Projects
Frontcovers
Top Favorites
Latest
Competitions
Albums
Details
Newsletters
Syracuse, United States of America

Live Work Home

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

Our proposal for innovative homes in Syracuse, New York starts with an integrated concept of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Green, affordable housing alone does not answer the needs of the Near West Side; its vitality as a neighborhood is a question of sustaining livelihoods and the social diversity that makes a community.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

Our concept for a Live Work Home therefore provides an efficient, highly adaptable space that can be a home for many household types as well as a home-based studio, workshop, or office. It is inherently flexible, simply constructed, and designed to incubate a mix of uses on the Near West Side. As such, the Live Work Home is a modern response to Syracuse’s 21st-century concerns as a post-industrial American city.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

The Near West Side has no shortage of single-family houses – or of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Rather than focusing creative, economic energy on the edge of the neighborhood, or requiring further demolition in the name of urban renewal, our proposal is a strategic intervention mixing residential and entrepreneurial activity. Not unlike natural ecosystems—where planting a monoculture can leave a crop susceptible to blight—urban environments also need social and economic diversity in order to thrive. The legend of the Three Sisters reminds us that biodiversity and interdependence are essential to healthy systems; the Live Work Home therefore “seeds” the neighborhood with many different building types, adding mixed uses and driving a positive cycle of long-term investment in the community.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

According to Haudenosaunee legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans, and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

The Live Work Home is similar in size and scale to other buildings in the neighborhood. The accessible, single story home supports intergenerational living and aging-in-place, making the Live Work Home appropriate for new and current residents of many generations and family structures. Infinitely adaptable, the buildings support sustainable patterns of re-use as well as resilience in the social fabric. As they fill the neighborhood’s many holes, these structures will breed new local jobs in green manufacturing and construction, while creating a hospitable climate for microenterprise on the Near West Side. By distributing the warehouse/loft concept throughout the patchwork of existing sites, this new building type complements the live/work renovations already envisioned for the SALT District.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

The long, narrow site suggested an exploration of linear archetypes, including the Charleston Single and the Haudenosaunee longhouse, Syracuse’s original vernacular form. Recognizing that homes are not only private spaces but can also be social and economic domains, our proposal is a fundamentally different answer to the question of sustainable urban development. The Live Work Home is designed to be replicated on any single-family lot, promoting incremental investment at a scale that works with the existing grain of the Near West Side. Sometimes, we argue, the best way to solve big problems is to think small.

Cook + Fox Architects, Terrapin Bright Green — Live Work Home

Essentially a small modern loft, the Live Work Home works as an affordable, home-based office or artist’s studio, but easily converts to suit a family with children, extended family unit, or student household. The home’s simplified, highly efficient planning includes a consolidated service core and large, open area for living, working, and sleeping. A system of mobile casework simultaneously serves as furniture and to partition bedrooms, achieving the greatest possible flexibility at the least expense. While dozens of configurations are possible, we have studied seven generations of plan development, ranging from student bedrooms to sleeping accommodations for an intergenerational family. Further exploring flexibility, instead of two standard bathrooms, disaggregated bathroom components serve more people in less space.

Learning from the ingenious plan of the longhouse, which could be lengthened or shortened with changing family dynamics, our proposal uses regular units to create an extremely versatile floor plan. Site-built and pre-fabricated elements are combined for maximum material and cost efficiency; casework furniture can be built under controlled factory conditions, while wall and roof panels are shipped flat and assembled on-site. These modules, combining beds, desks, and built-in storage, can be added or subtracted, as well as reconfigured at home to suit different members of the household. The home’s solar screen is also infinitely adaptable to different owner identities, privacy preferences, or site orientations, with panels that can be repositioned, replaced with alternate patterns and materials, or removed altogether. As modern fabrication techniques blur the line between design and production, the occupants themselves can move seamlessly between living and working roles within the home. Finally, because it is multifunctional at many scales, the Live Work Home permits a lifetime of waste-free remodeling along with the do-it-yourself affordability of a loft.

Low-tech, passive strategies are the foundation of the home’s green design concept and affordability. A simple but well-insulated building envelope constructed of structural insulated panels saves energy, improves comfort, and reduces both material waste and the total cost of ownership. Within this tight envelope, strategic openings provide daylight and a connection to the outdoors. To increase daylight in all seasons, more than a dozen skylight tubes extend through the roof at varying heights and angles. Even in winter, as snow levels on the roof change throughout the season, dappled light patterns cast on the floor are a subtle reflection of the changing outdoor environment.

Cross-ventilation on the north-south axis and a whole-house fan take the place of air conditioning, and a Heat Recovery Ventilator with CO2 sensor circulates healthy, filtered air year-round. Low-cost materials are carefully chosen to protect indoor air quality by eliminating moisture, mold, and the off-gassing of harmful chemicals. The re-purposing of many industrial-grade materials such as oriented strand board, MDO resin board, and concrete helps control cost and simplify construction. Efficient, hot water-based heating is delivered through a radiant floor, which also allows maximum flexibility in room planning. While Syracuse’s climate is poorly suited to photovoltaics, even low-angle solar radiation can be captured with evacuated tube collectors for hot-water heating, efficiently integrated with the DHW system. The home’s simple sink-to-tank graywater system is an affordable model of water conservation.

To address local stormwater issues, a functional landscape design includes bioswales for on-site stormwater retention and a green roof of low-cost, modular trays. A planted screen wall helps temper prevailing northwest winds, while native plants used throughout attract indigenous species of insects, birds, and other wildlife. Rather than focus on showcasing innovation in solar panels or geothermal technologies, the Live Work Home pursues sustainability as a core concept, achieved through thoughtful, common-sense solutions.

Grounded in ideas of healthy living and biophilia – our innate human need for connection with the natural world – the home is a response to Syracuse’s climate and ecology. The city’s long, light-starved winters made daylighting a top priority. While presented with a difficult site orientation, the house is placed close the lot line to maximize solar exposure. A perforated screen wrapping the western, southern, and Otisco Street façades bounces daylight into the house, mimicking the patterns of filtered light through trees. Further reinforcing concepts of biomimicry, the screen can be designed as a constructed habitat for nesting birds or climbing plants, attracting life in many forms. Its large garage-type front door can fold down to create a secure, open-air anteroom; when open, this multi-purpose space engages the sidewalk and the street, layering the social connections between home and neighborhood. Equal parts front porch and loading dock, this raised platform creates an area of “prospect and refuge”, one of the core principles of biophilic design.

The “From the Ground Up” competition was a project sponsored by the Syracuse University School of Architecture, the Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems and Home HeadQuarters, Inc.

Stairs_-ramps-and-outdoor-terraces