Builder and Custom Home magazines combined forces this year to present their respective annual honors, and Studio E Architects came away from the event with top honors: Archer Studios – our 42-unit micro-unit development in San José, California – was the recipient of Builder magazine’s 2013 Grand Award for Affordable or Workforce Housing.
The winners were honored in a joint celebration held at the Julia Morgan Ballroom at the Merchants Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco last month, and were also featured prominently in the October issue of Builder. Studio E’s John Sheehan and Dan Wu of local non-profit developer Charities Housing were on hand to accept the award on behalf of the project team.
The jurors were effusive about the project’s level of detail and finish:
“ ‘Income-restricted housing that doesn’t look like it,’ with color, texture, and good-looking doors and windows… the project’s quality and details are ‘as good as in any market rate project.’ ”
Indeed, this praise was validated in the field before the project was even complete: as construction was coming to a close, Sheehan recalled, “Strangers were driving by and inquiring about the sales prices for the cool new condos.”
Designed for Charities Housing and the San José Department of Housing, Archer Studios goes above and beyond the SRO baseline of just providing a safe shelter, instead creating a place that fosters a sense of dignity and community among its residents. The community consists of 42 micro-units – apartments that measure 300 square feet or less in floor area. Although quite small, the units are designed to maximize efficiency while maintaining a feeling of spaciousness and volume: ceilings are over 9 feet in height, windows are generously-sized, kitchens are compact but well-appointed, extra storage is provided wherever possible, and many units enjoy private balconies. All told, the units are a comfortable hybrid of studio apartment, loft, and cruise ship cabin. In such cozy quarters, “everything has to count … you can’t waste space,” Sheehan explains. “You have to make it feel like a great place to be, not an inexpensive place to live.”
The community’s layout cleverly hides city-mandated surface-level parking by enveloping it in a thin layer of transparent and street-friendly program spaces at the perimeter. A playful lobby entrance with super-scaled icon signage and sleek furnishings beckons passersby and lends the project the feel of a small boutique hotel or European pied-à-terre apartment building.
For more information on Archer Studios, click here. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contributed to the project and made this honor possible!