...and other such stories, the biennial will engage “multiple narratives from different geographies and histories” to spark conversation about a future for the field that is shared, diverse, sustainable, inclusive, and equitable. Centered around four areas of inquiry, the biennial will showcase a broad view of the industry while addressing the importance of space, architecture, and nature in connection to the practices of building, designing, planning, policymaking, teaching, and activism. The first focus, “No Land Beyond,” will feature projects inspired by an indigenous approach to nature, ecology, and landscape, while “Appearances and Erasures” will dive into designing monuments and memorials in response to shared and contested memories. “Rights and Reclamations” and “Common Ground” will explore civil rights and advocacy within the field with a particular concentration on affordable and equitable housing. The biennial will also draw from Chicago’s own urban development history, as well as the spatial and socio-economic conditions that have shaped it. By “moving beyond the grand narratives of the city’s architectural heritage,” the biennial will highlight the unique experiences of both architects and everyday people by sharing new voices and perspectives on the environmental and socio-political issues that make up Chicago’s landscape. This idea will be echoed in projects brought to the biennial from around the world. In preparation for the multi-month event, the curators have worked on research initiatives in Chicago, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, and Vancouver to uncover the most important issues to architects and citizens living in cities today. “Through these engagements,” Umolu said in a statement, “we have drawn out a myriad of stories about how lived experiences across global communities, cities, territories, and ecologies resonate with architectural and space-making practices.” The 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial will run from September 19, 2019, through January 5, 2020. It is free and open to the public. The central exhibition will be held at the Chicago Cultural Center, and other sites throughout the city will host exhibitions, projects, and panels.
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The co-ops are alright

Co-op City celebrates 50 years of affordable housing in the Bronx
Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
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The King of Co-Living

European co-living developer plans big entrance into U.S. market
Quarters, a major European co-living company, plans to invest $300 million toward building new developments across the United States and becoming the nation’s largest co-living operator by 2022, according to an article in Curbed. Millennials are the primary target demographic for the co-living industry. Due to financial issues and their tendency to lead nomadic lifestyles, young adults are typically the most interested in shared housing spaces. By offering pre-furnished bedrooms, shared common spaces, and amenities such as 24/7 laundry access, cleaning services, Wi-Fi, and community events, co-living companies like Quarters want to provide Millennials with more affordable access to increasingly overpriced, metropolitan neighborhoods. Quarters’s $300 million expansion deal was made possible by a $1.1 billion fundraiser led by its parent company, Medici Living. Medici’s goal is to buy and build up to 35 co-living facilities throughout Europe, and over 1,300 new residential units in the U.S. within the next three years, according to Curbed. The Berlin-based company already operates co-living spaces in New York City and Chicago, but it plans on expanding its footprint to cities like Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Seattle—all of which are teaming with millennials and startup activity. Residential projects at these sites could house between 100 and 300 people, while new spaces in New York could hold up to 500. Like Quarters, other co-living firms have upped their ambition, diverting their attention away from small group homes to focus on large-scale high-rises. WeWork, the massive, New York-based co-working company, recently unveiled "WeLive," its latest co-living project with its first apartment building located at 110 Wall Street in Manhattan. The Manhattan high-rise, whose private studios start at $3,050 a month, offers apartment dwellers flexible leasing, access to fitness classes, cleaning and laundry services, potluck dinners, and a digital social network, all conveniently accessed through a mobile app. According to Curbed, WeLive, if successful, plans to eventually house 600 people throughout the 20 floors of the Lower Manhattan high-rise, as well as build more developments in other major U.S. cities. While co-living is not a new or innovative concept, companies like Quarters and WeWork have transformed it into a business model to take advantage of the fluctuating economy and provide young adults with a service that can make city living more affordable and hospitable.
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Connected to Messenger, of Course

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative pledges $500 million for Bay Area affordable housing
Hot off Microsoft’s announcement that it would be creating what is essentially a $500 million affordable housing bank for the Seattle area, the founder of Facebook has unveiled a similar fund for California’s Bay Area. Through a group of businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropists, the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which was established through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, will invest $500 million to preserve and build affordable housing. That pledge from the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan–led charity extends to San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties. The move, which the fund estimates will add 8,000 new units of affordable housing while preserving an existing 175,000 units over the next five-to-ten years, comes at a dire time. As Fast Company points out, only 58,000 new units were built in the Bay Area from 2012 through 2016 even though the region added 373,000 new jobs. From that perspective, it looks like the fund won’t make much of an impact, but the backing groups are hoping that they can lay the groundwork for long-term tenant protections, rent reform, and future investments. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative revealed the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which has already raised $260 million of its $500 million target, in a January 24 announcement. The nonprofit San Francisco Foundation joins the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Ford Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Facebook, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The partnership will focus primarily on its two Investment and Policy Funds. The $500 million Investment Fund, to be managed by LISC (which the release calls the “the largest nonprofit community development financial institution in the country”), will invest in projects agreed upon by other members of the partnership. Their first project? Offering a revolving line of credit, which can be repaid and borrowed against, to the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation for neighborhood development in the East Bay. The organization expects that with the investment fund’s backing, it can support the completion of six projects over the next five years. The Policy Fund, which has raised $20 million of its $40 million goal, will be used to push for legislation that preserves housing, makes building new affordable housing easier, and strengthens low-income tenant protections. The fund will be administered by the San Francisco Foundation and will offer Challenge Grants for broader projects, and smaller, technically-minded Breakthrough Grants.