Soho is my best example yet of an architectural “enabling structure” that would be built with sovereign spending, owned collectively by a National Housing Co-op and “built-out” with privately owned and financed autonomous dwelling projects. It was my entry in a national design competition for “The Residential Tower of the Future.”When I first read about the competition I decided to ignore it because I had spent so much time developing arguments (The Architect Who Couldn’t Sing; The Horizontal Skyscraper) about why architecture should be developed horizontally rather than vertically.
SMRTram was my indoctrination to the problem of trying to build a collective good that, in itself, generates no revenues to pay for its costs, but which could potentially benefit a local community in substantial ways. The ten year odyssey began shortly after my wife and I moved to Annapolis, Maryland and opened our architectural practice on Main Street. By accident I stumbled upon what seemed a startling piece of information: Research showed that the average distance a pedestrian would walk after they parked their car in an urban setting was only 1000 feet. Just under a quarter of a mile. I began giving consideration to the many implications this “Pedestrian Access Distance” had for the kinds of urban habitats I’d been theorizing about, off and on, since I’d been in architecture school.
HOUSEEDs are a concept for an architectural “enabling structure.” Their purpose is to make it faster and easier to build an infinite variety of creative, affordable dwellings. The background of the strategy, for me, goes back a long way: The summer before I started architecture school at North Carolina State University, fresh out of the Navy and full of energetic emotions, I decided to build a house in the woods. While in the Navy I’d “accidentally” saved a small chunk of money by means of a forgotten automated paycheck deduction. That little surprise became my building budget: $10,000. I figured it would be enough if I did the work myself.