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Christian Columbres
Argyle Gardens, the nation’s first affordable housing project to open during the pandemic, was designed by Holst Architecture to also be replicable.

When the pandemic and quarantine set in earlier this year, some of the hardest hit populations were low-income and homeless persons, especially seniors. That made the opening of Argyle Gardens in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood particularly well timed.

“As far as I know we were the first affordable housing project to open during Covid,” says Tony Bernal, a senior director at Transition Projects, a local organization that commissioned the project. “We were desperately hoping we would not get shut down as we neared completion.”

Opened in April of this year, the colorful Argyle Gardens project was designed by Portland firm Holst Architecture to help fill the gap between homeless shelters and traditional apartments. After receiving a grant from the nonprofit Meyer Memorial Trust, the architects and client sought to develop a flexible design that reimagines traditional single-room-occupancy affordable housing, which has slowly disappeared across America.

“Typically SROs are large, hotel-like structures that could have 200 or more units,” Bernal adds. We wanted to see if we could do something a little more community oriented.”

The four-building complex is anchored by a 35-unit studio apartment building, with a large community room with laundry facilities and support staff offices serves as a central hub. But it’s a trio of adjacent smaller buildings devoted to cohousing that represent the first in a prototype dubbed Low Income Single Adult Housing, or LISAH, that the team hopes others can build elsewhere. Each features two six-bedroom units with two shared bathrooms and a large kitchen.

“You can build it with residential code and put it on virtually any residential lot in the city, or for that matter the state,” explains Holst partner Dave Otte of the design. “Everybody has a bedroom with a locking door, but they’re sharing a kitchen and they’re sharing their lives with one another.”

Situated on a sloping, formerly industrial city-owned site, Argyle Gardens, due to its use of prefabricated parts, saved an estimated 31 percent on construction costs compared to a typical affordable housing project. The project consists of four buildings each accommodating 24 residents, with a large central courtyard.

The prefab approach, in collaboration with Portland modular builder Mods, is all about keeping costs down, while the buildings’ scale makes them more neighborhood friendly. “We wanted to see if we could figure out a rent that if you only had social security and no federal housing voucher, you could actually make,” Bernal explains. Some units go for as little as $300 per month.

Viewed from outside, the buildings are distinctive for their multi-hued, translucent facades that reveal the staircases inside. “We came up with the idea to use the stairway as the celebration moment,” recalls Otte. The stairways are protected from the elements but not insulated and are clad with a polycarbonate material commonly used in greenhouses. “It becomes this lantern element,” the architect adds, “this beacon that gives the building a sense of personality and an iconic nature.”

Part of what makes Argyle Gardens attractive is the 70,000-square-foot site’s generous outdoor space for both socializing and activities. By request, land has been reserved for a future community garden and dog run. Yet most important may be the central courtyard, which acts as a gathering space for the three buildings.

“This project was so centered around the idea of community and bringing people together,” says Bernal. “The traditional SRO models work well in a lot of ways,” he adds. “But there are also some advantages to doing it slightly differently.”
HKS Urban Food Studio
“How’d you get THAT job?” is a question I hear a lot. In many ways, HKS is a traditional large firm – we are 1,400 people strong with 23 offices around the world and projects that span every geography and market sector imaginable. However, what sets HKS apart from many large firms is our approach to public interest design (PID), defined as design grounded in the belief that every person deserves to live in a socially, economically and environmentally healthy community.

Five years ago, I founded Citizen HKS, based on the 1% Solution (now The 1+ Program), in which we committed to donating one percent of our billable hours to pro bono projects. Though we had signed on to the program years prior, we were not doing an especially good job of managing that time, being thoughtful about how we selected and approached projects, and we were not celebrating the stories of how design work positively impacted the lives of people. In the five years since, we have completed a maternity ward in rural Uganda, an urban food studio in Washington DC, and a sensory wellbeing hub for students on the autism spectrum in Chicago, just to name a few. In addition, we have a robust pipeline of projects currently in design that span the globe from Afghanistan to Detroit to our backyard in Dallas. Internally, Citizen HKS has morphed from “just another initiative” to a foundational pillar of who we are and a source of pride among our leadership and staff.

