2016 National DiscoverDesign Competition - The Showboat home

2016 National DiscoverDesign Competition: Design an affordable housing prototype

Define the Problem

Low income young professionals and families who need an affordable and adaptable place to live are frequently at a loss when looking for homes. This project, The Showboat Home, is aimed at creating affordable housing for these groups by providing safe, walkable, and comfortable homes and communities. The site chosen, a 25.7 acre lot is nestled at the intersection of Oakey, Fremont, and Atlantic streets in the 891014 zip code. The site, the former home of the Showboat Casino, is about 2 miles from the new business and job opportunities in the Arts District downtown, has two bus stops on site, and is nearby stores like Lowe’s and Smith’s. The site has easy access to everything that Las Vegas has to offer, and provides a breadth of opportunities for growth and development in an urban environment.

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Collect Info

In this step, I wanted to devise two things – 1, ‘What is the focus of this design?’, and 2, ‘Where, based off this focus, is the best place to put the design?’. After some research on current trends in affordable housing and designing for social impact, I did some research on site locations. In groups, we put together a couple of site proposals. I chose the site located on the corner of Fremont, Oakey, and Atlantic streets in Las Vegas, NV. This site is located close to the thriving Downtown Arts district, but is still less than two miles from grocery stores, namely Smith’s, and is within walking distance to two bus stops.

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Brainstorm Ideas

For brainstorming, I needed to begin to hone in my design from a vague concept to concrete details. I did that in two ways – first, I did some research on how other designers and architects thought about affordable housing and what they thought about what architecture means for communities. In this, I found Alejandro Aravena and Liz Ogbu. I found a lot of inspiration in Aravena’s triangle of incremental housing, and in Ogbu’s passion for user-centered design. With that inspiration, I looked to my own experience, growing up in Las Vegas. Here, I’ve grown up admiring mid-modern architecture. The site I chose is directly adjacent to the Huntridge Neighborhood and other architecturally significant neighborhoods in Las Vegas, so it was important to me to consider that architectural heritage when I was designing the Showboat Home. From this, I began to sketch. I started with a quick elevation sketch, as well as some ideas about possible community expansions of this design. From there, I began to extrapolate some condensed floor plan sketches. I decided on Version B to continue on to the next design phase.

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Develop Solutions

As I continued to design, I decided on smart, small changes that would impact the homeowner in the long run. Understanding that this home was small, I worked to reduce the energy footprint as much as possible. I decided on including passive cooling technologies (breezeblocks) to allow the home to have light and air pass in and out of the space. I condensed rooms as much as possible to reduce construction costs. Through these choices, I worked to find instances where I could use Las Vegas mid-modern design’s forward thinking practices. For example, I included a butterfly roof to maximize the natural light in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Also, I used a tar and gravel roof, which uses light-colored stone to not only reflect, but absorb heat. Combining this with open floor plans, I moved closer to designing an attractive, yet affordable, home.

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Final Design

At the end of the day, I think it’s important that when we think about affordable housing, we lose all perceptions about what that should mean. Often, when we think about ‘affordable’ or ‘cheap’ housing, we automatically assume that it is going to be cookie-cutter, industrial, ugly. Today, we spend more and more time considering a denser urban landscape, we worry about urban blight, and we mull over what the environmental implications of our designs are. This design, the Showboat Home, does it’s best to invert that perception while considering those issues. It is open and airy, feels modern and inviting thanks to finishing touches like the bamboo flooring. It nods to its neighborhood – using mid-modern design motifs that reflect its proximity to historic neighborhoods like the Huntridge. Individuals are within walking distance to bus stops, grocery stores, and more, as well as being just a few minutes bus-ride from the thriving Downtown Arts District. At 820 ft.², this home meets Nevada’s low-income housing trust fund limits, meaning that it is not only affordable, it is accessible – mortgage rates for this home will fall between $858 to $1082 a month. The Showboat Home demonstrates that affordable living in Las Vegas is possible, and it’s beautiful, too.

Comments

DesigningDiego 4 years ago
Really enjoy the floor plan, it keeps things a little tight but manageable. The section on Alejandro Aravena really proves your use of a wide range of research. Interestingly it is a technique used in South America that you believe can be used here (as you mentioned). It definitely could work for your intended client.
c.france 4 years ago
That stereoscopic render, for a lack of a better term, is absolutely fantastic. Your illustration of space and scale in your final design is done extremely well, however, I think some variation could have also been added on your exterior render to bring it up to par with the interior ones. Additionally, guests don't have a place to use the restroom, and would be forced to use the ones within the personal bedrooms. But overall, great work.
c.france 4 years ago
That stereoscopic render, for a lack of a better term, is absolutely fantastic. Your illustration of space and scale in your final design is done extremely well, however, I think some variation could have also been added on your exterior render to bring it up to par with the interior ones. Additionally, guests don't have a place to use the restroom, and would be forced to use the ones within the personal bedrooms. But overall, great work.
Competition Jury 4 years ago
Kerl Lajeune - Great visual imagery of the design and seemingly appropriate for the region chosen. The textural surface of the outer wall patterning offers great potential to interesting lighting for the interior. The project is modest, finishes appropriate, ample amounts of light, seemingly energy efficient and a good looking design.
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