Grow Your Own City

STUDENTS   Benjamin Bye, Alex Kenton, and Jason Rood
University of Oregon

FACULTY SPONSORS   Judith Sheine, University of Oregon
Mikhail Gershfeld, Cal Poly Pomona

JUROR COMMENTS   This winning design comprehensively solves the major elements of the competition program and gestures towards new thinking in relation to timber construction and wood technology. This realistic and pragmatic scheme is appropriately scaled with a nice variety of building heights. Each building describes a distinct form of construction, and the application of wood at all three scales is handled beautifully. There is a mature sensitivity to zoning, politics, and concerns of gentrification. This design exemplifies smart urban planning by placing the warehouse on the industrial street and creating a new pedestrian street behind, which is an incredible relief for the neighborhood. The residential units are well thought out; most have windows on two sides and the corner units are nicely articulated. Overall, the project is strong because it maps out the terrain of the site while remaining consistent to the larger neighborhood in terms of plan, context and materiality.

DESCRIPTION   Grow Your Own City strives to technically and aesthetically celebrate the new building technology of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This project, located in Red Hook Brooklyn, will become the assembly hub of Grow Your Own City modular CLT pods.

Once home to the busiest ports in New York, the borough of Red Hook, Brooklyn, had been in a steady economic decline since the 1960’s. The community has a strong heritage, however, living up to the name of Fort Defiance that once graced its shores. Today, Red Hook is one of the largest artisan communities and culinary tourism stops in New York, featuring outdoor recreational areas, urban farms, farmers markets, bicycle races, and arts festivals. 

Grow Your Own City aims to enhance the energetic life and community of Red Hook, building on its rich natural and cultural history and serving as a catalyst for urban regeneration and economic growth. The project would create affordable living units that could support a wide range of daily activities, inspire healthy community relations and establish and celebrate the natural forest and ecosystem of the Northeast United States. The bicycle shop, Timber Restaurant, and green alley highlight Red Hook’s vibrant cycling, culinary and eco-friendly culture. 

The green alley on the interior of the site adds a valuable urban park area to support recreational activities, neighborhood and community functions, and festivals. The green alley is designed as an educational walk, explaining the lumber industry and the creation of Cross Laminated Timber and other wood products. Lastly, the green alley supports sustainable practices of rainwater harvesting, retention and reuse, solar energy collection through photovoltaic panels, habitat rehabilitation and ecosystem recovery.

Grow Your Own City is a modular based building concept that takes advantage of the material properties, strength and dimensions of Cross Laminated Timber. The design process is based on a prefabricated CLT pod that can be assembled, finished, and shipped from the factory.

The pods are stacked on the Red Hook site to form low-rise housing and a tower, with the CLT panels acting as both load-bearing and shear walls. The CLT pod is designed and engineered according to the Cross Laminated Timbers material properties.. The façade is panelized with both solid CLT and floor to ceiling windows. Each pod type, whether a studio, living space, or bedroom, is assigned a quantity of shear panel and glazing that forms a pattern on the façade, giving it both regularity and variety.

Based on the competition requirements of a 325 square foot studio unit, one pod with interior dimensions 15 ft by 22 ft. comprises a studio. The one-bedroom unit is two pods (660 sf), the two-bedroom unit is two and a half pods (825 sf) and the three-bedroom unit is three pods (990 sf). In both the standardization of pod type and placement, and the low embodied cost of CLT, Grow Your Own City stays true to the project brief and is very affordable and environmentally friendly.