This Holcim Awards winner originates from a collaboration between Michael Sorkin Studio and non-profit Blacks In Green. Their shared vision to transform a problematic neighbourhood of Chicago into a “sustainable square mile” focusses on improving housing affordability and empowering collaboration between residents.
Like many Black communities across the USA, the West Woodlawn neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side had its glory days some fifty years ago. The suburb has a high ratio of vacant lots, many buildings are in a state of deferred maintenance, and disinvestment exacerbates the challenges. The House as Garden project shows how community can be regained and sustained by applying rational and appropriate technologies, self-reliance systems, and a spirit of sharing.
A modern reinvention of a classic
This project helps to ensure sustained affordability across generations with a rooted sense of belonging. Neighbours do not merely live next door to one another, but live together through shared elements including an on-site greenhouse, raised garden beds and common spaces. Residents also share a guest suite for visitors and/or rental income for the micro-village as well as common areas for gatherings, parties, and other collective activities.
The building design deviates from the east-west orientation typical to Chicago. Its orientation to the south makes best use of sunlight. Composed of four residential wings that unite to form a mews, the design is a modern, flexible reinvention of the classic Chicago four-flat.
Sustainability demands economy, efficiency, and connectivity
The project focuses on passive measures including thick, heavily insulated walls, thermal glazing, cross ventilation, and seasonal shading to reduce energy use and costs of operation. Photovoltaics provide power for the heat pump and appliances, topped up by storage batteries and a new local grid. The building will be net carbon positive, thanks to key systems and materials and its extensive greenery and lush orchard.
Rainwater is collected in cisterns. Blackwater is remediated via anaerobic digestion and resulting grey water is recirculated for toilet flushes (all appliances low water and energy) and watering the garden. Recycling and composting will be easy. Cars and bikes are shared. A focus of community pride and place, it will celebrate the logic and ease of truly sustainable living.