We took part in a competition to devise a new model of affordable housing to work across a number of difficult to develop sites within the larger New York City area. For our proposal, we wanted to create a wholly sustainable approach that creates a benchmark for urban timber development in NYC. We proposed using structural cross laminated timber construction (CLT), to create a new typology of NYC development. The timber facade and lightwell creates a contemporary brownstone vernacular for the future, as a totally sustainable concept that can work at a scale far beyond the scope of the competition and across the majority of dense American urban environments.
The street frontage expresses the true nature of the construction with a vertical timber facade that creates a new language on the streetscape, using the width of the timber verticals to give a sense of lightness, getting thinner as the buildings increase in height, as well as denoting each individual unit type. Whitened timber is used in the lightwell to reflect light deep down into the building, providing natural light to the bedrooms.
Many vacant plots across NYC over time become used as community gardens. Once development occurs, often these gardens are lost. We wanted to increase the use of green space, as well as providing a variety of social spaces for residents. Each design solution features a community garden for the residents at roof level, which could include growing fruit and vegetables, bee keeping, and education about local flora and fauna, as well as reducing the heat island effect.
We wanted to design an exceptional quality of life for all residents and foster a local community culture. Though constrained by challenging plot sizes and restrictions, we envisaged a solution where dual aspect apartments are arranged around a central core. Living spaces face the street and the rear yard, with bedrooms getting natural light from a central pale timber lightwell.
The principle of each apartment layout is designed to work across a variety of difficult to develop site typologies, working by folding the design around the central core and lightwell, or by simple replication.