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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.

Awards American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design


Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award
This award recognizes architecture that demonstrates overall excellence in terms of design in response to both the needs and constraints of affordable housing.

Williams Terrace: Charleston, SC

Williams Terrace Senior Housing replaces affordable family housing destroyed in a 1989 hurricane with the first dedicated housing for low-income seniors in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The development is the result of a collaboration between two firms that worked closely with the local housing agency. Together, the firms and the housing agency developed a dynamic design that both meets the challenges of the site, which is located in a high-velocity flood zone, and respects the architecture of downtown Charleston.

The modern design references Charleston’s “Single Houses,” characterized by their piazzas, which function like porches. The development’s wide, open-air corridors surround an airy central courtyard and are lined with seating to encourage interaction, extending the living space and providing gathering and social areas for the senior residents. Williams Terrace also features sliding sun screens to allow residents to adjust the amount of shade desired. The building’s ground-level “screen porch” fronts the new public park and connects directly to it via a shaded public sidewalk. The development’s 41 one-bedroom apartments have bedrooms toward the rear for privacy and social living areas connected to the shared porches, extending the living space outward and allowing for through-ventilation in every unit.

Creating Community Connection
This award recognizes projects that incorporate housing within other community amenities for the purpose of either revitalization or planned growth.

Anchor Place: Long Beach, CA

The Anchor Place project added a new residential building with 120 affordable one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, renovated the existing social hall, implemented a site-wide landscaping plan, and made improvements to River Avenue at the Century Villages at Cabrillo (CVC). CVC is a former 27-acre U.S. Naval housing site located in Long Beach, CA, now functioning as a residential community with supportive housing and services intended to break the cycle of homelessness.

Previously, the CVC campus was characterized by a granular quality and lack of hierarchy, and services were embedded into residential buildings throughout the campus, making them difficult to find. Anchor Place reinforced a hierarchy of building and circulation, thereby increasing the legibility and interior connectivity of the campus. The bus stop was relocated from outside the campus to the interior, to connect residents to the city and the world beyond. The landscape design, including circulation and courtyards, reinforces the strategy of prominently locating support services and amenities by leading residents directly to them. The new residential building design provides a prominent edge to the southern boundary of the campus, extends the east-west pedestrian axis, and steps down in scale toward the existing village. The residential building design includes four wings, which create three courtyard gathering spaces. Each of three courtyards is programmed differently, accommodating children’s play, social activities, or tranquil contemplation.

Community-Informed Design
The Community-Informed Design award recognizes design that supports physical communities as they rebuild inner city social structures and relationships that may have been weakened by outmigration, disinvestment, and the isolation of inner city areas.

8869 Avis: Detroit, MI

8869 Avis is the first year-round home to Inside Southwest Detroit, a collection of initiatives that promote youth and community development in Detroit, Michigan. Inside Southwest Detroit collaborated with a diverse stakeholder group and team of architects to transform a 2,400 square-foot building into a community center and a leasable tenant area. 8869 Avis provides an anchor to The Alley Project, one of the flagship initiatives of Inside Southwest Detroit, which has transformed a neighborhood alley and surrounding vacant lots into an inspirational graffiti art gallery, connecting neighbors and youth to each other as well as to community assets.

The project began with a participatory process that engaged representative stakeholders in project planning and design decision making, resulting in a community space that responds to local culture, needs, and opportunities. This collaborative design process resulted in spaces and design elements that reflect the neighborhood’s identity and vibrancy. The north facade of the existing building was removed to create a larger community room, which opens onto a “front porch” area. The porch is enclosed by geometric-patterned ornamental ironwork screens, fabricated by local metalworkers, which reference fences and screens prevalent in the neighborhood. These screens contribute to both security and transparency, needs identified by the community. The mural that wraps throughout the building was designed by a late street artist and completed in tribute by an Inside Southwest Detroit program alumnus. Large windows pop from the west facade for a visual connection to the street and future adjacent park. On the interior, wood-finish panels in bold colors and subtle patterns reference the mural and metalwork, and large moveable doors allow flexibility of spaces as well as provide functional writeable surfaces for meeting notes and impromptu artwork.

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

IFF Access Housing: Chicago, IL

IFF Access Housing provides much needed community-based affordable rental housing for people with disabilities. Located on 25 scattered sites across a 2.5-mile footprint, the project helps stabilize Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Logan Square communities through the use and improvement of foreclosed and vacant properties. The project includes rehabilitation of twelve foreclosed buildings and new construction of thirteen two- and three-flat buildings on city-owned infill lots.

In Illinois, a disproportionate number of low-income disabled persons live in institutions because they lack community-based accessible housing alternatives. IFF Access Housing provides housing alternatives for individuals with disabilities to live independently. Recognizing that disabilities take many forms, each apartment features both universal and accessible design features. Ground-floor units are all fully accessible with zero-step thresholds and low peepholes; wheelchair-friendly kitchens with roll-under sinks and pull-downs in upper cabinets; front-loading washers and dryers in the units; and thoughtfully designed bathrooms with roll-in showers. Every unit in the project features design elements that serve all, including attractive contrast flooring borders for people with low vision; visual doorbells and strobe alarms for the deaf, and soothing color palettes for those with sensory issues. The team’s decision to rehabilitate existing buildings was driven by both zoning restrictions and a desire to preserve the existing urban neighborhood fabric. For the newly constructed homes, Access Housing capitalized on the existing neighborhood context, which contains a variety of shapes and sizes, roof forms, and materials. The window types, material choices, and rooflines directly relate to the surrounding buildings.