Garrett Reynolds, AIA
Photography: Vincent Ricardel Garrett Reynolds, AIA

Garrett Reynolds, AIA, the recipient of the 2015 AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship, is conducting research in Copenhagen, New York, Stockholm, and Tokyo on innovative design strategies toward living small in urban environments. Reynolds, an architect at Mithun in Seattle, will investigate shifting relationships between public and private space in residential buildings and the integration of multiunit housing into the city. “Urban fabric,” he says, “is about the character of a city as it relates to individual buildings.”

I’m looking at innovative housing strategies that respond to the evolving needs of people living in our cities, and how architecture can respond to meet these needs. My interest in this started when I moved to Seattle four years ago, at a time when it was the fastest-growing city in the U.S., and when micro-units were seen as a response to the affordable housing demand.

The research in each of the four cities centers on the scales that govern our urban experiences: public, private, and community. I’m looking at unit mix, for instance—buildings that have multiple units at multiple scales—but I’m also looking at market-rate affordability, density, and how the design of communal spaces like shared kitchens in buildings can allow smaller micro-units. It’s a sociological question, approached through design. I’ve broken up the research into three trips—New York first, then Europe, and then Japan. In New York, there’s the My Micro NY project—the winning proposal in the adAPT NYC competition that allows for a zoning exception for units under 400 square feet, the current minimum size for a unit there. It’s not just about designing small units, but recognizing that life happens inside those units and outside in public space, too.

Copenhagen and Stockholm have what I call “livabilities”—or street life, parks, infrastructure, and transportation—that affect housing, as well as a culture that supports co-housing. Urban fabric, to me, is about the cross-section of the house, the corridor, and the street. The cities where small housing projects have been successful is where there are amenities, and thoughtful in-between communal spaces, nearby everyone. - As told to William Richards