Search results for "affordable housing"

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Rethinking Redevelopment

What we’re getting wrong about gentrification and cultural heritage
We tend to think of cultural heritage in terms of iconic historical artifacts, and we tend to think of saving cultural heritage in terms of heroic acts to preserve historically important things. We tend to think of gentrification as an inevitable economic phenomenon that, like so many other components of our capitalist lives, produces winners and losers—benefitting some and injuring others. But the way we tend to think of both gentrification and cultural heritage is bound up in ideological forces that devalue the lived experiences of those most threatened by the onslaught of transformative economic change. We are all familiar with how gentrification works. A historically working-class community sits adjacent to an upper-middle-class community where previous residents have been priced out. During the next real estate cycle, incremental pressure results in more upper-middle-class residents purchasing homes in the working-class area and eventually, the working-class residents get priced out and seek housing further outside of their community, resulting in longer commutes and a net loss in wealth. In a recent Washington Post article, “How record-setting art auctions are ruining the old neighborhood,” Philip Kennicott wrote: “Gentrification is about displacement, about the market coming in, taking things that felt like accessible common property and making them so uncommonly expensive that they are no longer what they once were…Something that was once habitual, a part of a beloved place—buying a cup of coffee or getting a haircut—becomes a locus of exclusion.” Kennicott’s premise is that gentrification takes affordable assets and makes them economically unattainable. But exclusion is about constraining options, not displacing options. If people can choose to purchase coffee either from a Starbucks or from an historic coffee shop next door, then diverse classes have an expanded set of options in the same proximate space. If we apply this example to residential units and other commercial sites, we could potentially develop communities without the blunt force of gentrification, i.e. without a simplistic acceptance that capitalism inevitably will produce ever-expanding zones of exclusion absent human intervention. Regardless, Kennicott and others err by focusing on exclusion at the expense of focusing on the processes of devaluation. Devaluation, in the context of urban gentrification, describes the processes by which systemic and institutional actions suppress the value of physical assets in underserved and low-income communities. Devaluation occurs through public policy—residential redlining, environmental racism and classism, deficits of public parks and civic amenities, etc. Revaluing is catalyzed when a devalued community is targeted for reinvestment. What are constantly undervalued are the untranslatable vestiges of the interior lives of displaced residents, the staged presence of culture within the homes and apartments that these residents once occupied. The architectural uncanny, according to Anthony Vidler, treats modernity as a catalyst for unleashing psychoanalytic forces deep in subjective will to produce simulated anxieties uniquely connected to the project of modernity—“feeling-effects” like alienation or estrangement, or the feeling of being a stranger in one’s own home. Revaluing these physical assets—seen as hollow shells or neutral sites for architectural reinvention and transformation by the wealth class— is heralded as the city remaking itself and becoming contemporary, as the supposedly inevitable transformation of physical structures no longer adhering to uses they have outgrown and responding to society’s new demands. For some communities and polities, the interiority of cultural experience is one of the few available modes of resistance. The exterior image of the typical single-family home is largely regulated by zoning codes and often bland aesthetic norms. Likewise, low-income apartment buildings and the like are already depicted as places of low cultural life and places where drug usage and violence coalesce. Therefore, any exterior treatment that further marginalizes the physical asset and the inhabitants further degrades and marginalizes the inhabitants’ existence. From the dramatic description of Harriet Jacobs’s garret as described in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to the expressive imaging of Black American life in Kerry James Marshall’s Mastry series, the interior space of Black American life has been where culture is materialized. Undoubtedly, the interior space is still the place where the most marginalized populations find their unique counter-cultural voice expressed through the aesthetic construction of their spaces and lives. Working at the intersection of architecture, theory, and urbanism, USC Architecture is attempting to think anew about “pre-gentrification zones”—places that, because of land ownership and the scale of under-development in comparison to adjacent real estate markets, are ripe for large-scale rethinking in advance of unregulated market-driven development that would force out current residents, landowners, and renters. Working with municipalities, community groups, and designers, we will utilize design as a form of policy to influence future development in these and other areas. In Los Angeles, Fresno, and the San Diego/U.S.-Mexico border region, we will examine and analyze the conditions and presuppositions that support the processes of devaluation and revaluation, as well as speculate as to how interventions can be made by market and non-market actors in achieving more egalitarian results to urban redevelopment imaginings. Cultural heritage is no longer separate from urban redevelopment, just as gentrification is no longer an issue that exclusively affects the poor. As we are witnessing, a lack of affordable housing creates ripple effects in all housing markets and sub-markets and thus affects the pricing of both rental and owner-occupied housing across virtually all sectors of the market. We must use design, architecture, and aesthetics as primary drivers of new policy interventions that will result in the development of cities in which all are able to afford the civic and public infrastructure that we all pay for. Milton S. F. Curry is Dean and Professor at the USC School of Architecture and holds the Della & Harry MacDonald Dean’s Chair in Architecture. Dean Curry obtained his Master in Architecture post-professional degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design and his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. He was associate dean for academic affairs and strategic initiatives at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture & Planning from 2010 to 2017. Dean Curry has held teaching positions at Harvard University, Arizona State University, and Cornell University. Throughout his career in academia, he has coordinated graduate and undergraduate design studios at all levels and has taught theory-related seminars on architecture and cultural theory, urbanism, and housing. He is recognized as a leading voice in integrating cultural theory, race, and class into the ongoing interrogation of modernism and modernity. He has founded two academic journals: Appendx in 1993 and CriticalProductive in 2008.
