Seven artists picked to live in shipping containers behind the Arts Guild? It could make for an interesting season of MTV’s The Real World, but it’s also an idea being explored as one avenue to bring affordable housing to the city for artists.
In a presentation before the Redevelopment Agency last week, representatives of Global Building Modules (GBM) Design Consortium outlined several different preliminary schemes that would site seven modules in the area behind the Arts Guild at Irving Street and Seminary Avenue. The units would be laid out in a way to include shared green space and concert lawn or some type of performance space with a capacity of 50 to 70 people.
Based on shipping containers, the modules are manufactured overseas and buildings can be constructed in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional construction, according to GBM. Transportation costs also are considerably lower since there is no need for special escorts or permits.
Modules retain only the dimensions of shipping containers (roughly 40 x 8, or about 1,280 square feet) and are designed with the aim of zero net energy use, reducing the carbon footprint that comes with traditional construction. The exterior envelope of the structure is wrapped with insulation, windows can be placed anywhere and facade materials can vary. Modules can be organized in different ways, with varying room dimensions. They also are reusable and can be unbolted and reconfigured, or added to another building.
GBM said it has an ongoing relationship with New York University for high-rise housing in Greenwich Village, where modules also can minimize neighborhood impact during construction. As many as a dozen modules can be installed by crane within two days and facades could be seen within three months. They also pointed to projects at 11 Great Jones St. and 135 Crosby St. in Manhattan.
David Wallace of GBM reminded the Redevelopment Agency that the presentation was strictly provisional, “putting ideas out there that are works in progress; they’re not fixed ideas on our part.” Future discussions will focus on programs, the connection to the Arts Guild, music versus art studio space, performance space configurations, LEED goals and energy performance, he said.
The environmental impact of green building has caught the attention of major foundations, according to Mayor James Kennedy, who has sought to include affordable housing for artists to sustain the arts as part the overall redevelopment plan for the city. “Four years ago you couldn’t find a developer who’d do this type of project,” he said, confident that the industry will blossom in the coming years.
Kennedy said the design phase is likely to take many months while the use of Zipcars also will be examined. About seven selected artists, perhaps three performing artists and four visual artists, would act as caretakers of the installation, he said. The Guild site is small enough to test ideas for larger projects, such as the former Elizabethtown Gas building, which could be home to 30 to 70 units of artist housing in the future, Kennedy said. The mayor often talks about retaining artists who come to inexpensive neighborhoods only to get priced out by gentrification.
City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the proposal is still very preliminary and there will be further presentations regarding the economics and costs and how the city can address artist housing.