Five Prototype Homes That Tackle Northwest Arkansas’ Housing Crisis

architecture at home
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Bentonville, Arkansas
On view until November

architecture at home is the first architectural exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Curated by Dylan Turk, the exhibit consists of five 500-square-foot prototype homes designed by out-of-state architects. The facilities, which are built along the scenic Orchard Trail leading to the museum entrance, bask in natural light filtered through a forest of Ozark shortleaf pines and speak to the concept of home, innovative materials and the role housing in the northwest. Arkansas. “[Architects] that the work here is tied to local politics and cannot be said without influencing their plans,” Turk said. A. “How are we going to be critical? Not in a negative sense, but in a way that helps us solve the problem. ” Assess architecture at homesignificant contribution to this discussion, let’s start by unpacking the problem.

Two things are important to note: (1) as with the United States as a whole, Northwest Arkansas faces severe housing shortages and (2) the economic impact of the Walton family cannot be overrated. The Waltons are behind virtually every major project in the area, including Home Office, Walmart’s new 350-acre headquarters (with an estimated price tag of $1 billion). The booming area has been dubbed a “millennium wonderland” and “the next Austin” thanks in large part to the Walton Family Foundation’s creative recruitment incentives and capital investments in cultural amenities and public infrastructure.

Over the past 20 years, the population of Northwest Arkansas has tripled from approximately 100,000 to 300,000. It is estimated to reach nearly one million by 2045. This has created a immense pressure on housing availability and affordability. In Benton and Washington counties, the current average home sale price is $390,305. That’s 23% less than the national average, but using Zillow’s affordability calculator, a price of $390,000 requires an annual gross income of about $100,000 (assuming the federal guideline reserves 30% gross housing income). The Federal National Mortgage Association reports that the area’s median income is $73,200, 80% of which is $58,560. This means that nearly 80% of the population earns only half the income needed to pay the average price of a home in northwest Arkansas.

House of Trees: City of Trees by LEVENBETTS (Stephen Ironside/Courtesy of Crystal Bridges)
translucent case prototype
Infinite opening by Perez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados (PPAA) (Stephen Ironside/Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Regionally, higher density is the primary approach to address this widespread growth. And density matters, but inequality and the loss of ecosystems will continue to accompany this growth unless the region confronts its crisis of wealth and class inequality. And that’s the point of architecture at home. Each installation represents alternative forms of housing that act as both a process of reviewing and critiquing planning policies, funding regulations and land acquisition practices that constitute barriers to home ownership. for marginalized people and workers.

Totem House: Stories of Negation by Yolande Daniels and Sunil Bald of New York-based StudioSUMO, recovers lost accounts of displacement and estrangement of Black and Indigenous people in Northwest Arkansas. Their prototype is a group of four totem-like constructions made of hardwood lattices that support sheets of plywood. This plywood is a sort of narrative overlay, with timelines of colonial expansion and forced evictions CNC etched into its surface.

Not my HUD home by Chris Cornelius of Albuquerque-based studio: Indigenous is a reflection on Cornelius’ childhood home on the Wisconsin Oneida Indian Reservation, designed and built by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to house Indigenous peoples who have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands and moved to reservations. Its prototype is a critique of HUD’s culturally inappropriate houses. He addresses this problem by designing a system of spatial triangulations that reflects the cultural values ​​of the Oneida Indian Nation by making connections to earth, sky, water, fire, and animal life.

housing prototype built with various scrap materials
Not my HUD home by studio: native (Stephen Ironside/Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

House of Trees: City of Trees by Stella Betts and David Leven of New York-based LEVENBETTS implement their cross-laminated timber prototype as an increment to the affordable housing development in Bentonville’s historic Third Ward. They propose a zoning variant that introduces shared courtyards to interconnect private residential lots, projecting a new planning policy that unites community with nature.

Untitled by Fernanda Oppermann and Jose Herrasti of Los Angeles-based MUTUO sparks creative thinking around homeownership and inclusivity. They were inspired by their friend Abraham, a home builder and immigrant from Mexico who finds himself excluded from the American housing system. Its plywood walls and off-the-shelf metal framing system are intentionally left incomplete to prompt questions such as “what underlying housing issues are not being addressed?” What would enable Abraham and his family to own a home?

red housing prototype with concrete blocks
Untitled by MUTUO (Stephen Ironside/Courtesy of Crystal Bridges)
translucent case prototype
Infinite opening by Perez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados (PPAA) (Stephen Ironside/Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Infinite opening by Pablo Perez of Mexico City-based Perez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados (PPAA), is crafted from aluminum I-beams filled with translucent danpalon panels, which create dazzling refractions of natural light and color. While aluminum and plastic are rich in embodied carbon, “Infinite Openness” imagines a lifestyle based on reducing consumption by minimizing interior space, using smaller appliances and having fewer possessions.

Above these facilities rises the 50-foot-tall Buckminster Fuller Tower Fly eye domemoved back to Crystal Bridges in 2015. In many ways, Fly eye dome is a leaf to the surrounding prototypes. While Fuller’s Dome is a generic shell for many social scenarios, the new prototypes reimagine specific social relationships as the basis for alternative forms of housing.

sphere sculpture with holes
Fly eye dome by Buckminster Fuller (Stephen Ironside/courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Through projects such as Crystal Bridges itself, the Waltons have done more to provide access to art and culture than any other sector of Northwest Arkansas society. Yet their integration into the region’s housing industry through banking, employment, and real estate businesses presents many contradictions. For example, one of architecture at homeThe main sponsor of is Engel & Völkers, a luxury real estate company. The museum’s website acknowledges that architecture at home can’t solve housing insecurity on its own, but its prototypes solve an even deeper problem than that. They demonstrate how housing design can adapt to the diverse social and cultural needs of contemporary domestic life, rather than exclusive market forces. Or as Turk puts it, “It refocuses housing on people. We need a conversation that allows us to think about housing in a broader sense, and each company has said this in its own way.

architecture at home will run until November 7, 2022.

Paul Mosley is Assistant Professor of Architecture/Urban Design at Kent State.

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