Replay: Homeless Housing (Part 1)

November 14, 2010 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

On Friday, I attended “Homeless Housing: LA and NY” at New York’s Center for Architecture. Co-organized by the Museum of Modern Art because of the current ‘Small Scale, Big Change’ exhibit, the panel presented “innovative and provocative homeless housing solutions from New York and Los Angeles.” Here are the major highlights from the first two presenters, Rosanne Haggerty and Jonathan Kirschenfeld, who represented NY:

In many ways, Rosanne Haggerty is a huge role model of mine. She is the founder and President of Common Ground, “a pioneer in the development of supportive housing and other research-based practices that end homelessness.” With a “network of well designed, affordable apartments linked to the services people need to maintain their housing, restore their health, and regain their economic independence,” Common Ground “has enabled more than 4,000 individuals to overcome homelessness.” One of the most amazing parts of their model is that they strive to house the neediest individuals, often those who have been homeless longer than the average rate for Americans (30 days), rather than using a different metric of worthiness.

Jonathan Kirschenfeld, principal of Jonathan Kirschenfeld Architects in New York City, is one of the contributors to Common Ground’s network of well-designed supportive housing. Kirschenfeld candidly admitted that the physical restrictions of “leftover” sites offered for affordable housing projects are difficult, as are the overall financial limitations and the design guidelines that come with the various funding sources. But he also enthusiastically offered that these boundaries can lead to great design and valuable discoveries. For example, it turns out that Kalwall (“the most highly insulating, diffuse light-transmitting, structural composite sandwich panel technology in the world”) is energy efficient, spatially efficient, a great daylighting tool, and remarkably beautiful.

rendering of interior courtyard of St. Marks project, currently under construction (rendering by Jonathan Kirschenfeld Architects)

image of two facing Kalwall facades, part of the under construction St. Marks project by Jonathan Kirschenfeld Architects

November 14’s daily design idea is a quote from Kirschenfeld in regards to homelessness: “these are problems that can be solved with good design.”


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Thinking as a special skill. Replay: Homeless Housing (Part 2)

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