However, this didn’t just magically happen overnight. There have certainly been – and continue to be – missteps and lessons learned along the way. Early on, we struggled to find projects of the scale and impact we were looking for. At the same time, it was difficult to turn down projects that, while worthwhile on some level, were not a great fit. Staffing selected projects proved challenging in unexpected ways. It was difficult to compete for resources against projects that had “real” clients and were bringing money into the firm. At the same time, it was also hard to engage everyone who expressed a passion for PID when the percentage of actual design work was very small.

Though still a work in progress, Citizen HKS has more than lived up to the expectations set for it. Working with a small steering committee of other passionate PID advocates across the firm, I understood early on that we needed to create a program with demonstrable value if we expected it to be sustainable long term. Even the most altruistic, well-intentioned company will not continue to provide a service if they see no benefit in return. In our case, the benefit was unlikely to be monetary, so we set our sights on other ways we could create value. Externally, we looked for projects that would enable our non-profit partners and us to tell compelling stories about how architecture positively affected the trajectory of a community. I’m proud to say that Citizen HKS projects tend to outperform others in terms of media placements and website hits, coming in second only to our NFL stadiums. Internally, we’ve seen employees cite Citizen HKS as one of the “pros” of HKS on Glassdoor, and our hiring manager says that Citizen HKS is the number one thing he gets asked about when recent graduates interview. So, while it is true that Citizen HKS doesn’t generate revenue, the often elusive intangibles – brand enhancement, public relations, employee engagement, and recruitment potential – have assuredly affected our bottom line.

I think it’s important to both acknowledge the challenges as well as embrace the opportunities that traditional for-profit firms can provide in the realm of public interest design. Though I admire them greatly, I realize that we will never be a MASS Design. That doesn’t mean that HKS – and every other firm like it – can’t do well by doing good. This is becoming increasingly important as our profession addresses the social and environmental impacts of our work. As we grapple with the most pressing issues of the 21st century, it is clear that a business-as-usual approach will eventually render us obsolete. We can no longer serve the top 10% of the global population that can afford access to our services and continue to stay relevant. And therein lies the opportunity. We must demonstrate how design thinking can contribute to solving some of the world’s most systemic challenges, such as access to healthcare, equity in education, and affordab
Stephan Savoia/AP
Internal communications shed new light on the Rockefeller Foundation’s decision to stop funding the global climate nonprofit, and hint at what might come next.

In late April, at a town-hall meeting in New York City, Raj Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, addressed the staff of 100 Resilient Cities. The nonprofit, launched by the philanthropy in 2013, has helped cities around the world plan for natural disasters and social shocks, especially the ravages of climate change.

Earlier that month, the foundation had abruptly announced plans to shutter the program. Now Shah was explaining why.

“This is not about whether 100 Resilient Cities works,” Shah said. “It’s a shift in the foundation’s focus to delivering measurable results for vulnerable people ... with a budget framework that works.”

While the nonprofit was best known for climate adaptation plans, its work encompassed much more. For example, in Boston, leaders defined resilience as breaking down structural racism. In Panama City, it was about improving mobility. A city became “resilient” by identifying virtually any social and infrastructural fault line that a shock might expose. Change was measured on a long-term basis. In contrast to other nonprofits that give grants for specific projects, the 100RC model was unusually flexible.

But in April, the Rockefeller Foundation suddenly announced that it would discontinue its funding for 100RC, which had amounted to $164 million to date. Leaders said that they planned to “transition” the nonprofit’s work by setting up a new office at the foundation focused on economic resilience, and by funding the resilience efforts of the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Little explanation was given publicly, but foundation leaders later offered staff a two-part rationale: As it existed, 100RC had grown too costly, and its model no longer aligned with Rockefeller’s goals.

