Page N3.2 . 15 December 2010                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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    Housing Awards from HUD and the AIA


    The five families involved with the Congo Street project pooled their resources for this 698-square-foot (65-square-meter) building to prevent anyone being displaced from the neighborhood, even temporarily, which also facilitated each family's participation in the evaluation and renovation or reconstruction of its home.

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    Homeowners worked with the team to make design decisions and also helped with the construction. Whenever possible, the designers sought to honor and preserve the existing houses, including their modest scale and forms. But when structural or other necessities called for reconstruction, the redesigned homes took on more contemporary angles, materials, and forms, creating design hybrids of old and new.

    For example, the house at 4533 Congo Street — owned by Ella Mae Garrett, a 35-year resident of Congo Street — had suffered from a dilapidated roof and a hole in the siding. Today, the rebuilt version of the home includes traditional features such as a pitched roof and screened porch, but also a striking bright-red metal stairway jutting out from one side of the wood-clad facade.

    And at Frankie and Erica Boulden's home, an otherwise largely traditional, symmetrical wood-clad cottage at 4529 Congo Street, the new second floor raises the roof line diagonally to one side.

    The project's sustainable design goals are high. The Holding House, completed in fall 2008, received LEED for Homes Gold certification. The Bouldens' home followed with a Platinum certification under LEED for Homes, and the designers also expect Platinum ratings for the four houses completed since then.

    Green features include rainwater collection systems, permeable driveways, Energy Star-rated fans and light fixtures, passive cooling, photovoltaic panels, additional insulation, and reduction of thermal bridging. Each rebuilt house also incorporates materials salvaged from the original structure, such as wood flooring, doors, and trim.

    San Jose's Affordable Center on Senter

    The project honored in the "excellence in affordable housing design" category is the multifamily development Paseo Senter at Coyote Creek in San Jose, California.

    The project team sought to transform a 4.7-acre (1.9-hectare) parcel that had seen a series of previous projects abandoned. The new development's 218 apartments have one to three bedrooms and are targeted to households earning between 15 percent and 45 percent of the average median income.

    Designed by David Baker + Partners for a team of for-profit and nonprofit developers, Paseo Senter consists of two residential districts flanking a new main street, or "paseo," running from busy Senter Road at one end of the development to Coyote Creek Park at the other.

    The project's communal open space includes a central plaza as well as a palm grove, active play area, gathering spaces, and a large swimming pool. A defining visual element is the community center entrance, framed by a translucent woven screen.

    The residential areas are dense, with three stories of apartments above "retail-style" ground-floor spaces that house a community room, a Native American library, a gym, a kin-caregiver center, and space for social workers. The apartments also wrap a parking garage, hiding cars from view and maintaining a lively and active pedestrian scale along the paseo.

    The result certainly looks great from the street. ArchitectureWeek does wonder about the long-term livability of a courtyard housing model where the courtyard, instead of providing daylight and mid-block green space, simply parks a stack of cars.

    The project exceeds California's Title 24 energy code by an estimated 15 percent, saving both energy and the utility costs borne by the low-income residents.

    "A delightful project showing an exuberance of life and culture," said the awards jury. "Its admirable translation of the plaza and paseo prototypes contribute a human scale and sense of place. This is housing that makes a community, where one was sorely needed."

    Artists and Architecture in Lancaster

    The Arbor Lofts in Lancaster, California, designed by PSL Architects, earned recognition in the category of "creating community connection."

    Aimed at attracting the "creative class" as a driver for economic development, the 21-unit affordable housing development is the first urban infill project completed as part of Lancaster's new Downtown Specific Plan for revitalization.

    The program includes live/ work loft apartments targeted at artists, along with a nonprofit gallery that features tenants' work in a glass-fronted ground floor space, and an outdoor area for gatherings and exhibits. Almost all the housing units are set aside for tenants with income levels at or below 60 percent of the average median income, and applicants were also asked to submit art portfolios.

    Arbor Lofts is striking, with rectangular bands of windows jutting out from a metal-paneled curvilinear facade that resembles a giant slide carousel. Extending from that curved front facade, the long, thin form of the structure helps to visually break down the building mass, while the colorful palette introduces a sense of whimsy. The apartments are daylit, open-plan two-story units with finished concrete floors.

    "Multiple uses of the outdoor gallery and storefront spaces provide many opportunities for the community to participate in this project," the jury wrote. "Also, in terms of height of ceilings and other proportions, the different scales of the project make it quite unique and attractive."   >>>

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, Architectural Record, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.   More by Brian Libby



    ArchWeek Image

    The Congo Street Green Initiative, designed by bcWorkshop in collaboration with the clients, has included major interior and exterior renovations of some houses and reconstruction of others, as well as energy-efficiency upgrades. Pictured: 4539 Congo Street.
    Photo: bcWorkshop Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Several houses, such as Ella Mae Garrett's home, at 4533 Congo Street, received upper-floor additions.
    Photo: bcWorkshop Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Section and ground-floor plan drawings of 4525 Congo Street.
    Image: bcWorkshop Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The first structure built was the Holding House, a new LEED Gold-certified home that temporarily housed each family while its own home was being renovated or rebuilt.
    Photo: bcWorkshop Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Paseo Senter at Coyote Creek is a 218-unit affordable housing project in San Jose, California, designed by David Baker + Partners.
    Photo: Jeffrey Peters/ Vantage Point Photography Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The shared living/ dining/ kitchen area of an apartment at Paseo Senter.
    Photo: Jeffrey Peters/ Vantage Point Photography Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Paseo Senter at Coyote Creek site-plan drawing.
    Image: David Baker + Partners Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A community swimming pool at Paseo Senter.
    Photo: Jeffrey Peters/ Vantage Point Photography Extra Large Image


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