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No Towers, No Comprise

Architecture collective joins activists to protest luxury towers on New York's Lower East Side
One Manhattan Square, an 800-foot-tall glass tower in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is at the center of a grassroots battle against displacement. Designed by Adamson Associates, the Extell Developmentbacked skyscraper threatens to push out throngs of immigrants and longtime local residents who call the area home. It’s a common story found in the ever-evolving city, but this particular narrative possesses one distinct difference: It’s location. Since much of New York’s luxury residential building boom has focused on expanding Hudson Yards, buffing up Billionaires’ Row, and readying Long Island City for Amazon’s HQ2, the Lower East Side has been somewhat unaffected by such large-scale development. Until now. A series of sky-high apartment buildings, starting with the nearly-complete One Manhattan Square (also called Extell Tower), is slated to dot the Lower East Side waterfront enclave known as Two Bridges. Four planned towers are in the works, although One Manhattan square is the only one currently under construction. The surrounding community is predominantly composed of Chinese immigrants and working-class people, a major reason why the city designated the neighborhood a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area in 1972, which protects and promotes affordable and mixed-income housing for residents. According to Zishun Ning, leader of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the proposed high-end projects violate the LSRD, which requires that all new developments secure approval from the City Planning Commission or receive special permits through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process. Ning argued the city's decision to move forward with the Two Bridges development is therefore illegal, and indicative of discrimination from the mayoral administration. Not only is it politically fraught, according to Ning, it's socially irresponsible. The towers are situated within a three-block radius of each other and will sit near NYCHA housing. One will cantilever over an existing senior center and another, One Manhattan Square, will feature a “poor door,” as the coalition calls it, for the building’s affordable housing residents.   Yesterday a slew of protestors gathered at the 80-story tower and marched to City Hall in opposition to the plan. Ning said the day’s event, officially titled the March to Reclaim the City, was the coalition’s latest attempt to get Mayor de Blasio’s attention. “We’re not against development,” Ning said, “we just want some regulation and future development that fits our community.” Last fall the group submitted an alternative proposal to the commission in which the neighborhood could be rezoned for more appropriate use. They integrated height restrictions on new construction and called for 100 percent affordable housing on public land. Ning said their efforts were ignored, and in early December, the commission approved a special building permit submitted by the developers. The commission said the projects only presented a “minor modification” to Two Bridges’ zoning law and that a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process would not be required. “It’s evident that racism plays into the city’s zoning policies,” said Ning. “They rezone communities of colors for the interests of developers. We call out the city’s illegal approval, along with Mayor de Blasio’s collusion with developers to approve these towers and deny our plan that came out of a democratic process. We want to reclaim our democracy and control as a community.” History has seen many local working groups stand up against giant developers and influential politicians, but, according to Ning, there needs to be more support from area architects to help such groups envision a bigger, more inclusive picture for their neighborhoods. A new collective of aspiring architects and non-architects interested in the field, citygroup, wants to do just that. The organization aims to become a young social and political voice for the architecture industry. Members gather periodically for informal debates on serious topics like the need for affordable housing in New York, the nature of architectural expertise, and architects’ tricky relationship with real estate developers. The group's inaugural exhibition, set up inside its new space on the Lower East Side, details various visions of One Manhattan Square that imagine a more useful development for the local community. “We wanted to rethink the Extell Tower as something that isn’t as foreign to this neighborhood as it is now,” said Michael Robinson Cohen of citygroup. “It’s built on a plinth and houses mostly luxury apartments. We asked ourselves, How could we recreate the tower for different uses or for a diverse group of inhabitants?”   The exhibition centers on a series of 21 drawings done by different citygroup members. These individual visions, expressed within the confines of the building’s plan, feature different ways to reuse the tower’s 1.2 million square feet of space. Some pictured it as pure parkland, others cut it up into a grid of 3-meter-by-3-meter apartments. One strips away the idea that a housing complex must cater to the traditional single-family home by creating personally-designed apartments outfitted for everyone from single moms to yoga teachers, a Russian oligarch, a cat lady, and even a family of five. Thinking critically about megaprojects like One Manhattan Square, according to Robinson Cohen, allows architects to investigate the best ways for new developments to improve a community, instead of displacing residents and stripping away the character of a neighborhood. “Much like the coalition, we’re for challenging the tower, but are not against development in general,” he said. “Obviously, as architects, we want to build and it’s clear the city needs more housing, but to us it’s important to think about the people these developments serve.” To Ning, the architect’s mission isn’t far from that of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. He says the two parties can work together to imagine developments that engage with local residents rather than taking away access to light and air. “We actually encourage architects to put their creativity into building things that benefit the community,” Ning said. “But in order for that to happen, we first need to fight the city.” A new lawsuit against the City was just brought on by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors in opposition to the development. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is slated to support with future litigation efforts. Until then, the City is still contending with another lawsuit calling for the towers to go through the ULURP process, initiated by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last month. “These towers are just one piece of a bigger picture,” noted Ning. “If 3,000 units are added to the neighborhood, the demographics will change and the land value will rise. Harassment and eviction will escalate. This is happening all over New York City. It’s segregation, and it’s very visual.” Walk-throughs of citygroup’s exhibition are available upon request through early February at 104b Forsyth Street. Email group@citygroup.nyc for hours.
