Posts tagged with "real estate":
Liz Diller, Patrik Schumacher, Christopher Sharples, and others, to speak at NYC real estate and architecture summit
For Anthony Alofsin, AIA, a practicing architect and professor in architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, the concerns of diversity outweigh the concerns of density. Alofsin has been in Austin for almost 30 years, long enough to recount previous boom and bust cycles in the real estate market. Some of his academic research studies builder homes, which remain the most common way Americans house themselves, a statistic largely ignored by the architectural profession. In Alofsin’s view, a diverse mix of individuals—different patterns, passions, occupations, incomes, and ethnicities—leads to an “urban experience,” and Austin is short on this type of urbanity. Alofsin also worries about larger repercussions of civic housing trends: Changes in national family trends combined with the exodus of families from the city center spells disaster for the future of Austin’s public schools. Form-making isn’t important at this scale: Whether a house has a flat roof or fake stone or a turret is irrelevant to the economics at work.
To see what’s on the market now, Creede Fitch, a real estate agent with Skout who focuses solely on modern and midcentury properties, took me on a tour of neighborhoods near 12th Street. Close to the railroad tracks, one luxury spec house near the railroad tracks set a high water mark, selling for around $600,000 last year (it was also featured on the 2015 AIA Austin Homes Tour). A few blocks away, Fitch points out a slim lot with an older structure on-site, clearly not worth salvaging. “$290,000!” he reports, not without disbelief.
Fitch, who himself is building a new home in East Austin, tries to educate clients on both Austin and modern architecture, though he admits that “modern” is not important to many buyers. Fitch is also aware of better ways to increase density; he described one solution where smaller existing homes are maintained and a larger “primary” new build house is placed behind, providing privacy and preserving the scale of the street. A pilot project in this style is a casita renovated by architect Alan Gonzalez, sited on the front half of its lot. The steep price tag—a listed $375,000 for 785 square feet—would make most wince, but it’s a baby step in the right direction.
The good news is that some architects are working to change market realities, or at least their aesthetic dimensions. Jared Haas, principal of Un.Box Studio, spoke with me about a house he recently completed with Newcastle Homes. Knowing the market and the ground rules of spec projects, he designed a clean shape with a restrained material palette inside and out. Instead of the ubiquitous Hardie board siding, he sourced a vertical wood board at a comparable price. The house was purchased before it was completed, and Haas is at work on two more with the same company.
Other models of practice—architect-as-developer, design-build, design-build-develop—offer exciting alternate avenues of investment and engagement, and there are a number of successful examples at work in East Austin. Speculative building is now seen as pejorative, but it can be incredibly progressive. Haas, for one, looks forward to the time where spec projects, rather than further isolating residents, can bring them together in hybrid social spaces. What if speculative housing led the way toward new formats of living?
Later, I drove around East Austin to check in on its progress. I lived in the Chestnut neighborhood for two-and-a-half years in a full-size back house with two housemates; the house’s builder-developer had created a condominium complex of two houses on a single lot, another way to circumvent typical density limitations. It is both smartly dense, lucrative, and ruinous to the property values of neighbors. Nearby blocks are majority new builds, with accompanying new residents.
Construction has started on The Chicon, a three-building complex of affordable and market-rate apartments, close to an intersection that was once singled out as the city’s most dangerous. In 1925, one could take a streetcar from that corner all the way downtown. Now there’s a skee-ball bar on the block. Neighborhoods roll over, sometimes with unfortunate consequences, but the tide keeps going—part of life in a city. I stopped in front of a particularly ugly spec home with walls that bulge and tilt, as if frozen in nauseous mid-collapse. I slow my car to photograph the offense, but instead smile, wave, and move along—there is a moving truck out front with a couple unloading bicycles, ready to make that house their home.
There is something surreal in the new exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV), Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver, on view until May 15. It’s not just the museum’s late ’60s architecture by Gerard Hamilton. It’s not the giant crab in a fountain that ushers patrons into a dome-like edifice with a cavernous interior reminiscent of some sci-fi film about “the future.” (George Pal’s The Time Machine springs to mind.)