That shift was partly due to new leadership. Shah started as president of Rockefeller in 2017, after serving as the chief administrator of the federal U.S. Agency for International Development. It was his predecessor at Rockefeller, Judith Rodin, who helped design the resiliency program and spun it off as a grantee of the foundation. At the meeting in April, Shah told 100RC staff that he had promised the foundation’s board that he would focus on quantifying the impact of Rockefeller’s investments at the level of individual lives.

For example, he said, one of the foundation’s new goals was to save 6 million lives by improving maternal and children’s health through the use of predictive analytics, especially in developing counties. Another target was to bring renewable power and solutions to 200 million people who live in “energy poverty.”

“That was a big pivot for the Rockefeller Foundation, which had been focused on new ways of thinking about finance and resilience and inclusive economies in a more conceptual way,” Shah said. “That is great, but this is a different direction.”

Indeed, 100RC’s open-ended model was at times a weakness, said Carlos Martín, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, who authored a series of evaluations of the program. “The value and benefit is that it’s up to the city to decide what the most critical shocks are,” he said in an interview with CityLab in April. “The negative is that you have a gazillion things going on.”

And while academic research supports the theory of building urban resilience through institutional change, it was challenging to measure short-term results directed by the program, Martín found. Emails sent among 100RC staff in February that were viewed by CityLab pointed to the pressure that the nonprofit was under from the Rockefeller Foundation to identify “marketable evidence” of their impact.

But 100RC achieved many points of positive impact, according to Martín’s report, and it defined the “urban resilience” movement to date. Many member cities continued to employ a chief resilience officer after their original grant to do so ran out. Leaders described a shift in their way of thinking after engaging with 100 Resilient Cities; they were better able to connect ongoing social challenges to pressing infrastructure needs, the evaluation found. Nearly 80 “resilience strategies” that outline ideas for public-works projects and economic-development strategies reflect this, and more are still being released.

Resilience office
Seattle Times
The Bullitt Foundation, an agenda-setting funder of the Northwest environmental movement, plans to wind down a quarter-century of grant-giving that has pumped more than $200 million into efforts ranging from restoration projects on the Green River to climate activism, as it pushed the region toward a greener future.

The foundation, which traces its roots to a storied Seattle family, will give away most of what’s left of its endowment during the next five years.

“The board decided, right from the start, that we did not want to be here in perpetuity,” said Denis Hayes, the Bullitt Foundation’s executive director, who also said the foundation was nearing the point when “we must pass the torch to the next generation of environmental philanthropists.”

Once the grant-giving ends in 2024, the foundation plans to continue to award its annual prize for environmental leadership, and also lease office space at its Seattle headquarters – the six-story Bullitt Center – that has gained international recognition for its ecological design.

Bullitt, which had less than $82 million in net assets in 2017, is a relatively small foundation yet has has played an outsized role in shaping the regional environmental agenda.

Much of that is due to Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day and led a solar-research institute in President Jimmy Carter’s administration. At the Bullitt Foundation, he has helped bring Northwest environmental leaders together to discuss where the movement should go, how to get there and how to diversify its ranks to include more communities of color.

“They’ve really challenged organizations to think about racial equity and racial justice,” said Joan Crooks, CEO of the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.

The foundation’s grants typically range from $40,000 to $120,000, often seed money for groups that, once they passed muster with the Bullitt Foundation, had an easier time persuading other donors to chip in.

“It’s like Warren Buffett buying stock; if they support an effort, it tends to move other money,” said Alan Durning, the founder of Sightline Institute, which received a start-up grant of $20,000 from the foundation in 1993 when he was working out of his Seattle bedroom. Today, Sightline, an environmental policy group, continues to receive Bullitt Foundation support, but that money is a now a small part of a $2.2 million budget for an organization that has grown to employ 20 people in three cities.

Early focus was conservation
Through the years, the Bullitt Foundation has spread dollars across a broad swath of the region ranging from Alaska to Oregon and east to Idaho and Montana. Since 2016, the foundation has focused more narrowly on what Hayes calls the “emerald corridor” that stretches from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland. It is a region that he hopes could become a global model for equitable, sustainable urban development – a vision that still seems far away as the Northwest grapples with an epidemic of homelessness.