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Living in the Cloud

Microsoft to invest $500 million in affordable housing around Seattle
After vociferous opposition from Starbucks, Amazon, and other large Seattle-based corporations last summer, the Seattle City Council voted to roll back a tax that would have raised $47 million towards building 591 units of affordable housing. Now, Microsoft has announced that it will invest $500 million for affordable housing over the next three years across King County, Washington. Seattle has been plagued by rising rents and homelessness rates as the area has grappled with a housing shortage, caused in part by inflated demand and stagnant wages. Amazon and other so-called “mega-corporations” in the city had successfully talked the government down from imposing a $500-per-employee head tax that would have funded 1,700 new units of affordable housing in May of 2018 before the watered down version of the tax was ultimately killed in June. Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, who felt that the large companies headquartered in Seattle are partially responsible for its tight housing market, saw the move as adding insult to injury. Microsoft, which is headquartered in neighboring Redmond, wouldn’t have been hit with the head tax, but the initiative sparked a dialogue between Microsoft and the business-led group Challenge Seattle. The plan, which is still being finalized, sprung out of their conversations last summer on how to close the gap in affordability in housing across the region. The $500 million will be doled out as a series of grants that Microsoft is calling “targeted investments," across three stratified tiers. The company will load $225 million at a lower-than-market rate to spur the construction of middle-income housing across six cities to the east of Seattle: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, and Sammamish. Microsoft will be lending an additional $250 million at market rate to support the construction of low-income housing across King County. The remaining $25 million will be distributed as grants to combat homelessness in and around Seattle. As part of its announcement, Microsoft revealed that $5 million of its grant will be going towards Home Base, a program that provides legal aid to families facing eviction, and another $5 million will be used to support a new joint agency being formed between Seattle and King County to tackle homelessness. Rather than using that money to solely build housing, which Microsoft expects would only generate about 1,000 new affordable units, the tech company claims that its targeted investments have the potential to spark development of “tens of thousands” of new units. While the company doesn’t expect to make much of a return, it plans to repeat the process and reinvest the money after being repaid. While this is Microsoft’s largest philanthropic gift to date, the company’s motives likely aren’t entirely altruistic. As the New York Times noted, the company is currently riding high with nearly $136 billion in cash on hand and is in the process of renovating its 500-acre Redmond campus. Supporting the region’s housing stock is a boon to lower-income residents, but will also provide a long-term solution for potential employees the company continues to woo as it expands.
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Redwood and Deadwood

California launches statewide Mass Timber Building Competition
Timber construction is on a roll, whether it be in Olympic stadiums or high-rise residences. Codes are changing as more municipalities embrace mass timber and the industry shifts away from concrete. Not to be left out, California is holding a Mass Timber Building Competition. The California Government Operations Agency (GovOps) is hosting the competition, and WoodWorks – Wood Products Council, an organization that offers free guidance for designers using timber, will be administering the program. As GovOps notes, California is one of the largest consumers of engineered wood products in the country, but almost none of it is harvested or produced in the state. At a time when the buildup of forest density in California has contributed to an ever-worsening fire season already acerbated by climate change, GovOps is pitching this competition as a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Interested parties in California—including real estate developers, designers, institutions, and other organizations—have until March 18, 2019, to submit a proposal. GovOps is going big and is only accepting proposals for multistory, 10,000-square-foot-plus mixed-use, commercial, industrial, institutional, or multi-unit housing projects. Preference will be given to projects over 100,000 square feet that clear six stories. A full list the competition guidelines are available here, and it looks like proposals will be evaluated on cost as well as “narrative” in an attempt to create thoughtful applications of timber. WoodWorks will also be available to offer guidance to entrants on both feasibility as well as design. The two (or possibly more) winning teams will split a $500,000 grant to continue their research into developing repeatable, sustainable, and affordable timber construction.
