Our proposal for innovative homes in Syracuse, New York starts with an integrated concept of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Green, affordable housing alone does not answer the needs of the Near West Side; its vitality as a neighborhood is a question of sustaining livelihoods and the social diversity that makes a community. Our concept for a Live Work Home therefore provides an efficient, highly adaptable space that can be a home for many household types as well as a home-based workshop or office. It is inherently flexible, simply constructed, and designed to incubate a mix of uses on the Near West Side. As such, the Live Work Home is a modern response to Syracuse’s 21st-century concerns as a post-industrial American city.
The long, narrow site suggested an exploration of linear archetypes, including the Charleston Single and the Haudenosaunee longhouse, Syracuse’s original vernacular form. Recognizing that homes are not only private spaces but can also be social and economic domains, our proposal is a fundamentally different answer to the question of sustainable urban development. The Live Work Home is designed to be replicated on any single-family lot, promoting incremental investment at a scale that works with the existing grain of the Near West Side. Sometimes, we argue, the best way to solve big problems is to think small.
The Near West Side has no shortage of single-family houses – or of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Instead of a conventional infill project, our proposal is a strategic intervention mixing residential and entrepreneurial activity. Just as any healthy ecosystem needs biodiversity, we propose that pockets of social and economic activity can re-energize the Near West Side. The Live Work Home therefore works as a home-based small business or artist’s studio, but easily converts to suit a family with children, extended family unit, or student household. Essentially a small modern loft, this affordable building type adds mixed uses to an economically stagnant neighborhood, driving a positive cycle of long-term investment in the community.
The Live Work Home is an accessible, one-story structure similar in size and scale to other buildings in the neighborhood. Rather than focusing creative, economic energy on the edge of the neighborhood, or requiring further demolition in the name of urban renewal, our proposal distributes the warehouse/loft concept throughout the patchwork of existing sites. As such, it is a practical and highly replicable solution. New and current residents of many generations and family structures will be able to settle in the Live Work Home, whose infinite adaptability supports sustainable patterns of building re-use as well as resilience in the social fabric. As they fill the neighborhood’s many holes, these structures will breed new local jobs in green manufacturing and construction, while creating a hospitable climate for microenterprise on the Near West Side. We see this new building type
The home’s simplified, highly efficient planning includes a consolidated service core and large, open area for living, working, and sleeping. A system of mobile casework furniture simultaneously serves to partition bedrooms, achieving the greatest possible flexibility at the least expense. While dozens of configurations are possible, we have studied seven generations of plan development, ranging from student bedrooms to sleeping accommodations for an intergenerational family. Likewise, instead of two standard bathrooms, disaggregated bathroom components serve more people in less space.
Learning from the ingenious plan of the longhouse, which could be lengthened or shortened with changing family dynamics, our proposal uses regular units to create an extremely versatile floor plan. Site-built and pre-fabricated elements are combined for maximum material and cost efficiency; casework furniture can be built under controlled factory conditions, while wall and roof panels are shipped flat and assembled on-site. These modules, combining built-in storage, desks, and beds, can be added or subtracted, as well as reconfigured at home to suit different members of the household. The home’s solar screen is also infinitely adaptable to different owner identities, privacy preferences, or site orientations, with panels that can be repositioned, replaced with alternate patterns and materials, or removed altogether. As modern fabrication techniques blur the line between design and production, the occupants themselves can move seamlessly between living and working roles within the home. Finally, because it is multifunctional at many scales, the Live Work Home permits a lifetime of waste-free remodeling along with the do-it-yourself affordability of a loft.
Grounded in ideas of healthy living and biophilia – our innate human need for connection with the natural world – the home is also a response to Syracuse’s climate and ecology. The city’s long, light-starved winters made daylighting a top priority. While presented with a difficult site orientation, the house is placed to maximize solar exposure and lit with direct and diffused daylight from more than a dozen porthole skylights. A perforated screen wrapping the western and Otisco Street façades bounces daylight into the house, mimicking the dappled patterns of filtered light through trees. Its large garage-type front door can fold down to create a secure, open-air anteroom; when open, this multi-purpose space engages the sidewalk and the street, layering the social connections between home and neighborhood. Equal parts front porch and loading dock, this raised platform creates an area of “prospect and refuge”, one of the principles of biophilic design.
Project name: Live Work Home
Location: Syracuse, New York, United States
Program: Single-family detached home
LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) Platinum certification
Client / Owner / Developer: Competition Sponsors Syracuse University School of Architecture, Home HeadQuarters, Inc.
Syracuse Center of Excellence
Architects: Cook + Fox Architects
Project team: Ilya Bentscheff, Dan Brammer, Tyler Caine, Pam Campbell, Mark Canfield, Rick Cook, Simone DeConno, Guido Elgueta, Caroline Hahn, Alice Hartley, Brandon Hendricks, Zoe Logan, Fred Metzger, Simon Rearte, Eugene Sun
Environmental Sustainability: Terrapin Bright Green – Bill Browning, Chris Garvin
Structures: Severud Associates – Edward DePaola, Andrew Mueller-Lust
Landscape: terrain-nyc, inc. – Steve Tupu, Principal
Sustainable Construction Consultant: Northeast Green Building Consulting, Kevin Stack
Text Description: © Courtesy of Cook + Fox Architects
Images: © Cook + Fox Architects