Earlier today, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) bestowed its 2017 Housing Awards, celebrating the work of architects from around the country. Showcasing numerous perspectives on the meaning of home today, the winning projects, which vary widely in style, site, and objective, make a case for the value of good design, whether it’s for a next-generation green home in Boston or a sleek reimagining of affordable housing in Los Angeles.
Established to “recognize the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life,” this snapshot of contemporary American architecture, now in its 17th year, highlights many important trends, including green building and accessible, universal design, all while showing that great architecture doesn’t always require a massive budget.
Blue Lake Retreat (Lake Marble Falls, Texas: Lake|Flato Architects)
This modern take on a lake house should touch off plenty of cabin envy. The narrow structure, topped with a dramatic top floor inching above the tree line, gives its owners a nearly 180-degree vista of Blue Lake. The cantilevered deck emphasizes the dreamy views of the water, while a bridge on the opposite side of the home as well as smaller openings in the façade anchor the house to the adjoining hillside.
The Graphic House (Fayetteville, Arkansas: Marlon Blackwell Architects)
One of the Ozark’s, and country’s, finest architect, Marlon Blackwell is adept at accessible, simple, and striking displays of modern design. This low-slung suburban home combines a sharp profile as well as a organized, playful layout (what kid wouldn’t like that stellar second-floor loft?).
Los Altos Residence (Los Altos, California: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson)
A love letter to the Northern California ranch home, this new home in an established neighborhood offers plenty of respite and privacy. The spacious double-height living space connects two single-story volumes, while offering views of the pool and concrete garden wall. It offers the quintessential California connection to the outdoors—check out the generous overhang shading the back porch—without eliminating the ability to escape indoors.
Pennsylvania Farmhouse (Lakewood, Pennsylvania: Cutler Anderson Architects)
A sizable family home set amid the rolling landscape of a rural Pennsylvania farm, this 3,000-square-foot residence literally fits into the landscape, in some cases utilizing existing old walls of bluestone and field stone. It also leaves a light footprint by taking advantage of old-school methods of heating and cooling, including a series of moveable shutters and radiant heating powered by a wood-fired boiler. The builders even pre-wired the home to accommodate future solar installations on the metal rooftop.
Sawmill (Tehachapi, California: Olson Kundig)
One of the best ways to fit into rugged landscapes is to mimic more traditional forms. This family retreat in a remote section of California features a series of private zones/rooms modeled after tents (one for the parents, and two for the children). The owners hope to eventually expand their encampment and add new “tents” as the family grows.
Cully Grove (Portland, Oregon: Green Gables Design and Restoration)
A “farm-in-the-city” modeled after traditional cottages and cohousing concepts, the Cully Grove development is a green thumbs’ dream. The landscaping and layout weave together oak trees and winding paths, linking sixteen modest cottages spread over two acres of bucolic courtyards and shared space. The centerpiece of the community, a 1,100-square-foot common space, brings together neighbors for shared meals, social gatherings, and movie nights. Who says camp life is only for kids?
Roxbury E+ (Boston: ISA - Interface Studio Architects and Urbanica)
Marrying affordability with radical energy performance, this infill development achieves a surprising level of environmental sustainability at market rate. These three-story wood-frame homes, simple boxes meant for tight insulation and exemplary energy performance, feature simple exterior touches, including bay windows and a sloped façade for solar installations that offer a simple step towards sustainability. Examples of the city’s new Energy Plus (E+) green building program, the homes hopefully set an example for urbanites looking to minimize their environmental footprint.
Stellar Residences and Townhomes at Northstar (Truckee, California: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson)
Built near Lake Tahoe, an area crawling with classic chalets, these angular mountainside dwelling seek to update the ski town vernacular (all while achieving LEED design standards). Elevated within a forest of firs and pine trees, the residences offer large glass walls and striking views of the Martis Valley and Carson Range. These kind of views of the Sierra Nevadas certainly
Hunters View Housing Blocks 5&6 (San Francisco: Paulett Taggart Architects)
These two new blocks of affordable family housing at Hunters View are part of the first phase of San Francisco’s ambitious HOPE SF program to rebuild parts of the city’s deteriorated public housing. With a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, the Hunters View Redevelopment is being completed in three phases in order to allow the existing tenants to remain in the neighborhood. The design for two city blocks organizes 53 units into two L-shaped buildings per block to form continuous street frontages and surround two secure shared courtyards.
Powerhouse (Philadelphia: ISA - Interface Studio Architects)
Adding a dense cluster of 31 units into an existing urban block can be challenging. This development ably inserted itself into Philadelphia’s Francisville neighborhood by riffing off local styles, including the traditional entry stoop, and employing local artisans, who crafted handrails for the development. Mixing town homes, duplexes, and a pair of small apartment building, many of which obtained LEED Platinum certification, the project added new life to the area without disturbing the existing fabric.
VIA 57 WEST (New York City: BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group and SLCE Architects, LLP)
This much-vaunted New York “courtscraper,” which melds European and Manhattan architectural archetypes, has quickly become a sloping, starchitect-designed icon. In a real estate market begging for space, this residential pyramid offers generous views of the Hudson River though a series of terraces and bay windows.
Heartland Family Works (Omaha, Nebraska: Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, Inc.)
Built for an organization that provides residential substance abuse treatment programs, this structure reimagined an old building’s concrete shell with modernist design and warm colors, creating a hopeful, durable, and optimistic space for healing.
The Lofts at Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.; Associate Architect: Tao + Lee Associates)
Combining elements of residential living with innovative workspace design, this 415-bed development in St. Louis’ Loop neighborhood offers a new model for sustainable, student living. Apartment-style dwellings, set above retail space, connect students with the neighborhood below, making sure that coeds remain immersed in urban life.
The Six (Los Angeles: Brooks + Scarpa)
Offering shelter and comfort, The SIX, a 52-unit, LEED Platinum affordable housing project in the dense MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, advances a different take on development. A series of public and private zones, designed to shepherd residents towards social spaces and increased interactions, emphasizes a more community-oriented style of living.