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From HUD to the Whitehouse?

Former HUD secretary Julián Castro announces 2020 presidential bid
As the candidate field for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president grows more crowded by the day, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro announced over the weekend—in both English and Spanish—that he is embarking on a presidential bid of his own. The 44-year-old San Antonio, Texas, native served as HUD Secretary for over two years under President Barack Obama and was briefly considered as a vice presidential pick for 2016 Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. Prior to his tenure in the Obama administration, Castro served as the mayor of San Antonio for five years. During his time as HUD Secretary, Castro worked to create the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a federal program supported by the Rockefeller Foundation that awarded $1 billion for resilient housing and infrastructure projects to states and communities that were impacted by major disasters between 2011 and 2013. That sum was in addition to over $18 billion in conventional government funding awarded to disaster-stricken communities during the Obama administration. Castro also led the expansion of lead safety protections in federally assisted housing and helped to institute the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to "finally fulfill the full obligation of the Fair Housing Act,” according to a 2017 memo. Castro also continued initiatives started under his predecessor that contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of American veterans experiencing homelessness. While mayor of San Antonio, Castro successfully inaugurated a plan to bring “high-quality, full-day pre-k” to the city’s residents. In announcing his presidential bid over the weekend, Castro, citing a “crisis of leadership” under President Donald Trump, pledged to refocus American society to become “the smartest, healthiest, fairest, and most prosperous nation on earth.” Castro’s platform includes instituting universal healthcare, reforming the criminal justice system, and expanding access to higher education, among other initiatives. In a nod to his time at HUD while referencing a growing housing affordability crisis around the country, Castro also pledged to “work to make sure every American has a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.” To help achieve this aim, Castro also pledged to “invest in housing that is affordable to the middle class and the poor.” Castro also stated his support for a Green New Deal, a nascent policy initiative in the works from Democratic politicians, like Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that aims to transition the American economy away from fossil fuels and toward a sustainable and socially-just economic system. Castro pledged that as his first executive order as president, he would recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement, the global initiative aimed at keeping the temperature increase resulting from anthropogenic climate change under two degrees Celsius. With affordable housing and climate change increasingly in the news, expect more presidential hopefuls to highlight their plans for addressing these issues. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who announced her candidacy in late December 2018, for example, has already unveiled an ambitious affordable housing proposal of her own. If elected, Castro, the grandchild of a Mexican immigrant, would become the first president of Mexican descent and the first former HUD secretary elected to the nation’s highest office.
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Factory-Built

California is embracing prefab architecture with innovation, talent, and investment
With a long history of mass-produced housing experiments going back to the 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order homes, and the post–World War II suburban mass- housing experiments, California has a rich legacy of prefab hits—and misses. In recent years, a new generation of builders has arrived on the scene seeking to surpass this legacy by exploiting emerging mass-customization techniques and new technologies to streamline production. But these aren’t your grandparents’ prefab units. The days of rigid space-age designs are long gone, replaced by new designs that instead focus on diverse aesthetics and material flexibility. These new designs tend toward a pervasive adaptability that not only bolsters their widespread appeal but also helps builders meet the onerous local design restrictions that define many California communities. LivingHomes, based in Santa Monica, California, offers a variety of factory-made designs for single- and multifamily units, including models designed by prominent architects and firms such as Yves Béhar, Ray Kappe, and KieranTimberlake. LivingHomes’ designs are built by its spinout firm, Plant Prefab, which focuses on construction and assembly. Founder and CEO Steve Glenn is hoping Plant Prefab will lead the way in creating a national network of home-building factories where “homes are built like airplanes” rather than as one-off works, as is currently the case. Plant Prefab bills itself as the nation’s first sustainably minded home factory, and recently garnered a $6.7 million investment from Amazon, which is looking to expand the market for the company’s Alexa smart home technologies. Seattle-based Blokable, on the other hand, pursues vertically-integrated projects with the help of their in-house development team’s business model, which seeks to treat “housing development as a service.” By controlling planning, design, and production, Blokable is able to offer turnkey development services for local nonprofits and other housing providers at a lower cost. The firm offers standardized building systems along with customizable windows, doors, and finishes in order to meet a variety of price points. Blokable has begun the development process for a 64-unit housing complex in Edmonds, Washington. The project is a partnership between Blokable, the City of Edmonds, and the nonprofit Compass Housing Alliance. At the smaller end of the building scale, Gardena, California–based Cover is working to boost the availability of backyard Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Los Angeles. Owing to a 2016 state law that legalized these backyard structures, Cover has developed unique zoning analysis software that can give potential clients a view of what type of ADU they can build. Cover offers sleek custom designs and uses its own modular building systems, fabricating units in a new factory in southern L.A. County. While many of these outfits are relatively new, legacy prefab designers are also making strides. Office of Mobile Design (OMD) principal Jennifer Siegal has been working at the intersection of portable architecture and housing for over two decades, pioneering a distinct approach to modular design that is flexible enough to include additions to existing buildings, as well as develop modular commercial structures. Siegal recently partnered with builder Bevyhouse and premium kitchen designer Tortoise to develop her own line of prefab ADU models and is also currently working on a modular design for the Sanderling Waldorf School in Carlsbad, California. If OMD’s continued experiments in non-housing prefab building types are any indication, factory-made structures of all types could soon make their way off the assembly line and to a community near you.
