David Baker Architects

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Design Begins with People


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This blog post first appeared on Enterprise Housing Horizon, a blog about affordable housing and community development by Enterprise Community.

 

By Geoffrey Barton, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow

David Baker Architects is working with a diverse design and development team on the re-imagining of Asheville, North Carolina's, first-ever public-housing development. Lee Walker Heights was built in 1950 and is in great need of modernization, expansion, and strengthened connections to the city street grid.

The team includes DBA, Mountain Housing Opportunities, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, Sitework Studios, and Civil Design Concepts, working with the Asheville Housing Authority

On Day 1, Geoffrey Barton, center, discussed different building types and possibilities with current residents of Lee Walker Heights.

Walking and bike paths, kids play areas, better connectivity to the surroundings, and more spacious apartments were just a few of the many ideas that residents brought to the table at our first of three community design workshops for the Lee Walker Heights redevelopment here in Asheville. Lee Walker Heights is the Asheville Housing Authority’s oldest apartment complex, built in 1950, and is in need of comprehensive redevelopment. None of its apartments are ADA compliant. Led by David Baker Architects, our design team facilitated table discussions, a physical modeling activity, and a play space design activity with the kids.

DBA's Amit Price Patel captures comments from community members.

It was the most collaborative design process I have ever seen! The following day, the architects, civil engineer, and landscape architect worked in a room together, sketching on the same piece of trace, and constantly referencing community input from the day before. We were able to create a plan that complies with local guidelines for street layout and on-street parking, as well as create buildings that double the current density while still sticking to a human scale.

Getting started with the Rapid Prototyping Kit, which allows participants to visualize various approaches and "build" their ideal community.

Staff from the Asheville Design Center worked with neighborhood kids to have them draw their dream home and also to build a neighborhood with the Prototyping Kit.

We also focused on pedestrians and bikers. The existing layout of Lee Walker Heights is definitely not geared towards the safety of these pedestrians, and especially not kids. The narrow access road and one-way loop are unsuitable for school buses, meaning kids have to walk down to a busy intersection to wait for the bus. Throughout the workshop, we heard from the community that even though it is nice that they have a big open ball field for recreation, there is no semi-enclosed space dedicated for smaller kids to play. After listening to this input, we decided that our redesign would include an enclosable courtyard that is directly accessed from the community space (perhaps through sliding glass doors) to provide a dedicated place for younger children to play and have ability for adult supervision.

On Day 2, the Design Team used the feedback and results from all the exercises to develop a conceptual site plan

David Baker and Amit Price Patel join Carleton Collins, right, from McMillan Pazdan Smith to realize the community-informed conceptual site plan.

By mid-June, David Baker’s team will have created some 3D sketch imagery and started giving definition to building massing and exteriors. We’ll continue to work with the community in our second and third design workshops in June and July to prioritize amenities and give shape to outdoor spaces. The 197 people who currently call Lee Walker Heights home have been understandably on edge about the changes that are in store, but as one resident put it, “not all change is a bad thing, and I’m excited about the positives this can bring.”

The design exercises yielded dozens of notes covering a wide range of community priorities, including access for elderly residents, safe spaces for kids, and healthy sources for food.

Click on any photo on the page for more images from the first Lee Walker Heights Community Design Charrette.

David Baker, right, shares the resulting conceptual site plan with the residents.

Hosted by Mountain Housing Opportunities and Asheville Design Center in Asheville, N.C., Geoffrey Barton is an Enterprise Rose Fellow involved in urban neighborhood revitalization projects and in designing green, affordable single-family home prototypes to fit a variety of site conditions. He is working to find ways to draw on the strengths of each of his host organizations through creative collaborations.

On Day 1, Geoffrey Barton, center, discussed different building types and possibilities with current residents of Lee Walker Heights.

DBA's Amit Price Patel captures comments from community members.

Getting started with the Rapid Prototyping Kit, which allows participants to visualize various approaches and "build" their ideal community.

Staff from the Asheville Design Center worked with neighborhood kids to have them draw their dream home and also to build a neighborhood with the Prototyping Kit.

On Day 2, the Design Team used the feedback and results from all the exercises to develop a conceptual site plan

David Baker and Amit Price Patel join Carleton Collins, right, from McMillan Pazdan Smith to realize the community-informed conceptual site plan.

The design exercises yielded dozens of notes covering a wide range of community priorities, including access for elderly residents, safe spaces for kids, and healthy sources for food.

David Baker, right, shares the resulting conceptual site plan with the residents.