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: Axel Schultes (Spring 1997)

 

with Stanley Collyer

 


Bundeskanzleramt Berlin Competition (1996); Completion (2000) Photo: courtesy Schultes Frank Architekten

 

COMPETITIONS: In our last conversation, we talked about the whole issue of Berlin's identity and what approach one should use in reconstructing the urban fabric between East and West—where the wall used to be.

 

Axel Schultes: Maybe I learned something during a recent lecture I gave in Palermo (Italy). Afterwards, some German specialists in philosophy and German thinking—brilliant people, I must say—came up to me and said, 'What you said about Berlin and what you are doing there with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleiamt), for us is what Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin talked about, especially when they looked at Italy and the cities in Italy. We noticed immediately in your work that (same) issue of porosity.' Both used this term: Benjamin wrote a small article on Naples, and Bloch wrote about Italy as a whole.

 

We always had a tendency to avoid the term, 'transparency.' Transparency is usually the use of glass to make buildings less alienating to someone outside. But for us, glass is no material to create spaces; so transparency as we see it is depths of spaces or layering. Porosity is something much more precise—what we strive for. We wanted the same effect in Friedrichstrasse (Interior Mall): it should not be this close-up thing of the Galeries Lafayette (Jean Nouvel) or Ungers, where you only have some holes in it. Porosity for us is like a sponge—to enable a building to fill up with life, to turn a private space into a public one by penetrating it with a public space. The old buildings in Berlin are examples of this, with two, three, sometimes even four interior public spaces.

 


Berlin Baumschulenweg Crematory (1993)

 

 

COMPETITIONS: You are referring to the interior courtyards (Hinterhöfe)?

AS: Yes. Nothing of this sort exists anymore in Berlin. Most buildings (at the street) are flat, sometimes elegant, sometime ugly. The Galeries Lafayette, with all its glass, is as closed (to the outside) as one of Unger's sandstone buildings. It's the same issue in the construction of every building. Take, for instance, the Berlin Schloss (the palace in the center of Berlin), which was completely demolished after WWII, and which some people think should be resurrected. This has been on our mind constantly.*

 

It would be such a contrast to urbanism—needing to punch holes in it to get inside—open to all the people and all walks of life. I can give many examples of this, for me very northern, very restrained, very alien to everything which infuses a culture with life. All the people here like Kohlhof, Ungers, Kleihues, etc.; all have that tendency of closing. Even Libeskind—and maybe he doesn't think about it or want to have it appear in such a manner—does it with the Jewish Museum where there is no penetration. There is always this hiding, this animosity to the urban fabric. They are not interested in breaking it up.

 


Bonn Art Museum - Competition (1985) Completion (1992)

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