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#FairestBigCity

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces plan to protect New York City tenants
Tenants' rights are top of mind in New York City right now in a big way. As affordable housing stock increases throughout the five boroughs, it seems as though the city government is taking a lead on ensuring the safety and financial wellbeing of local residents. Today in his sixth annual State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to establish the new Office of Tenant Protection, a group that would act as a liaison between different housing and building agencies in the city. It will launch at the end of this year and receive an operating budget of $450,000, according to The Real Deal Once up and running, the office will review city data and tenant complaints in order to determine which landlords need more oversight. In some cases, the city will be able to assume control of buildings entirely.  “When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement will be on the ground to stop it in time,” said de Blasio in his address. “If fines and penalties don’t cut it, we will seize buildings and put them into the hands of a nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.” The plan is part of a set of initiatives the mayor is touting to make New York the #FairestBigCity in the nation. In recent years, the city has set up similar offices dedicated to helping tenants, such as the Office of Tenant Advocate, which came online in mid-2017 and is operated through the Department of Buildings. As New Yorkers experience serious disturbances or harassment from construction, they can call upon the OTA for assistance. The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Department now provides equal help through the new Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit. In addition to these new direct-help government groups, de Blasio announced in December a multi-billion plan to fix and preserve the struggling New York City Housing Authority, an agency that had a particularly bad year providing quality affordable housing for its low-income residents.  Other steps outside the mayor’s office are being taken to crack down on private and public tenant protection. In November, the New York City Council began reviewing 18 big bills to halt abusive practices made by local landlords regarding bad buyouts, false documentation, and incorrect permit filing. Learn more about the individual bills here.
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Stacks on Stacks

Take a look behind the construction of the tallest modular hotel in the U.S.
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Modular construction is gaining steam in New York City, with the technique being utilized for new projects ranging from affordable housing to academic facilities. In September 2018, modular technology reached a new height with the tallest modular hotel in the United States, the 21-story citizenM New York Bowery located in Manhattan. For the modular units, Concrete Architectural Associates, Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners, and DeSimone Consulting Engineers reached out to Polish manufacturers Polcom Modular, and Aluprof S.A.  The units, which measure 48 feet by 8 feet by 9 feet and incorporate two hotel rooms and a central corridor (following a pattern of guestroom-corridor-guestroom), were specifically designed to navigate the street width of New York City. Each module was assembled with the street-facing facade included.
  • Facade Manufacturer Aluprof S.A., Poland Polcom Modular
  • Architects Concrete Architectural Associates & Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners
  • Facade Installer Architectural Building Services
  • Facade Consultants DeSimone Consulting Engineers                  Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion September 2018
  • System Mullion/transom captured system with hopper tilt-in windows
  • Products Aluprof MB-SR50 Hi; MB-60l
Following fabrication, the 210 modular units were transported hundreds of miles from the manufacturing facilities in Goleszów, Poland to the northern port city of Gdańsk where they began the second leg of their trip to New York’s Red Hook Terminal. From Brooklyn, a convoy of flatbed trucks transported the units across the East River to the construction site. The project began with the construction of a four-story concrete base, topped with a 36-inch-thick slab that spans up to 38 feet. This podium, which houses larger amenity spaces below, serves as a transfer slab to support the modular pods above. While the bulk of the citizenM New York Bowery hotel is composed of modular units, there are certain structural elements that span the building’s height. Prior to the craning in of prefabricated components, the construction team poured a full-height concrete structural core along the sites southwest corner and a sheer wall to the north. These concrete structural elements are the primary lateral system for the tower, with the sheer wall largely preventing the modular units from twisting. "Diagonal strap bracing on the module ceiling acted as the floor diaphragm to transfer the floor lateral loads back to the sheer walls," said DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda, "the sheer wall's steel connection plates were bolted into the module ceilings and the female end of a Halfen stud embedded into the concrete structure." Once on site, the modules were lifted by crane and stacked module-to-module, each tied to the one directly below by bolted connections. According to DeSimone Engineers, "countersunk bolts were typically used for the diaphragm connections to prevent boltheads from interfering with the bearing of the module above." During construction, the prefabricated units were effectively cocooned within a watertight membrane, with the central portion later being cut out for the hotel’s corridors. After a brief learning curve at the start of the project, the construction team was capable of installing one floor of modular units per week. The top two floors of the tower are framed by structural steel, allowing for larger amenity spaces.
