New York City and the American Institute of Architects New York selected five finalists in the Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC design competition.
“Pretty much every architect we know in the city was competing for this job,” said Merica May Jensen, an Architect with the firm OBJ.
She and OBJ's Yushiro Okamoto are finalists in a city competition to design innovative apartment buildings on city-owned lots that have remained vacant because of their size and configuration.
“They’re too small to develop with regular housing,” said Jensen.
The space they competed to design is in Harlem on 136th Street. It's 17 feet wide, a little thinner than the normal 19 feet of a Manhattan Brownstone. OBJ's “Fold and Stack” design incorporates duplexes, double height windows for light, open community stairs in the middle of the building and modular construction.
“Our proposal was to make units that were very, very compact, that way you can put it on any sight,” explained Jensen.
The competition is one more novel approach the city is taking in hopes of easing the affordable housing crisis.
The designs must be useable on any of the 23 oddly shaped spaces across the five boroughs the de Blasio administration wants to develop.
There are triangles, trapezoids and kite shapes, as well as shallow and extremely long and thin lots, one is 100 feet by 13 feet.
“You think we’re a grid city... and you think that everything is laid out, but it doesn’t always work that way,” explained NYC Deputy Mayor Vicki Been.
Been says some of the lots have languished for as long as 30 years, so it joined with the American Institute of Architects New York to solicit design ideas to build 100 percent affordable housing on each location, a competition.
“444 submissions from dozens and dozens of different countries. It’s really amazing,” said Been.
The judges selected five finalists for that property in Harlem.
They are: Michael Sorkin Studio’s Greenfill House as Garden, Palette Architecture’s More with Less, Only If Architecture’s Only If, Anawan/101 + Kane AUD’s Mass Green Living and of course OBJ’s Fold and Stack.
"I hope we win," said Jensen.
The winner will be chosen in the fall, but all five finalists will be the only architects allowed to bid on developing the other 22 locations.