Addressing Affordable Housing in Bentonville

The North West Arkansas Housing Competitions

 


Site 2 Winner: ©Kevin Daly Architects

 

Focusing on the lack of affordable housing in the region for residents and newcomers at all levels of income, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas launched the Housing Northwest Arkansas initiative. Intended to be much more than a theoretical exercise, it began with an advanced design studio and a regional symposium and culminated with a design competition for five sites in neighboring Bentonville. The entire program was supported by a $250,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, whereby $100,000 of the grant was earmarked for prizes and compensation for the 25 firms that participated in the competition.

 

The competition was invited, with invitations sent out to 100 firms that had shown some level of proficiency in the housing sector. Of the 25 selected to compete, five each were assigned to the different sites, with a winner at each of the sites receiving a $10,000 award. According to the organizers, the selection for each site was based on the following system: “Competitors were divided into 5 groups so that each group included a similar geographic representation. For example, we had 5 international firms, so each was assigned to a separate group. Each of the 5 groups had a similar representation of competitors from the east coast, west coast, and interior states, and one international competitor. Then each group was randomly assigned to a site.”

 

With the exception of one site, all of the sites were contiguous when expansion was included. The linear Third Street site was bisected by a through street, indicating an entirely different approach to the design challenge from the other four sites.

 

Since the zoning codes for all downtown Bentonville were pretty restrictive, the guidelines, including height, ware relaxed considerably. As always in such competitions, cost was to be a factor, and off-site production of pre-cast panels, etc. was always a safe bet. Creativity was expected, and monotony frowned upon.

 

The challenge of organizing a competition of this magnitude, which included 25 teams for five different sites, fell to the Chicago-based consulting firm of Jones/Kroloff. With wide-ranging experience in the administration of competitions on municipal, private and the government levels, the firm was a logical choice to carry out the operation of this unusual task.

 

The competition jury included several household names:
• Anne Fougeron FAIA, San Francisco, (Jury Chair)
• Jeanne Gang FAIA, Studio Gang, Chicago

• Marlon Blackwell FAIA, Fayetteville
• Brenda Anderson, Northwest Arkansas Downtown Revitalization Fund
• The Honorable Shaun Donovan, Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

 

The design competition winners were:
• Digsau, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• Kevin Daly Architects, Los Angeles
• 5468796 Architecture, Winnipeg, Canada
• Merge Architects Inc., Boston.

 

Works Progress Architecture of Portland, Oregon, received an overall commendation from the jury. PAU Studio of New York City received a jury commendation for their urban design approach to their particular site, while Bucholz McEvoy Architects of Dublin, Ireland, received a jury commendation for architecture and originality, in particular for their unit planning.

 

Site 1 Winner
Digsau, Philadelphia


Images ©Digsau

 

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Recent Archive Updates

Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.

 

 

Interview: Hodgetts & Fung (Summer 2006)

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Hollywood Bowl Renovation - Completed 2003 (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 

COMPETITIONS: Pursuing architecture as a profession apparently was not a foregone conclusion for either one of you when you began your college educations. It was somewhat of a winding road for both of you. Although industrial design and fine arts are not that far removed from the workings and aesthetics of architecture, it evidently took some time before you both decided to pursue it as a profession.

 

Ming Fung: I was always interested in the arts and in theater. Also, my background in anthropology led me to have a strong interest in how people live in a space. That interest in theater has always been in the background, in the work Craig and I do.

Craig Hodgetts: When we started our practice together, what really bonded us was this idea of human narratives, theater, and architecture as a setting for that. Ming was coming out of a background of film and theater, and I sort of came to it in a similar path, because I actually studied theater and did a lot of play writing. I got into architecture, because I wasn’t making any money as a playwright or as a scenic designer. A friend of mine had a drafting job where he was making ten dollars an hour. I thought I better learn how to draft. Then Charles Moore seduced me in terms of his humanistic view of what architecture was all about. I had no clue. There was a kind of resonance with Moore’s approach to architecture and the more theatrical approach. I think that’s a common D&A that Ming and I have: it’s not about the building, it’s about what happens in the building. You make the building frame these various scenarios, exchanges, and interludes.

There is another layer that went on top of that when we started working together, because we did do a lot of TV commercials and things like that. That brought us into contact in a serendipitous way with this incredible array of fabricators and technicians that exist in LA, and not anywhere else. That became a great resource, which came out of the theater and film background. This gave a certain flavor to the ideas that we have about how to fabricate a building.

 

COMPETITIONS: It has occurred to me that students studying architecture should be required to take a course in set design.

 

CH: We both press for that in our individual schools.

 

MF: Set design and theater lighting. Architects often don’t know how to light a building, and theater really sets the mood. There is a lot to learn from that.

CH: It can get over amplified to the point where your design becomes so particular in trying to control what people feel—which is inappropriate in an architectural framework.

 

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Los Angeles Public Library, Hyde Park - Miriam Matthews Branch (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 


COMPETITIONS: Craig, you were working in Stirling’s office before he became a star. What led you to that office, what was it like in those days, and what did you take from that experience?

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