The Mexico-based practice SAC Studio de Arquitectura y Ciudad won first place in the Denver Architectural League's ideas competition for riverfront micro-housing. SAC team members: Wyatt O'Day, Rodolfo Unda, João Barbosa, Jovana Grujevska, and Armando Birlain López.
On Friday the Denver Architectural League announced the winners of its micro-housing ideas competition. The contest solicited designs for an eight-unit building with micro-apartments that range from 250 to 375 square feet, sited on a narrow swath of riverbank in a sparse industrial neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown. The league invited architects to imagine a structure so virtuous—net-zero, built on a leftover slope of undesirable land, virtually no parking, etc.—that its inhabitants might just be theoretical figments themselves. (Who wants to live in 250 square feet and be forced to take the bus to town?)
All in all, the competition drew 70 proposals, 25 of which came from abroad. And what do you know, the winners all hail from outside the United States, which makes sense given this country's general discomfort with small (New York, San Francisco, and this place excepted). Read more!
A rendering of SAC's winning design as imagined in autumn.
At an award reception hosted by Humphries Poli Architects on Friday, the league announced that the Mexico-based practice SAC Studio de Arquitectura y Ciudad won the top prize, $3,000. SAC proposed a grid of modular units that can flexibly size up for small families or size down for singles.
As in dorms and prisons, workable common areas are paramount in micro-unit buildings, so this one includes shared spaces for communal grilling and a children's play area. But perhaps the design's most distinguishing feature is the lawn growing up the front of the building—which raises the possibility of standing sunbathing, the natural hobby of anyone with a standing desk.
A rendering of the winning design, showing the living facade's changes over three seasons.
The facade features scaffolding that will support squares of prairie grass, allowing the building to change with the seasons. The grass blooms into a carpet of green for summer, dies off in the fall, and leaves the facade bare in winter (at which point the tenants install Christmas lights?). The building's plantlike molting appealed to the jury, who named the commendable but regrettably phrased notion of "ecological thriveability" among their criteria.
Tadeja Vidoni of Alicante, Spain, took second prize with a terraced building that alternates unit placement by floor: the roof of one unit doubles as a patio for the one above.
Since the contest is only an ideas competition, none of the proposals is likely to be built (the site itself may not be available, anyway). But now that the micro-obsession of coastal cities has spread inland, we foresee a flood of dollhouse designs.
Cairo-based designer Ahmed Hamdi received an honorable mention for this design, which features suspended terraces and shared green space, plus the option to configure the units as one- or two-story homes depending on tenant preference.
Another honorable mention, awarded to A43 Aquitectura, features units with configurable walls and a shared roof deck. Is that a Smart Car parked on a balcony?