 
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PAU Wow

PAU to unleash 2,100-unit affordable housing complex in East New York
Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) is bringing over 2,000 units of affordable housing to the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, via a partnership with the Christian Cultural Center (CCC), an influential neighborhood church, and the Gotham Organization. The ten-acre development will be anchored by community services geared towards current residents in a neighborhood that's been in developers' crosshairs since a 2016 rezoning. Over the next decade-and-a-half, the team plans to deliver an "urban village" in the shadow of Starrett City, the country's largest federally-backed affordable housing complex. In addition to 2,100 apartments spread out over nine buildings, the new development will include performing arts center, medical services, a site for vocational training, retail space for local entrepreneurs, as well as athletic facilities and over two acres of public space. The plot, now used for parking on worship days, is owned by CCC. Groundbreaking is slated for sometime in the mid-2020s. "When we traditionally think about infrastructure, it’s transportation and utilities," said PAU Founder and Principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, in a press release. "Today, we know that for a community to succeed it needs access to a broader infrastructure of opportunity—open space, education, health care, child care, social opportunities, and culture. Each of these things is considered in the plan that we have prepared with Gotham to advance Rev. Bernard’s vision for a sustainable and equitable community." The reverend Chakrabarti references is Rev. A.R. Bernard, leader of CCC's 45,000-member congregation. Although his church and its future development sit about two miles south of the recently-rezoned area, the idea for the development came about as a way to protect the largely working-class community the church serves in the face of rampant developer-driven speculation in the neighborhood. East New York is second only to Long Island City, Queens, in the number of residential permit approvals last year, according to The New York Times. As local developers line up to build in East New York, it'll be a busy next decade for PAU, too. The New York firm was tapped to master plan Sunnyside Yards, the pasta tangle of rail lines in Queens that could be largely decked over for up to 24,000 apartments and companion facilities.
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Tearing Down the House

San Francisco orders historic Neutra home be rebuilt after being torn down
Preservationists in Twin Peaks, San Francisco, were aghast this past December when it came to light that much of a 1935 home designed by Richard Neutra had been illegally demolished months prior. Owner Ross Johnston had purchased the 1,300-square-foot 49 Hopkins Avenue—also known as the Largent House—for $1.7 million with plans to replace it with a 4,000-square-foot mega-mansion in 2017. Only the home’s garage door and frame still stand today, but on December 13, the City Planning Commission unanimously ruled that Johnston must build an exact replica of the house, as well as a plaque detailing the building’s history. The Largent House was one of only five buildings designed by Neutra in San Francisco. The two-story, whitewashed-concrete-block and redwood-timber building made ample use of glass bricks to let in natural light and included a greenhouse-like glass topper to enclose an indoor pool. The plague of illegal demolitions by San Franciscan homeowners hoping to build big or flip the property is widespread, and punitive repercussions are rare. The city is in the middle of a housing crisis, and when faced with the option of forbidding offenders from building on the demoed lot, the Planning Commission has let homeowners off the hook. Not this time. Johnson applied for a demolition permit and permission to build his new house two months after the home was razed, arguing that a fire in 1968 and remodels throughout the 1980s and ’90s had removed the home’s architectural significance. Rather than flipping the plot of land, Johnson claims that he was only building something that could accommodate his six-person family and that the demo was undertaken for safety and quality of life reasons. The Planning Commission disagreed, and in a 5-0 vote, ordered Johnson to rebuild the Largent House. Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards hopes that the move, along with the recently proposed Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act, which harshly penalizes illegal demolitions, would help curb speculation in the housing market. “The fact that it was a unanimous vote should send a message to everyone that is playing fast and loose that the game is over,” Peskin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock. You want a 1,300-square-foot house to be worth what a 1,300-square-foot house is worth, rather than a mega-mansion.” Unfortunately, this isn’t a shocking story in 2018, as a number of architecturally significant homes, including a Venturi Scott Brown–designed house in Pittsburgh, faced under-the-radar demolitions and renovations.
