Housing Acclimates to Waves of the Future

Event: Designs for Living: New Directions in Housing Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 08.11.08
Speakers: William Stein, FAIA — Principal, Dattner Architects; Coren Sharples — Partner, SHoP Architects; James McCullar, FAIA — Principal, James McCullar & Associates
Moderator: Andrew B. Knox, AIA — Partner, Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects & Chair, AIANY Housing Committee
Organizer: AIANY Housing Committee
Sponsors: Champion: Studio Daniel Libeskind; Supporters: Gensler; HumanScale; James McCullar & Associates; Friends: Benjamin Moore & Co.; Costas Kondylis & Partners; Forest City Ratner Companies; Frank Williams & Associates; Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; Mancini Duffy; Magnusson Architecture and Planning; Rawlings Architects; Ricci Greene Associates; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Syska & Hennessy; Trespa North America; Universal Contracting Group

Custom molds shape brick curtain-wall panels at 290 Mulberry Street.

SHoP Architects

As our million new neighbors predicted by PlaNYC descend by 2030, housing will make up an ever-greater portion of the fabric of our city. So what are some of the most promising directions for its design? According to William Stein, FAIA, principal of Dattner Architects, and Andrew Knox, AIA, partner at Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects, one trend is the confluence of green design and affordable housing, which are recently coming together in projects that are equally light on the environment as on the pocketbook.

At the David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens in Harlem, designed by Dattner Architects, the basic design might be considered “dead simple,” said Stein, but innovation lies in the many tweaks that make it highly sustainable. A unitized ventilation system (originally developed by Chris Benedict and Henry Gifford) keeps a constant flow of fresh air circulating through each apartment, without connecting to others, so no worries about a neighbor’s cigarette smoke. Sunshades on the south façade block summer sun while adding texture to the exterior. Similarly, at the Bronx’s Intervale Green, a traditional NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) housing design is enlivened with sustainable flourishes such as a green roof that’s being designed by Parsons the New School for Design architecture students, according to Knox.

With desirable housing sites dwindling, some improbable locations are being pressed into use. Case in point: James McCullar & Associates’ State Renaissance Court, a retail and mixed-income-housing building, is designed to hover above Brooklyn’s Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station. Concerns about train noise and seismic safety guided its design, involving a system of spring isolators and pile foundations that help the building float above the subway (See “Renaissance Advances in Downtown Brooklyn,” In the News, e-Oculus, 02.19.08). While the trains’ rumbles can be felt on the nearby sidewalk, residents inside enjoy silence, James McCullar, FAIA, said.

Coren Sharples of SHoP Architects advocates getting involved at all levels of the design process, from the development phase through fabrication — otherwise, architects risk getting sidelined in a conservative speculative housing market. A new condo building under construction at 290 Mulberry Street is designed using tools such as Digital Project and Revit in the firm’s pilot BIM project. Canadian company Saramac used custom molds to fabricate the rippling brick curtain-wall panels. Contextual zoning called for masonry, and the uncommon forms pay homage to the Puck Building across the street, Sharples said. “We really wanted to do something with masonry that would be as modern and playful as the Puck Building was… in its day,” she explained.