Designed for local non-profit developer Charities Housing and the San José Department of Housing, Archer Studios goes beyond addressing the need for safe, basic shelter by creating a place that fosters dignity and community among its residents – and for the area as a whole, as a part of the city’s Vision North San José plan.
The community’s layout cleverly hides required surface-level parking by developing a thin layer of transparent and street-friendly program space at the perimeter. A playful lobby entrance with super-scaled icon signage and jazzy furnishings lends the project the feel of a small boutique hotel or European pied-à-terre apartment building. Cast-in-place concrete columns and walls (with cast project signage) are expressed at the ground floor, while composite siding and hand-troweled plaster clad walls with deep-set windows and accenting timber guardrails and trellises round out the exterior materials palette.
Inside, the community’s ample list of amenities includes a large community meeting room with a full kitchen, a computer desk, a TV lounge, on-site laundry, management & social service support offices, and a 1,300 square foot garden terrace atop the roof of the parking garage.
Things tighten up once inside the units themselves, as – due to the owner’s requests and the requirements of their funding sources – the units all had to be under 300 square feet in area. We embraced this constraint as an opportunity and, like the classic VW Beetle ads of the 50’s and 60’s, our mantra became “Small is Beautiful”.
The resulting units are a comfortable hybrid of sorts – part studio apartment, loft, and cruise ship cabin rolled into one. Although 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 plentiful and generously-sized, kitchens are compact but well-appointed, extra storage is provided wherever possible – many units even enjoy private balconies.
Built to serve low-income workforce residents – Archer Studios was especially targeted to folks working at the nearby San José Airport (just a short walk or bike jaunt away) and the area’s surrounding hotels. For those working further afield or lacking the means to own a car, the community is conveniently located a block from a VTA light rail corridor and is within walking distance to various shops, restaurants and the Rosemary Gardens Park. The project also includes a secure bike garage.
Archer Studios’ combination of convenience and amenities is notable, as – in addition to serving the target population – the community has attracted a higher than average number of single women and mothers among the applicant pool for an SRO. Applicants have been drawn to the high level of “natural” security, the serene outdoor space and the overall bright, open feel the project offers its residents.
If transit-oriented, smart growth isn’t enough to earn the project a merit badge for green cred, Archer Studios also implements a host of state of the art building technologies in an effort to promote energy efficiency and sustainability as a part of the Build It Green program. The project scored over 150 points on the program’s scale, easily tripling the minimum 50 point threshold for certification, and providing yet another example of how a series of small moves can produce results in beautiful, BIG-picture ways.