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Thanks for all the Flames

Egads! Here are the top architecture scandals and controversies of 2018
2018 is nearly over, and the world of architecture wasn’t immune from the deluge of drama that swept over politics and pop culture. Take a look back at the wildest stories of the year, and relive some of the outrage as the New Year rolls in. Richard Meier accused of sexual assault After a stunning New York Times expose in March where multiple women detailed four decades of harassment at the hands of Richard Meier, the architect announced that he would be taking a six-month leave of absence from Richard Meier & Partners Architects. The backlash was swift, and the AIANY announced that they would be stripping the 2018 Design Awards from Meier as well as Peter Marino, who was facing his own set of sexual harassment allegations. After Meier’s leave of absence ended in October, he announced that he would “step back from day-to-day activities” at the firm he founded in 1963. However, how involved Meier remains with the firm is still a matter of debate, as the studio announced that he “will remain available to colleagues and clients who seek his vast experience and counsel.” #MeToo rocks the architecture world After the revelations about Richard Meier went public, a debate over harassment and discrimination in the design world blew up. A Shitty Architecture Men list went live and detailed anonymous complaints about some of the biggest names on the architecture scene—before Google pulled the plug on the list over legal concerns. Still, the conversation around the gendered power dynamics typically present in architecture’s educational and professional track boiled over, and the AIA contiuned to address the topics at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018. Asbestos makes a comeback In AN’s most outrage-inducing story of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that asbestos was back on the menu for use in products on a case-by-case basis. The agency issued a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) that meant the impacts of asbestos on the air and water no longer needed to be considered in its risk assessment (asbestos is a friable material and easily crumbles into carcinogenic fibers when broken). After a significant uproar online, including from Chelsea Clinton, the AIA called for a blanket ban on the material’s use. Kanye’s summer of meltdowns Kanye West had an interesting summer. After returning to Twitter with a vengeance, ostensibly to promote his new album, West hung out with conservative commentators, took a trip to SCI-Arc’s Spring Show, declared that he would be launching an architecture studio called “Yeezy Home,” and revealed a collaboration with interior designer Axel Vervoordt. AN’s readers weren’t exactly thrilled at the news, but West did manage to at least release renderings of the studio’s first affordable housing prototypes. Unfortunately, West later deleted all of his past tweets and the fate of Yeezy Home, and the social housing project, is currently unknown. The sunset of 270 Park When it was announced that Chase wanted to tear down and replace the 52-story former Union Carbide headquarters, questions abounded about when, why, and how. The 57-year-old tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), but much of the credit goes to SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, and the news prompted a debate about her legacy in what was then a predominantly male field. Debate erupted online over whether the tower should be demolished and replaced with a Foster + Partners-designed alternative, and AN’s senior editor, Matt Shaw, penned an op-ed asking that New York not stymie progress for buildings that weren’t worth it. The trials and tribulations of the AT&T Building The saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Midtown skyscraper took yet another turn this year. In January, the lobby of the AT&T Building (or 550 Madison) was stealthily demolished. Then, in July, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the building’s exterior, a definitive blow to the Snøhetta-designed renovation that would have glassed over the 110-foot-tall arch at the granite tower’s base. Unfortunately, owing to the work done earlier in the year, the lobby was no longer eligible for the same such protection. Then, ahead of the next round of LPC hearings, Snøhetta went back to the drawing board and released a much more sensitive scheme for restoring the tower that kept the arch, and the building’s imposing columns, intact. The AIA speaks out against rolling back license requirements Readers had an intense reaction to the AIA’s first Where We Stand statement of 2018. As the institute came out against an increasing trend of states rolling back license requirements for architects, readers were split. Would decreasing the barrier to entry increase competition, as the states claimed? Do architects really need to study for years and spend thousands of dollars in test materials to claim their certification? On the other hand, we expect doctors, lawyers, and practitioners in other highly-specialized fields to require licensing, so why should architecture be any different? Patrik Schumacher takes Zaha Hadid’s fellow trustees to court Patrik Schumacher drew scorn from the public after taking to London’s High Court in a bid to strip the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo, released a joint statement decrying the move. Before Hadid’s death, she had chosen the four to disperse her estate through the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and the non-Schumacher executors claimed that Schumacher's suit was for his personal financial gain. Schumacher responded, lamenting that his former friends and colleagues should have spoken with him first before going public with their grievances. Amazon takes Queens After a year of speculating, Amazon declared that it would be splitting up its HQ2 into two separate headquarters, dropping one in Long Island City, Queens, and the other in Crystal City, a suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The backlash against dropping a sprawling campus for 25,000 employees in New York’s already-overburdened waterfront neighborhood was swift, as city politicians and local residents criticized the $3 billion in subsidies the tech giant would receive, as well as the impact on the neighborhood. Foster + Partners’ London Tulip pierces the skyline The not-so-innocuously phallic Tulip tower in Central London made waves across the internet when it was revealed in November. Commentators and critics alike decried the 1,000-foot-tall observation tower, which balances a glass observation atrium atop a hollow concrete stem and would spring up next to the Gherkin. The icing on the cake is that the rotating pods on the outside of the glass bulb could be disruptive to the London City Airport’s radar system, meaning construction may have to wait until a full study is completed. Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition When the purple-and-green, sunrise-evoking house designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, went on sale in June, it was hoped that a preservationist would save the building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath Abrams House was built in 1979 and was in great condition, but it soon came to light that the new owner only purchased the home so that he could tear it down. The buyer, Bill Snyder, also owns the Richard Meier-designed Giovannitti House next door and began a secret interior demolition which he claimed was necessary to preserve the landscape around the Meier building. After the news came to light, preservationists and colleagues of Venturi and Scott Brown rallied for the house’s protection.
