NYU team wins design contest

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Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The NYU Team: Constantine Caloudas, Michelle Guber, Peter Lovanella, Kathy O’Regan (HUD), Matthew Jupin and Christopher Hayner.

Alex Bazeley, Deputy News Editor

Out of dozens of entries, a team of NYU graduate students was selected to redesign a building in Houma, Louisiana, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  announced on April 22.

The department’s Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition asks graduate students to design a plan for a real-world housing problem. Now in its second year, the competition is aimed at promoting greater interest among students in urban development, as well as encouraging conversation around the affordable housing problems that exist around the country.

This year’s competition site was Bayou Towers, an 11-story low-rise with about 300 units that houses low-income senior citizens. After Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast in 2008, the building required repairs that cost more than $2 million and took around six months.

Katherine O’Regan, the DOHUD assistant secretary for Policy Development and Research, said the quality of this year’s submissions were incredible, even though the competition is only in its second year.

“Given the talented students involved, the judges were given quite a difficult task in selecting a winner,” O’Regan said. “But the combination of design creativity and ability to meet the core needs of the population served set NYU’s proposal apart.”

The winning plan was designed to promote maximum energy efficiency while also paying homage to traditional Louisiana architecture. The plan featured an on-site early childcare center as well.

Constantine Caloudas, Michelle Guber, Peter Lovanella, Matthew Jupin and Christopher Hayner made up the team of NYU students. Guber, who is pursuing a Masters in real estate, said utilizing mixed-use development was key to their design process, and the goal was to create a connection between the development and the community.

“We knew going into the competition that one of the crucial purposes of our redesign would be to bring the community to the seniors and give the seniors an access point to partake in community events,” Guber said. “For this reason, we went with a mixed-use development that brought a pharmacy, coffee shop and an affordable child care program on-site.”

The team of students won $20,000 for their winning proposal. A team of UCLA students took second place in the competition, receiving $10,000.

Caloudas, also pursuing a Masters in real estate, said he and the team found the competition attractive because of its multi-disciplinary approach to real estate development, and added that they went for a minimalistic design.

“Our design was lower density, which was a conscious decision to reduce the bulk of the building, utilize more of the lot and complement the existing character of the neighborhood,” Caloudas said.

Guber said the diverse backgrounds and levels of experience of the team members enabled them all to add something different to project.

“A couple of us came into the competition being able to add significant expertise and value, while a couple of us used the competition as a way to learn about affordable housing,” Guber said. “Ultimately, it was a combination of wanting to participate in a group competition that challenged each of our different disciplines and wanting to be involved in a competition that focused on a key problem in real estate.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 29 print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]