Some Bullitt Foundation money has gone to groups testing new ideas in housing, energy and agriculture. In the early years there was more of a focus on conserving lands, including grants to groups campaigning for preservation of what became the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

Many of the grants have helped to fuel efforts by groups that organize protests, file lawsuits or lobby for legislation.

“I would say 90%-plus of our grants have been designed to influence policy,” Hayes said. “As a nonprofit, we cannot make a grant to hire a lobbyist or influence legislation … but all the policy development is fair game to us.”

Building Enclosure
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), creators of the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) green building program, announced a new $500,000 grant from Bank of America. The funding supports the LEED certification of 15 U.S. cities and communities. The grant provides financial assistance, educational resources and technical support throughout the certification process. USGBC and Bank of America launched the LEED for Cities and Communities grant program with six U.S. cities in 2018.

“To realize a sustainable future for all, today’s cities and communities must strive to be green, resilient, inclusive and smart,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC. “The LEED for Cities and Communities certification programs give leaders a framework for planning, designing, measuring and managing the social, economic and environmental performance of the places where they live, work, learn and play. With support from Bank of America, we will empower these grant recipients to deliver a higher living standard for their residents.”

LEED is the world’s most widely used green building rating system, and earlier this year, USGBC released the newest version of the program, LEED v4.1. The U.S. cities and communities that will benefit from the 2019 grants are the first to pursue LEED v4.1 certification and include:
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Baltimore, Md.
  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Bloomington, Ind.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Greensboro, N.C.
  • Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Miami, Fla.
  • Orange County, N.Y.
  • Orlando, Fla.
  • Pueblo County, Colo.
  • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
  • Royal Oak, Mich.
  • Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Shaker Heights, Ohio
LEED helps local governments develop and track plans for a wide variety of factors, including green infrastructure, public health, energy, social equity, transportation and more. More than 90 cities and communities globally have already been certified through the LEED for Cities and Communities programs.

Bank of America is a longtime member of USGBC and has pursued LEED certification for its own operations. Presently, the company has 19 million square feet of LEED-certified workspace, including more than 200 LEED-certified financial centers.

“USGBC is a leader in creating more environmentally sustainable buildings, cities and communities,” said Alex Liftman, Global Environmental executive at Bank of America. “Our deployment of capital is helping to create thriving communities for the future that are resilient and more sustainable places to work and live.”

The bank previously supported USGBC’s Affordable Green Neighborhoods Program, which provided assistance to eligible nonprofit and public-sector developers of affordable housing to ensure that every new unit of affordable housing meets the highest standards of sustainability and offers residents the healthiest communities possible. In total, Bank of America has provided $2.5 million in grants to USGBC since 2011.

The work with USGBC is part of Bank of America’s broader commitment to environmental sustainability. The company has committed to carbon neutrality and purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. In addition, it has committed to reduce location-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent, energy use by 40 percent, and water use by 45 percent by 2020. Bank of America has also deployed more than $126 billion over the past 12 years in support of environmental business efforts, and it recently announced it will mobilize an additional $300 billion in capital starting next year to support more sustainable business activities. This is its third environmental business commitment as part of its broader Environmental Business Initiative. The bank will meet its current commitment of $125 billion by the end of 2019, six years ahead of schedule.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
The vacation rental industry is mired in claims that it harms neighborhoods and housing markets. Can a nonprofit co-op make the tourist trend a community asset?

In recent years, Airbnb and its competitors have been accused of making housing unaffordable, of draining homes from the long-term rental market, and of eviscerating the character of popular neighborhoods through displacement and overexploitation. In an era punctuated by the effects of a housing shortage, it can seem that vacation rentals stand at odds with the solutions cities and residents are searching for.

But does the business of short-stay rentals have to be so ethically fraught? An ambitious project based in Amsterdam says no.

