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Micro-building changes with seasons



  • Denver Architectural League chooses winners for Micro-Housing Ideas.
  • Winning entry came from Mexico.
  • Entries are for theoretical buildings on a real site across from TAXI.
1st place winner.

First place winning entry for Micro Housing contest in Denver came from Mexico.

It’s a building for all seasons.

Or perhaps more accurately, a building that changes with the season.

The winner of the Micro Housing Ideas Competition, sponsored by the Denver Architectural League, features a facade with scaffolding of prairie grass, allowing the building’s exterior to change with each season.

The building, designed by Armando Birlain López of 
Querétaro, Mexico, would appear as a carpet of green in the summer, turn brown as the grass died in the fall and would be bare in the winter. Units would range from 250 to 375 square feet. A typical new unit in a new apartment building in downtown Denver is about 750 square feet, while historically they have been closer to 1,000 square feet on average.

The Denver judges described the building as a concept that is “forever changing and changeable, that recognizes a keen responsibility to both its residents and the larger community around it.”

Not that it would ever be built.

2nd place winner.

Second place winning entry came from Spain.

This design from Portugal received an honorable mention.

This design from Portugal received an honorable mention.

The contest is for a theoretical eight-unit apartment building on a real scrap of land along the South Platte River across from the TAXI mixed-used community developed by Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin in River North Art District. Mickey was one of the judges.

The concept was “inspired by a concern about the lack of innovation in Denver’s existing multi-family housing market where many banal apartment, townhome and condo complexes continue to be built,” according to the league.

The competition offered designers an opportunity to engage in reinventing the notion of “responsible affordable housing” with an emphasis on regenerative design.

“In evaluating entries for the Micro Housing Ideas Competition, the jury looked for approaches that reconsidered the potential for multi-family affordable housing to improve not only the lives of the people it might shelter, but also the life of the community around it, the life of the city of Denver, and the life of the biosphere of which humanity is not a separate entity but an integral part,” said architect George Hoover and professor emeritus of architecture, University of Colorado Denver, who served as the chairman of the jury.

Seventy entered the competition, with 25 of them coming from outside the U.S. In addition to Mexico, other winning ideas came from Spain, Portugal and Egypt.

The winning design, which included a $3,000 award, consists of modular units built on-site that are set into a grid and can be configured for singles, couples or small families. The grid allows for the emergence of varied shared spaces where residents can grill dinner and kids can play.

“The concept exploits the Platte River by maximizing views and access to the water, but it also gives back, meeting the ground in a way that allows the public to share the space, lounging along the currents or enjoying nature hikes around the property,” according to the judges.

In addition to having eight very small units, parameters for the competition include:

  • Provide an entry identify for TAXI.
  • Public access to the South Platte River.
  • An affordable housing design.
  • Modularity and pre-fabrication.
  • The appropriate use of technology, materials and building systems.
  • Thriveability,” as it relates to natural ecologies and human modes of life.

“In our biosphere, thriveability seeks a more holistic view of the world — these winning entries succeed in setting thoughtful parameters for a rich dialogue about new possibilities for the way we live, starting with a conversation in Denver that we hope will expand nationally and beyond,” according to Hoover.

The winning entry came from SAC Studio de Arquitectura y Ciudad.  SAC’s principal is Birlain. The project leader was Wyatt O’Day and other team members were Jovana Grujevska, Joao Barbosa and Rodolfo Unda.

Other winners:

  • Second place, with a $750 award, Tadeja Vidoni of Alcante, Spain.
  • Honorable mention, with a $375 award,  Aquitectura from Vila Niva de Gaia, Portugal.
  • Honorable mention, $375 award, Ahmed Hamdi of Ahmed Hamdi Architects in Cairo, Egypt.

In addition to Hoover and Zeppelinb, other judges were:

An exhibition of all 70 submittals is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until June 21 at the Temenos Gallery inside Roth Sheppard Architects’ design studio in Suite 100 at 1900 Wazee St.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at  JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.