Oak Creek Village is a dense, sustainable, urban, and permanently affordable housing development that seeks to set new standards for affordable housing in Texas. In recent years, Austin has consistently placed among the fastest-growing metro areas in the nation, and with the population influx have come lengthy commutes and unprecedented rates of property value appreciation and neighborhood gentrification. Located in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood of South Austin, Oak Creek Village provides sorely needed affordable accommodation only two miles from Austin's downtown core.
Shared communal space permeates and defines the project. The design clusters economical, repetitive housing blocks around a succession of landscaped public zones that establish an animated central axis through the property. Beginning with an entrance park and pavilion available for use by tenants and neighbors alike, visitors enter the property via a grand covered breezeway leading into the central courtyard. The landscaping throughout these public spaces is designed to be educational for the children. Native plant species with distinctive seasonal variations and that attract diverse wildlife and insects are utilized in hopes to keep children sensorially engaged and curious.
The building massing is rhythmically punctured by light wells and 'color canyons', which further serve to activate and enliven shared space. The exterior corridor system connecting these elements is envisioned as a color wheel, creating a gradient of ambient color environments inspired by the vibrant striations of color seen in traditional Mexican textiles and folk art. This 'color wheel' additionally doubles as a way-finding technique for residents.
The top floor boasts excellent views of the downtown skyline, but rather than privatizing this feature for a few, the best views were preserved for community roof deck gathering spaces, shared by all.
Of particular note in the project, the anterior entrance park constitutes an ambitious design that has been undertaken as design-build by the Architect. As the interface between the surrounding neighborhood and the affordable housing development, the anterior park creates an inviting public space where the community can intermingle and mix. A series of landscaped pods of varying sizes accommodating varying programs mediate the steep topography of this portion of the site, rendering the landscape inhabitable through intimate, terraced spaces bleeding into one another, not unlike the travertine geological formations found in Pamukkale, Turkey.
Hovering above the park and providing an additional layer of shade against the Texas sun is a thin, open-air canopy made of corten steel. The canopy deploys steel plate like fabric, utilizing the natural process of gravity to drape the canopy into complex undulating curves in profile, an inventive strategy and erection process engineered with the help of Arup. In section, this part of the project reads akin to the sectional layering of rain forest ecologies, with symbiotically layered zones of vegetation and architecture that provide mingling levels of inhabitance for humans, wildlife, and native plant species alike.