'Double-front' is an infill housing prototype that begins with a stacked duplex to create a range of 'missing middle' housing configurations for low-density metropolitan areas, including small downtowns like Fayetteville, Arkansas (population: 85,000). One-and-two-bedroom stacked duplexes for low-income households can be combined and multiplied to create middle-scale multifamily housing types—townhouses, foursquares (four-unit dwellings), and bungalow courts. These forms of affordable urban multifamily housing have not been built since pre-suburban America (1940s). These housing typologies were abandoned with the rise of suburban policy and funding in favor of single-family housing and large suburban garden apartments, thus the moniker missing middle. Low-and-middle-income households have not participated in the recent resurgence of downtown living since American downtowns now lack the housing patterns that traditionally accommodated diverse income groups. From single building to block configuration, from back to front, the 'Double-front' prototype offers a three-dimensional urban pattern language to solve for a range of infill scenarios, including downtown’s edge neighborhoods.
Block configurations can be developed at 12 units/acre, doubling current average densities in downtown Fayetteville. While missing middle types increase density, 'Double-front' fabrics are compatible in scale with single-family housing and small commercial building fabrics constituting 85 percent of the U.S. built environment. Middle-scale housing also provides mixed-use strategies for regenerating strip (roadside) shopping centers at the edges of downtowns. As Fayetteville densifies, these strip centers are becoming defacto mixed-use neighborhood anchors given their proximity to residential areas.
The stacked duplex is double-fronted with entry patios at the street or parking lot edge, and screened porches that extend the interior living spaces on the opposite face—often along commercial arterial highways that hold the greatest urban infill potential. This can be reversed for bungalow courts and other pocket neighborhood configurations. Each 1,220-square foot dwelling unit is a double-bar flat laminating a bedroom wing to a public living volume. The living volume is an open loft containing a kitchen core floating between two living areas at the unit’s ends. A parallel volume houses two bedrooms with a utility and bathroom core at the center in line with the kitchen to optimize the efficiency of environmental services. Loft living spaces are flexible and can be assigned living, working, or sleeping functions based on residents’ needs. An alternative 840-square foot stacked duplex prototype contains just one volume in an “efficiency” or studio apartment. Variations in building elevations are provided by solid-void reversals at corner units, articulation of housing program though a double bar expression, variation in edges (coving), and periodic insertion of rooftop porches on the highway front.
The construction system is exposed double-wythe concrete masonry block, eliminating exterior decorative cladding and interior drywall systems that are often cheaply installed and invite early deterioration associated with mold, mildew, and moisture and pest intrusion. Arkansas is in a wet and forested temperate zone with high humidity. Building massing proportion and efficient fenestration systems (only one window size is used) reinforce a sense of dignity and fit that eludes most contemporary affordable housing. Affordable housing often wastes resources on replicating the obsession with privacy and a suburban arts-and-crafts domesticity dissociated from the city. 'Double-front' provides an affordable housing pattern language responsive to the nation’s structural housing shortage, particularly in supply for low-income and workforce populations in low-density metropolitan areas.
The University of Arkansas Community Design Center is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and one of a few university-based teaching offices in the United States dedicated to delivering urban design work. Originated in 1995, the center advances creative development in Arkansas through design, research, and education solutions. Nationally recognized in public-interest design, the center has its own downtown facilities and 5-6 professional design/planning staff, some who also teach. Beyond the focus on urban projects, UACDC has developed eight place-making platforms to shape civic design and public policy at state and municipal levels. These interdisciplinary platforms include 'missing middle housing,' 'agricultural urbanism,' 'transit-oriented development,' 'context-sensitive street design,' 'watershed urbanism,' 'big box urbanism,' 'smart growth,' and 'low impact development,' vocabularies which are locally articulated but hold universal currency.
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