It’s called Fairbnb, and it’s trying to refashion the home-sharing model so that short-stay apartment rentals can enrich the amenities and housing choices of the communities that host them.

“For a long time, the social impact of traveling was rarely taken into consideration—because at first with vacation apartments, people didn’t feel it,” Sito Veracruz, a co-founder of Fairbnb, tells CityLab. “We are now reckoning with the damaging impact of tourism on communities, not just because of the industry’s growth, but because of its huge expansion into residential areas.”

The project, if successful, could provide a sustainable alternative in a sector where, as Fairbnb’s own promotional material notes, “the promise of ‘home-sharing’ has turned into ‘home-stripping.’”

Fairbnb has been building this alternative for three years now. It already has co-op members in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Lithuania, and has spent time consulting with communities in cities across Europe, including Venice, Bologna, and Barcelona.

While it is only just preparing to accept registrations from hosts, its community-building exercises have attracted more than 700 people who are ready to list their homes. As its launch date nears, Fairbnb is now going through a crowdfunding push, mainly to fast-track technology development, such as a mobile counterpart to its upcoming online site.

It comes at a moment when people are hungry for an alternative.

Fairbnb’s model diverges from the standard model in several key ways. Like other home-share sites, it plans to levy a commission on bookings (in Fairbnb’s case, of 15 percent, which is broadly similar to Airbnb). Half of this money would be fed back into the local community where a unit is rented out.

That money would be used to fund projects chosen in consultation with the community itself. These might include non-commercial meeting spaces, community centers, or (if the network can generate enough money) social housing. Fairbnb guests would be able to choose the community project that would benefit from their stay. All of those projects will have applied to, and been vetted by, Fairbnb. Guests may even be able to visit their choice of project during their stay.

Neighborhoods that host listings could thus see home-sharing feed investment directly back into their communities, instead of seeing the profits siphoned off by absentee landlords and a distant corporation.

Fairbnb sees a great appetite for this kind of alternative.

“Three years ago when we started, the need for our concept was something we had to explain a lot,” Veracruz said. “With every passing day, as public opinion changes, we have to explain the “why” of our project less and less.”
Make the Road NY; TEN Arquitectos
The new home for Make the Road New York, a leading immigrant rights group, aspires to be a transparent gathering place in an age of walls.

While sitting in the crowded waiting area of Make the Road New York’s storefront offices in Queens, formerly a Blockbuster video outlet, I think about my grandmother. She left Poland at 18 and, working as a seamstress along the way, immigrated to America in the late 19th century. She eventually opened a Kosher restaurant in Hoboken, N.J., where my mother grew up, safely, happily, and far from the nightmare that overtook the family that remained in Poland. It doesn’t take much empathy or imagination to make the connection between my family’s story—more or less the story of most American families—and those of the people around me on a March afternoon, mainly Spanish-speaking women, waiting for healthcare counseling or an appointment with a lawyer. Until recently, the scene at Make the Road New York (MRNY) would have been just another heartwarming portrait of the American fabric, part of the melting pot or the gorgeous mosaic. We used to be proud of our immigrant heritage, of our openness to those seeking a better place to live.

With over 23,000 dues-paying members, MRNY is one of New York City’s most formidable immigrant rights organizations. Founded in 2007 as a merger of two smaller groups, it has taken on a wide range of issues that affect immigrant communities: workers’ rights, access to healthcare, and all the problems associated with the current administration’s punitive approach to immigration law. MRNY, which derives its name from a poem by the Spanish writer Antonio Machado (“Searcher, there is no road. We make the road by walking.”), used to be famous, locally at least, for its work on behalf of the carwasheros, the men who dry and buff newly washed cars, mostly for tips (which were often pilfered by the management). Since the dawn of the Trump administration, MRNY has increasingly been on the front lines of a cultural and political war, protesting almost daily. The waiting area where I sat was decorated with artifacts of those demos, cardboard signs shaped like butterflies, with slogans like “Resist,” “Rise Up,” and “Here to Stay.”

