Archer Studios: Builder Magazine 2013 Grand Award Winner

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.


Archer Studios – San José, California.Photo: Jeff Peters, Vantage Point Photography

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.


Garden Terrace at Archer Studios – San José, California.Photo: Jeff Peters, Vantage Point Photography

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.”


Private Balconies at Archer Studios – San José, California.Photo: Jeff Peters, Vantage Point Photography

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.”


Terrace Fountain at Archer Studios – San José, California.Photo: Jeff Peters, Vantage Point Photography

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.


The lobby at Archer Studios – San José, California. Photo: Jeff Peters, Vantage Point Photography

For more information on Archer Studios, click here. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contributed to the project and made this honor possible!

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2 Responses to Archer Studios: Builder Magazine 2013 Grand Award Winner

  1. A. says:

    Two questions:
    1. If you’d built it as cool new condos, what would the price have penciled out to be, roughly, per unit?
    2. If they were non-subsidized rentals, how much, roughly, would they rent for?

    • josh says:

      Thanks for reading, Anna. Tough to give you a specific answer on these with the information we have on hand, but hopefully our responses below can shed a little light:

      1. Construction costs for condos are only slightly higher for units of this size. Increases in price would primarily be seen in additional sound insulation at floors and walls, and optional upgrades to finishes & appliances.

      2. Rents are a factor of unit type and the local market – this unit would rent for wildly different amounts if it were located in San Francisco vs. Des Moines. Complicating matters further is that this unit type doesn’t have much of a market-rate precedent in San José.

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