Brooklyn, New York’s Gowanus district is, like so many neighbourhoods in the borough, facing rapid changes. The area’s namesake, the Gowanus Canal, a polluted waterway from the 19th century, has been earmarked for a publicly funded cleanup initiative that will inevitably lead to gentrification and rising land-use costs. To give residents a voice during these uncertain times, Gowanus by Design, a local non-profit co-founded by architect David Briggs, created the Gowanus Atlas website. The digital atlas includes a detailed map of the region, with stories and anecdotes about its history. It also has a data repository that will soon store up-to-date information on air quality, environmental changes and access to affordable food and housing. Finally, it is a public forum: Residents can submit videos expressing their aspirations for the neighbourhood – or their anxieties about what the future holds. You can think of the site as a museum, a data portal and a town hall, all in one virtual location.
Project Gowanus Atlas Firm Loci Architecture, U.S. Team David Briggs with Elise McCurley and Benjamin Wellington
Ventanilla, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Lima, is known for leaky, uninsulated houses made of plastic, plywood and scraps of lumber. Architect Enrique Llatas set out to show that it’s possible for people there to live better. For less than $10,000, he built Leandra Ortega’s Human Settlement Social Housing, a 42-square-metre abode for a family of three. The materials (cinderblock, drywall) are hardly luxurious, but they’re durable. And when arranged elegantly and minimally, they look good, too. Plus, the design compensates with thoughtfulness what it lacks in opulence. Sliding doors bring in fresh air and light, while clerestory window bands enable passive ventilation. Llatas also made and disseminated a video calling on Peruvians to give furniture and kitchen utilities – and soon the donations poured in. In short, the architect did more than just design a house. What he created is better described as a home.
Project Leandra Ortega’s Human Settlement Social Housing Location Lima, Peru Firm Llatas, Peru Team Enrique Llatas and Hugo Herrera with Pedro Zamalloa, Carla Lozano, Diana Velásquez, Eder Huamanrimachi and Aureliano Milot Photo Pedro Zamalloa
The Highlander Accelerator, a community centre in a former public-housing project in Omaha, includes a coffee roastery, a business incubator, an aquaponics greenhouse and a soul food restaurant. When making programming choices for the Accelerator, the board of Seventy Five North, a local non-profit, asked one main question: What do people in the neighbourhood want? If an amenity is valuable to the community, they reasoned, surely it belongs at the site. To design the project, the non-profit commissioned the Kansas City firm El Dorado, which created a suite of three buildings surrounded by sedum beds and apple trees. The structures are thoughtful, with generous glazing, pops of colour and perforated metal siding to reduce solar gain. In a poetic touch, the architects decided not to give the main building a front door. People from all walks of life – and all parts of town – can enter the site any way they like.
Project Highlander Accelerator Location Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. Firm El Dorado, U.S. Team Josh Shelton with Sean Slattery, Mark Horne and Grace Broeder Photo Mike Sinclair