In Progress: Via Verde / Grimshaw Architects + Dattner Architects

After winning the 2007 New York New Housing Legacy Competition, Jonathan Rose and Phipps Houses Group teamed with Grimshaw Architects and Dattner Architects to make “green” architecture for where it matters most. Via Verde, the South Bronx’s newest affordable housing development, goes beyond the hype of creating a sustainable building for marketing purposes, and allows design to inform a healthy building for its occupants. So, what constituents a “healthy” building? Well, in the minds of those from the South Bronx, that means a place that can address growing asthma rates, obesity, and the need for fresh produce. In the 290,000 sqf project at Brook Avenue and East 156th Street, Via Verde is connecting to its neighborhood’s needs while not shying away from giving a community in the process of urban renewal an iconic piece of architecture.

 More about the project after the break. 

By wrapping the apartments around a central courtyard, the residents will benefit from cross ventilation, and proper solar orientation maximizes exposure for the interiors.  To encourage healthy habits, staircases, with large windows, were placed before the elevators and the fitness center enjoys amazing views of building’s terraced roof.   And, in order to make healthy eating more accessible to the residents, the architects have designed a vast communal roof garden where tenants can grow vegetables and fruits.

Plus, the housing development doesn’t look like the typical housing development.   The exterior is a colorful delight of prefab panels with aluminum rain screens and sun screens that will filter the light into the apartments. In addition to material, the formal approach leaves the standardized norm of subsidized housing in the dust.   For Via Verde, the massing steps away from athletic fields at the south and gradually grows into a 20 story tower.  Each shift in section provides a functioning roof level which will be outfitted with different programs.

“Unlike so many public-housing projects, Via Verde rethinks the mix of private and public spaces to encourage residents to spend time outside, in the fresh air. It breaks the mold of subsidized housing whereby clinics, low-income rentals and home ownership are all conceived, financed and regulated separately. Piecing them together, it takes the healthier, holistic tack. Healthy design comes down to fundamentals in this case: air, light, places to stroll, things to look at,” explained Michael Kimmelman for the NYT.

Sources: The New York Times and The Architect’s Newspaper

About this author
Cite: Karen Cilento. "In Progress: Via Verde / Grimshaw Architects + Dattner Architects" 01 Oct 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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