The Reserves at Gray Park – In Greenville, like many towns in Mississippi, years of white flight increased the city footprint and lowered density. The Reserves at Gray Park was an opportunity to provide right-sized infill housing for Greenville’s missing middle, a shift from single-family housing to support non-traditional families, individuals living alone, and extended nuclear families. Duvall Decker’s challenge for the project was to repurpose an abandoned park in the middle of a neighborhood to provide much-needed housing density and diversity.
Architizer chatted with Shannon Gathings, AIA, NOMA and Project Manager at Duvall Decker Architects, to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Shannon Gathings: Given the historical and current socio-economical context, our proposal was to rethink the nature of public and private space in the missing middle and develop housing units that meet the needs of smaller diverse families at costs within their means. The other salient design issues are how to create prototype homes that increase density, form new planning options for large vacant parcels of land, and infill existing lots in the missing middle neighborhoods in ways that do not stigmatize those in need of affordable housing solutions …a radically different solution that also fits right in.
What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?
Design quality is not about appearance or performance alone. Design excellence is the comprehensive achievement of integrating all the aspects of making a habitable, durable, safe, and healthy place. Design excellence is not a “big idea” but the fabric of good decisions that connects to and elevates the lives of residents living in and around the project. In designing this affordable housing, it was essential that it was scaled to the market need of the community, and that the buildings, as they achieved greater density, carefully developed the thresholds for public, semi-public, and private spaces. The interior plans are flexible to accommodate many different household make-ups, and the buildings are durably built, utilizing simple passive design strategies combined with energy-efficient systems and an enhanced thermal insulated envelope.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
Designing durable contextual, affordable housing is a welcome challenge. Affordable housing is a description of economic need and should not characterize the form or quality of housing. Everyone deserves a dignified, safe, and healthy home and to live in diverse supportive communities. Interventions should not stigmatize or isolate residents from their local community. Our research into the living circumstances and needs of Greenville’s residents led us to understand the special role that planning and architectural design could play in enriching the lives of the residents while providing the appropriate sizes, types, and site planning configurations for safe, healthy homes.
What drove the selection of materials used in the project?
For substantial, long-lasting design with the resources available, material choices were required to be both economical and durable. The spatial and formal strategies of designing two and three housing units into one “house-like” form kept the stick framing and trusses simple and able to utilize all short and smaller-sized dimensional, renewable lumber. Materials were sourced locally to reduce the effect of embodied carbon. Interior finishes were selected to be healthy and with no off-gassing. The houses are designed for a long life of 75 years or longer, recognizing that some aspects of the home, like mechanical systems and appliances, will need upgrades during that time frame.
Owner: Greater Greenville Housing & Revitalization Association; Daniel Boggs, Owner; Nathan Benzing, Project Manager; Architectural Team: Roy T. Decker, FAIA; Anne Marie Duvall Decker, FAIA; Shannon Gathings, AIA; Brett Cupples, AIA; Jonathan LeJune, AIA; Jocelyn Poe, AICP
W.L. Burle Engineers; Engineering Resource Group; Jon Rice & Associates; David Smith Construction
For more on The Reserves at Gray Park, please visit the in-depth project page on Architizer.