Big Ideas for Small Lots competition, Harlem, 2019 [ + ]
Instead of constructing apartments and then finding people to fit them, to what degree could a building attract people first and then make them apartments? Our proposal for 113 West 136th Street engages this question through the design of “incre-rental” housing: composed of two units of equal size per floor, these units can be either separate or combined. With a minimum of means on a small lot, this flexibility creates a maximum variety of apartment types, ranging from studios to one- and two-bedrooms. The design assumes a lottery process where households applying for the building are able to choose the apartment type they need prior to the apartment being built. Due to the building’s simple shell, interiors can be easily constructed to meet specific demands.
Typologically, the design revisits the value of New York’s historic “dumbbell” tenement. As with this type, the incre-apartments benefit from sun and air from a lightwell. However, unlike its predecessor, there are never more than two units per floor. If these units are combined, the corridor along the lightwell is absorbed as part of a one- or two-bedroom configuration, with its five foot width useful for more than just passage. Also unlike the old dumbells, the six-story building has an elevator, making all floors accessible. With a maximum occupancy load of twenty people, the building is able to reduce its core size with only a single stair. Ultimately, the project acknowledges that New York City’s housing shortage is a shortage in large part for singles and small households. Addressing this demographic through a robust multiplicity that escapes the limitations of micro apartments is the design’s ambition.