Home > Design > TEN Arquitectos Designs a Beacon for the Resistance
DESIGN
Posted on: May 07, 2019 2





LETTER FROM NEW YORK
TEN Arquitectos Designs a Beacon for the Resistance
The new home for Make the Road New York, a leading immigrant rights group, aspires to be a transparent gathering place in an age of walls.
By KARRIE JACOBS

Courtesy Make the Road NY; TEN Arquitectos
While sitting in the crowded waiting area of Make the Road New York’s storefront offices in Queens, formerly a Blockbuster video outlet, I think about my grandmother. She left Poland at 18 and, working as a seamstress along the way, immigrated to America in the late 19th century. She eventually opened a Kosher restaurant in Hoboken, N.J., where my mother grew up, safely, happily, and far from the nightmare that overtook the family that remained in Poland. It doesn’t take much empathy or imagination to make the connection between my family’s story—more or less the story of most American families—and those of the people around me on a March afternoon, mainly Spanish-speaking women, waiting for healthcare counseling or an appointment with a lawyer. Until recently, the scene at Make the Road New York (MRNY) would have been just another heartwarming portrait of the American fabric, part of the melting pot or the gorgeous mosaic. We used to be proud of our immigrant heritage, of our openness to those seeking a better place to live.

With over 23,000 dues-paying members, MRNY is one of New York City’s most formidable immigrant rights organizations. Founded in 2007 as a merger of two smaller groups, it has taken on a wide range of issues that affect immigrant communities: workers’ rights, access to healthcare, and all the problems associated with the current administration’s punitive approach to immigration law. MRNY, which derives its name from a poem by the Spanish writer Antonio Machado (“Searcher, there is no road. We make the road by walking.”), used to be famous, locally at least, for its work on behalf of the carwasheros, the men who dry and buff newly washed cars, mostly for tips (which were often pilfered by the management). Since the dawn of the Trump administration, MRNY has increasingly been on the front lines of a cultural and political war, protesting almost daily. The
Civic Projects
As the year wind downs, the founder and principal of Civic Projects, in Chicago, asks architects and designers to reflect on their role in the big picture.

As architects, we often consider ourselves experts ready to answer questions as soon as they arise, regardless of how new we are to the project. But before we present the solution, we need to understand the issues and opportunities at hand. And to do that, we must ask the right questions.

In undergraduate school, I often felt lost in the fairly rigid Western educational system. When I needed to put pen to paper in studio, I didn’t understand how I could conceive an entire building in isolation. In reviews, I couldn’t fully wax poetic about my design concepts without understanding the people who would theoretically inhabit my project. I became more interested in how projects can arise from the input of diverse stakeholders. (Later, I would learn these ideas are rooted in participatory design.)

This desire to understand led me to spend a semester at Balkrishna Doshi’s Vāstu-Shilpā Foundation, in Ahmedabad, India. There, I worked on a social housing concept that employed incremental development to match the needs of occupants; for example, a room used for commerce could convert into housing for an elderly family member. I realized that architects can serve clients better if their understanding of a project comes from research and firsthand experience, and if they understand both the conditions and social structures already in place.

So how do you pursue an unconventional design path at a time when architecture with a capital “A” is the foundation of our education?

We have many examples to draw from. Early pioneers, like Henry Sanoff, AIA, were defining alternative practice in the late ’60s. The ’90s saw a resurgence with Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio and Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, and Eva Maddox, Assoc. AIA’s Archeworks, where I studied and later taught for several years. The Design Futures Council and the annual Structures for Inclusion conference are also valuable resources.

Over and over, opportunities arise to interact, understand, and create solutions together. Our challenge—our duty—is to take them on with open minds. The answer doesn’t always have to be making architecture, but it should involve learning and creating from what is experienced. My colleague and friend Liz Ogbu describes this in the Nov. 7, 2018, article “Providing Space for Pain and Healing.”

This approach can lead us to become problem seekers and to opportunities to create, develop, and collaborate on what