Portfolio Project Detail

Off the Grid James Aitken, Thuy-Dung Tran, and Krystn Rilloraza

OFF THE GRID is a co-living, co-working and communal space within the West Village in New York City. The site is in the heart of a very affluent neighborhood. It has historic ties to the artistic and LGBTQ+ communities; however, with the inflated living costs and rental values, the demographics are biased towards the wealthy. There is little to no offering of accommodation for the wider community. This in turn results in a lack of diversity in the neighborhood.

Our proposal aims to further diversify the area, by encouraging a shift in the demographics through provision of an economically sustainable co-living environment, focusing on those individuals who may not fit the ‘mainstream’ – accessible for all.

The existing industrial building occupies an entire width of the block and forms a natural corridor. The Village has the only streets in Manhattan that run against the grid. The perpendicular angles metaphorically represent the people of the community that OTG will support. Those who are deemed ‘off the grid’ include members of the LGBTQ+ community, elderly and foreign nationals.

The design aims to elevate the cultural, physical and sustainable aspects of the local community. The events and art spaces allow flexibility whilst the residential units have modularity in the design for buildability and efficiency. The architecture encourages co-living, social interaction and network building to further integrate residents into the local area.

Co-living – units range from 320-800 sqft with studios, doubles, shared rooms and duplexes, accommodating 52 occupants. Each unit has a small pantry, beds, storage and an ADA compliant bathroom. To create a unique experience in New York City, the residents have access to a personal landscaped terrace. The units are supplemented by the larger amenities that encourage collaboration and interactions between residents. Each floor has communal pantries, lounges and co-working spaces. Additionally, there is access to the ground floor art gallery, events space, artist workshop and large roof terrace with film projection open to the local community.

Circular Economy – Residents have the opportunity for economic benefit through the building’s community lead and event management roles. They will help create a social hub within the community and bringing in new local businesses and artists. The exposure will generate revenue for the building and in return the rent will be reduced.

Sustainability / Living Design – The building has double skin facade that reduces heat demands, controls the solar-gain and night cooling. The façade is operable to enable natural-cross ventilation. It also adds an additional layer of physical security and creates a noise barrier against the city. The roof terrace and living façade collectively generate more square footage of green space than the footprint of the building. The existing structure remains intact to respect the Village’s desire to preserve its heritage. The cross laminated timber structure above minimizes the environmental footprint by reducing waste product, improving the thermal performance and building’s material life.