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American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design Awards

The Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in conjunction with the Residential Knowledge Community of The American Institute of Architects (AIA), recognizes excellence in affordable housing, community-based design, participatory design, and accessibility. These awards demonstrate that design matters and provide examples of important benchmarks in the housing industry. Awards are offered in four categories: Community–Informed Design Award, Creating Community Connection Award, Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award, and Housing Accessibility— Alan J. Rothman Award.

AIA - Housing and Community Design Awards


Housing Accessibility - Alan J. Rothman Award
The purpose of this award is to show exemplary projects that demonstrate excellence in improving housing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Recipient: Independent Communities. Decatur, Georgia

Independent Communities provides independent living for residents of Decatur with spinal cord or traumatic brain injury. Located in the center of what was once a blighted area, the 14 units are part of the now thriving community of Oakhurst, a historically rehabilitated neighborhood with a flourishing new business district. The Independent Communities site is shared by the historic Scottish Rite Hospital, an adaptive re-use of the J. Neel Reid building. The building contains offices, a community center, and gallery space.

Individual units were designed with special features developed from ideas gathered during focus groups with mobility impaired individuals. For some of the residents, a personal care attendant is required, so several units have two bedrooms. Common area courtyards and porches serve as community space for residents. These courtyards are intimate in scale and the porches join units to provide space for socializing.

One issue impacting the design of the project was its location in a historic district. The goal was to blend the neighborhood's residential qualities-characterized by front porches, stoops, and mature shade trees-with features designed to create accessibility for the mobility impaired. With this in mind, each unit is designed in a Craftsman Bungalow style with different railing designs on the porches to create the impression of individual houses built over time. Sidewalk and building ramping were carefully combined to ensure that the site, the buildings, and the parking met accessibility requirements while keep grading and paving to a minimum and protecting mature trees.

The project was funded through creative financing sources, historic tax credits, and grants. The addition of second bedrooms to some of the units was funded by HUD.

Housing Accessibility - Alan J. Rothman Award
Community building is a people-based approach to fighting poverty that builds on the assets of the community. It supports people on the poor neighborhoods as they rebuild social structures and relationships that may have been weakened by out-migration, disinvestment, and the isolation of inner-city areas.

Recipient: Outdoor Classroom at Eibs Pond Park. Staten Island, New York

Nestled in a 17-acre freshwater wetland, the outdoor classroom at Eibs Pond Park in Staten Island impacts its surroundings on a number of scales by creating access to a natural area, by enhancing the park's usability through the addition of social space, and by serving the recreational and social needs of the surrounding community. In doing so the project addresses issues of urban design, open space, the ecology, social services, and economic development.

As the only freshwater wetland park in New York City adjacent to a large low-income community, Eib represents unique opportunities for both neighborhood interaction and natural science study and teaching. Prior to construction the project's architects consulted with a tenant group, an elementary school, and other local constituencies to ensure that the design will serve the needs of casual park visitors and picnickers while providing teaching and workshop space for nearby schools and the Audubon Society. It creates access to the wetland while protecting it from being trampled and includes pathways through the natural area, a pier that extends over the pond, and a nesting wall that expands the habitat for birds living in a nearby birch tree.

The classroom was built by AmeriCorps volunteers using recycled plastic lumber and redwood harvested from a sustainable forest. Weekly onsite meetings were held between the AmeriCorps crew and the architect to develop sketches and a framing model prior to constructing the classroom. The total cost for materials was approximately $25,000, while the project also served to provide volunteers with both new skills and an understanding of architecture.

Housing Accessibility - Alan J. Rothman Award
This award recognizes projects that embrace and demonstrate the revitalizing potential of mixed-use and mixed-income housing developments. "Mixed-use housing" refers to developments that combine residential land use with nonresidential uses(s), such as retail centers,, community centers, public facilities, and the like, "Mixed- income housing" refers to residential developments designed and financed to include market-rate as well as below-market-rate (affordable) housing.

Recipient: 101 San Fernando. San Jose, California

101 San Fernando, located in the heart of a newly revitalized downtown San Jose, is a bridge between the old and the new. Occupying a block with historic buildings and located across the street from architect Richard Meier's new City Hall and the Civic Center, the project knits together the modernism of the two newer buildings with the remnants of historic downtown. In doing so, it represents the transformation of the historic building typology into a development designed to meet the modern demand for density.

Modeled after the Viennese Gemeindebauen, the project consists of 322 rental units-20 percent of which are earmarked as affordable-2 levels of subsurface parking holding 1.75 cars per unit, and retail and common space. And like the Gemeindebauen, the development's mid-block social spaces are linked to the street through large gated portals that allow openness and multiple points of entry without compromising security. Despite a density of more than 100 units per acre, more than half of the units open directly to the outside. Upper floor units are entered via elevator-served corridors accessed through outdoor loggias that provide visual connection to the mid-block courtyards.

According to its architects, 101 San Fernando represents housing as urban reconstruction in all of its manifestations. Located in the center of town, the project is accessible to transit, jobs, services, and the culture of the city; its affordable housing component welcomes people of different incomes into one community; and architecturally it is of sufficient civic presence that it is a source of pride and identity for its residents.