A housing master plan study for a community of aging residents has won one of two 2016-17 Housing Design Education Awards from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

The study, titled “Third Place Ecologies: Pocket Housing Fabrics for Aging in Community,” is a project of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

The center worked with Fay Jones School architecture students in a studio course in spring 2016 to address the housing needs of Freeman, South Dakota, a small town with a population that is largely at or approaching retirement age.

The plan proposes new pocket neighborhood concepts for this aging community – allowing residents to live alone but in close proximity to neighbors and friends. Design concepts such as a connected “hyper-porch” spaces, live-work patios and garages used for pop-up businesses foster both neighborhood interaction and independent living.

The term “third-place ecologies” refers to shared community spaces that aren’t work or home, said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

“About 10,000 people a day will turn 65 over the next 20 years, and neither the existing housing stock nor health care system are prepared to serve their social and medical needs,” Luoni said. “Not only is the Baby Boomer generation the most unprepared for retirement, but the pension and caregiving safety net enjoyed by their parents will be overwhelmed and unable to serve their needs.

“We’re looking at reconfiguring single-family housing to support cooperative living without losing the privacy that people like,” he said. “This is a way to solve a gap in the housing needs, as well as address people’s social needs. We’ve created a design guide for non-medical solutions to an emerging public health-care problem.”

An Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts funded the research, as well as future work on an earth arts center for the town.

The master plan illustrates the 21 cooperative living principles developed by the studio for a general neighborhood design that addresses aging populations. These principles are largely common-sense ideas that strive to return a sense of neighborhood community that people once took for granted. Simple measures allow for a shared sense of ownership and connection. These can include sharing meals in a third place (in this case, the hyper-porch), balancing privacy with public spaces by designing glimpses of the street or central court from a residence, and designing porches that open onto the street.

“This work is about code reform and changing mindsets, so we can get to the informality in pre-1920s neighborhoods that made us a powerful economic force,” Luoni said.

This housing master plan study will be published this summer as a book called Houses For Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies, by ORO Editions.

The project was showcased at the 105th annual meeting of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Detroit last week, and it is featured on the organization’s website.

Each year, the group honors the importance of good education in housing design in a wide range of areas to prepare students to be capable leaders and contributors to their communities.

The Community Design Center has won six of the 25 awards given in the nine-year history of the housing design education awards.

AuthorLinda Komlos