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Park No More

Against all odds, progressive land-use reforms are taking root in American cities
With Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles moving forward with progressive land-use and transportation reforms last week, much of the conventional thinking behind how American cities work could soon be upended.  As the converging threats of climate change, housing unaffordability, and pollution continue to hamstring the country’s urban areas, cities across the country are taking matters into their own hands by enacting bold but common-sense reforms in the face of federal and state inaction. For one, a groundbreaking comprehensive plan update in Minneapolis that would eliminate the city’s single-family zones took a step forward last week after two years of public debate and negotiations. The so-called 2040 Minneapolis Plan would make the city the first in the country to upzone all of its single-family residential neighborhoods to allow up to three dwelling units per lot. Under the 2040 initiative, the city will be able to re-establish a tradition of building what’s known as “missing middle” housing, the types of naturally affordable small- to medium-scale neighborhoods that make up the backbones of most American cities built before the 1950s. The plan is designed to break down racial and income disparities between neighborhoods in the city while allowing Minneapolis to absorb expected job and population growth over coming decades. Housing activists across the country are now looking to Minneapolis to see how the experiment plays out as efforts to enact similar policies pick up across the country, especially in Seattle, where a similar effort is gaining steam. In Oregon, a plan to eradicate single-family zoning in cities with 10,000 or more residents took a step forward this week. Aside from taking on exclusionary zoning, other cities, including Buffalo, San Francisco, and San Diego, are looking to eliminate off-street parking requirements to varying extents as they work to reclaim the enormous amount of space taken up by parked cars. In 2017, Buffalo became the first municipality in the country to totally eliminate parking requirements city-wide. The effort comes as part of a new zoning initiative that will bring what is known as a “form-based code” (FBC) to the city. As the name implies, FBCs typically regulate the overall geometries of urban areas by setting particular height limits, setbacks, and other design guidelines that can be followed regardless of use. The approach runs counter to more common use-based codes that carve cities up into monofunctional areas with residential, industrial, and commercial districts. FBCs are seen both as a way of re-establishing mixed-use neighborhoods while also creating contextual and preservation-friendly zones. With the update, Buffalo joins Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami, which have also recently enacted FBCs. Over in California, as the state’s new legislature takes up a series of bold housing reforms, San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer is one step ahead with a proposal to scrap parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas. A new proposal would eliminate required parking for housing located within 1/2-mile from a transit stop, a change similar to a state-wide effort that was derailed last year. The latest effort, according to the mayor, will be geared toward lowering the cost of building housing—a single parking stall adds between $35,000 and $90,000 in costs per unit of housing in the state—while also resulting in shorter and less bulky buildings. San Francisco has taken the proposal one step further by moving to become the largest city in the country to scrap parking requirements outright. City Supervisor Jane Kim put forward a measure this month to totally eliminate the requirement city-wide in an effort to bolster the city’s climate bona fides and help reign in housing costs. But don’t call it a “parking ban,” developers will instead be allowed to build parking up to a maximum threshold if they deem it necessary. The yet-to-be-approved initiative could go into effect next year. Nearby, Sacramento is working to enact a city-wide transit-oriented development plan that would limit drive-through restaurants and gas stations and lower parking requirements within 1/2-mile from transit stops in the city. Change is afoot even in car-loving Los Angeles, where an ambitious but currently under-funded plan to build 28 large scale transit projects by the 2028 Olympic games has prompted local officials to consider so-called “congestion pricing.” No official plan has been unveiled, but the Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington last week presented several ideas that could potentially fill the funding gap, including requiring drivers to pay for traveling in some of the city’s most congested areas. To boot, Curbed reported that during a presentation to the Metro Board of Directors, Washington even proposed using the fees generated from congestion pricing to make Los Angeles the first city in the United States to offer free public transportation every day of the year.