Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Preliminary Design for 2017 Project 1

Preliminary Design for 2017 Project 1

After planning out my goals for 2017 and doing some background research into this year’s positive energy design building materials and technologies, I came across a new architecture competition that focuses on affordable housing in New York City. While reading through the project brief, I found so many similarities between the competition’s vision and my very first 30x30 project, the NYC Micro Dwellings.

So I downloaded the competition materials and selected a site for my proposal in New York City and focused on hand sketching some preliminary designs and ideas for the competition. Here are my first few sketches and ideas that will be developed as a 3D model in Revit this weekend.

NYC Competition Site Information

2X30 Preliminary Design Site Info

During my review of the different sites that the competition proposed, I chose the site that was closer to public transportation and shops. Once I chose the site, I went onto the New York City citywide GIS website and found some information regarding that particular parcel. This included the length and width of the parcel, which turns out to be 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep.

The competition also allows all participants to propose their own sites so I decided to take over the two narrow adjacent parcels. Each of the adjacent parcels are 25 feet wide by 100 deep, which would make my particular competition site 100 feet by 100 feet square. This will allow more design options and quantity of units within the site.

Adjacent Building Facade

After determining the parcel size for my proposal, I went into Google street view and took a look at the exterior elevation of the adjacent building. I found that the adjacent building is a 10 story building with large windows that span between columns and extend from the sill to the ceiling of each floor. This is a common architectural style in NYC and I decided that the design of my proposal will utilize a grid in both plan and elevation to organize the interior spaces and to have a façade of repetitive elements.

Initial Sketches

Preliminary Design Sketch

Moving on from the brief site analysis, I began coming up with rough floor plan sketches of unit layouts per floor. During this session, I came up with a simple 4 unit layout in “L” shapes and located the elevator, stairs, and back of house programs at the center of the floor. Each unit would come out to roughly 1,800 square feet, which would be large for a NYC apartment.

So I moved onto the next scheme that used a 20 foot by 20 foot grid to divide the floor plate. I located 5x 800 square foot apartments on the south side of the building and 3x units on the north side. The elevator, stairs, and back of house programs would be located on the east, west, and center of the floor plate. This scheme would result in a higher quantity of units within the building.

The final scheme for this preliminary sketching session used the 20 foot by 20 foot grid to divide the floor plate and places 3 units along the north and south side of the building. The stairs, elevators, and back of house programs would be located on the east and west of the floor and a full atrium would penetrate the entire center of the building. However, once I sketched this idea, I realized that the atrium would be very small and wouldn’t bring an adequate amount of natural light into the building.

Final Preliminary Sketch

Final Design Sketch

After coming up with the three layouts, I decided to sleep and get back to sketching more ideas throughout the week. When I finally got back to sketching, I came up with another design idea to implement in this competition. Growing up in NYC, I observed almost every tenant from any building with a balcony or fire escapes utilizing that space to grow plants, sit outside on a nice day, or hang clothes to dry.

So why not provide this patio space in all of the units in this affordable housing proposal? In addition, what if these patio spaces were enclosed by an operable curtain wall that could be shut in the colder weather, but opened during warmer days? Not only would this allow tenants to use the space for relaxation or gardening, they would also be able to use the thermally tempered air during colder days to warm their living spaces. When the operable curtainwall is shut, the space would acquire heat throughout the day from solar radiation. If the tenant opens their patio door, the thermally tempered air would infiltrate and warm the living spaces. This will reduce the heating requirements of the building.

Moving forward with this idea, I decided that the garden spaces would alternate on every floor so that the exterior façade would create a repetitive pattern of solid and transparent surfaces. Then, I divided each floor into a 10 foot by 10 foot grid to help organize each unit. On one floor, there are 800 and 1,000 square foot units. On the other floor, there are 1,300 and 800 square foot units. The stairs, elevators, and back of house programs would be located throughout the center of the building.

Looking back on the sizes of these different units, they will most likely shrink when interior partitions and structure are located throughout the building. However, their sizes will work great for studios, 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units.

After finishing the plan sketches, I moved onto an elevation sketch of the south/north façade of the building (since they’re mirrored) and saw that they would create a “checker board” pattern. The hatched rectangles would be the balcony spaces, which would be the operable curtainwall panels, and the other rectangles would be concrete with tilt or rotate operated windows. The ground floor would be retail spaces and my sketch shows the façade as being curtainwalls, but this might change when the Revit model is developed.

Next Steps

From here, my next steps are to begin developing a Revit model of these floor plans and seeing the impacts that egress, vertical transportation, structure, and interior walls will have on these preliminary designs. As I begin adding more elements to the model, I might discover that the resulting square footages create very tight or cluttered interior layouts for each unit, or ideally, the Revit model will prove that these design schemes work.

While developing the Revit model, I’ll have to find some friends in NYC who would be willing and able to head out to the project site and photograph it during the day or evening. I’ll also be brainstorming ideas on making this proposal an energy generating building.

Stay tuned for more!


Schematic Design for NYC Net Zero Public Housing Project

Schematic Design for NYC Net Zero Public Housing Project

Positive Energy Architecture Research for 2017

Positive Energy Architecture Research for 2017