By Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC (BISL) is a design competition to find housing solutions for smaller than standard lots (<25’ x 100’), and to explore their potential to contribute to affordable housing options across various site and neighborhood conditions. More than 444 proposals were received from 36 countries across five continents. I participated in the competition and attended the announcement of the five winners on May 14th at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan.
“More with Less” by Palette Architecture. “More with Less” is a 3,700 square-foot building that features two units, one of which is a co-living space with four individual rooming units. Palette Architecture (NYC) founded in 2010 by partners Peter Miller, John Sunwoo, and Jeff Wandersman.
Considering that submissions were required to comply with all current regulations, codes, ordinances, and the existing zoning regulations, it is no wonder that all five winning entrants practice in New York City.
The nine-person jury also judged entries based on these criteria: ability to meet the needs of the households and individuals, e.g. co-living, caregivers, or aging in place; attention to detail and resident experience, including ADA standards; apartment planning and the relationship between interior and exterior spaces; circulation, daylight, and overall functionality; how well the mechanical systems provide environmental comfort and high level of durability; how the design and materials selections facilitate superior building performance to further city policy goals to reduce water and energy consumption as well as manage storm water and heat island impacts.
In case you think entering the competition would be quick and easy, note these other requirements: a narrative of text and images not to exceed 1,000 words; floor plans for each level that show dimensions, square footage, apartment planning, circulation and egress—including site planning considerations, adjacent conditions, and relationship to the street; one building section indicating floor-to-floor and floor-to-ceiling height, wall, floor, and roof section, envelope materials, fenestration, and approach to sustainable development; one front elevation of fenestration and materials, ceiling heights, floor elevations, and total building height; one exterior perspective rendering; one axonometric projection of the overall building; one table illustrating zoning conformance and compliance; at least one, but no more than four, additional drawings to demonstrate replicability on other sites with a different typology.
“To unlock some of our most difficult-to-develop sites we needed to take a fresh approach, and taking that leap has clearly paid off,” said the newly appointed HPD commissioner Louise Carroll.
Now, having worked on this, I can vouch for how much time and resources it took to put this complete package together. A very conservative estimate of $10,000 worth of effort for each submittal multiplied by 440 entries equals $4,400,000 of free design labor—not a bad haul for the city. But wait! Winners are now required to assemble a development team that is capable of performing duties carried out by developers and contractors, have approximately three months to submit proposals, and are encouraged to use the monetary award for further developing their submissions into proposals. AIA New York awarded a monetary stipend in the amount of $3,000 to each of the five winners below. You do the math.
“Greenfill House as Garden” by Michael Sorkin Studio, NYC, an international design practice in association with Terreform, a non-profit institute. This entry proposes seven units in an approximately 4,430 square-foot building.