Washington, D.C.–based firm Sorg Architects recently broke ground on a multi-unit housing structure that will combine housing and social services for homeless veterans. While construction actually began back in September, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held the day before Veteran's Day—an event attended by Mayor Vincent Gray as well as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro.
The building, named the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, is a project from the nonprofit Community Solutions and development company McCormack Baron Salazar. It's located in the city's NoMa neighborhood.
"It's right downtown, and just a few blocks north of Union Station and the Mall, and the building at that location is allowed to be 120 feet tall," says Suman Sorg, FAIA, principal of Sorg Architects and principal designer of the project. "There were opportunities for views to the south, west, and east of the site that we wanted to take advantage of, so we oriented all of the units in those directions."
The 124 units are between 390 to 405 square feet, and include a living and dining area with an open kitchen, as well as a "sleeping alcove," according to Sorg. Roughly half of these units are earmarked for homeless veterans, and the rest will be affordable housing. In addition to housing and related amenities, the building will also include social services.
The design includes three materials: corrugated metal, glass, and split-face masonry blocks. "Long ago in college, I learned if you have more than three materials in one building you are in trouble," Sorg says. "It dilutes the concept, so I always try to pay attention to that."
"This vertical building we felt could be broken down in scale a little bit, because it should belie the residential intimate spaces inside," Sorg says. "So we broke down the verticality of the building by organizing it horizontally, in blocks, and then staggering the blocks towards the views, and so that's how the form came up. Another important aspect was the church at the corner has a beautiful spire, so we created more or less what's a negative spire, in the sense that it's a setback from the church in the corner of our site so that the church itself has enough breathing room and the building sort of frames the church and engages it."
The $33 million building will be paid for by a combination of public and private funding. The project organizers hope to complete the project by the end of next year.