It’s also not the slightly trippy Brian Eno music, or even the Through the Looking Glass–style mirror (Can You Afford to Be Here by Dialog) that exhales phrases in different languages about what it’s like to live in the city with the highest cost of housing in North America. This mirror returns the civic gaze—and responsibility—to the viewer.
Rather, it’s the whole meta-theater of it: the museum is actually a kind of real estate sales center where patrons are prospective buyers.
“Vancouver is a city in flux, undergoing massive growth and redevelopment,” said Gregory Dreicer, MOV’s director of curatorial and engagement, who worked alongside exhibition designers McFarlane Biggar Architects. “With as many as three homes demolished each day—often to make room for denser living—we are experiencing a watershed moment in the history of the region.”
While talking about the price of real estate has become something of a civic obsession, Dreicer said the aim of the exhibition is “to shift the conversation from real estate to the state of the city.”
Your Future Home opens with a huge wall of photographs of various housing types in the city—from a homeless tent to a mansion to an old railway house—all underlined in red to mimic the current trend in real estate marketing literature. (In Vancouver’s overheated market, homeowners regularly receive such notices of recent sales in their mailboxes.)
The intent here is to focus on the residential typology itself, rather than to fetishize price per square footage, and the wall of homes is an intriguing mosaic of Vancouver housing styles.
Next, patrons are ushered into a mock sales center with a collage of various parts of the city. Faux sales sheets offer statistics about the city itself—as if it were a single property. An adjacent wall, plastered with a huge image of the typical Vancouver city view, is punctuated by various other statistics like “50% of Vancouverites use private cars, 5% bicycles.” Across from this view, four flat screen monitors offer maps and statistics compiled by planner Andy Yan, illustrating the exhibition’s central themes: housing affordability, residential density, ease of transportation, and quality of public space.
An animated video of Vancouver draws one into city streetscapes. Across from it another aerial view photograph of the city proves revealing: Vancouver’s downtown is a tiny peninsula of density, surrounded by a sea of suburban style housing.
With text noting a projected population increase of 150,000 residents by the year 2040, the question, Where will they all live? hovers (metaphorically) above the idyllic view.
The third section attempts to answer that question while raising many others. While uneven at times, and slightly overwhelming, this part of the exhibition has a curiously Victorian feel about it, with many of the several dozen mini-exhibits mounted on blocks, reading like dioramas reimagined for the 21st century.
One by Erick Villagomez called The Grid is a simple wooden cube with a grid imposed on it, and a kind of viewmaster-cum-pinhole-camera that looks down into a montage of fantastical civic images that aim to encourage a “new social and spatial order.”
The grid is applied to a Vancouver beach, and a dense cluster of high-rises applied to a wealthy waterfront enclave. Nature is overlaid with built environment and new urban models are superimposed on suburban landscapes, offering inventive takes on new ways to inhabit the city.
Another highlight is architect Gregory Henriquez’s Vertical City that plays with the idea of a dramatic shift in scale and Vancouver’s obsession with “the view.” Here, a model for a 2,500-foot-tall highrise is created by upending a 15-block area of the city complete with existing buildings. A large roof top terrace features a “sky garden” and a dizzying view.
Framed by a loop of photos of important civic events and city builders on one end and a film about public space and transportation on the other, neighborhood histories—how Chinatown residents rallied to save their community from a freeway—mingle with imagined futures like a post-global warming transportation network for bicycles.
Architect Oliver Lang offers a dense pyramidal model as an alternative to both low-rise sprawl and highrise living. And architect Javier Campos presents Density in Section as a kind of cri de coeur for greater diversity of built environment in the city, one that mixes residential, commercial, and industrial. Fittingly for a rail against homogeneity and conformity, the model consists of a series of tiny multi-leveled flags bearing images of buildings that form a triangular peak, and read like banners of protest.
Your Future Home is as much a call to arms to save the soul of a place in danger of becoming a resort town for the wealthy, as it is a celebration of the city. The exhibition manages to foil Vancouver’s real estate–fueled fortress mentality of isolation and unaffordability even as it critiques it, simply by engaging patrons and offering both historical insight and potent possibilities.