Affordable Housing – Power to the People


Architects should see themselves as the representatives of the community in the building process and not simply as an agent of developers, reports Abode2.

Body-Lawson, whose diverse studio designs housing for low-income areas in the US and across Africa, told Abode2 that architecture is about finding ways to open dialogue and bring people together.

"Over the years of practising, I have come to realise that the best tool for empowering people is through affordable housing," he said.

The architect grew up in Nigeria and founded his self-named practice in 1993.

The studio, Body-Lawson Associates, has focused on affordable housing in the boroughs of New York, working with developers and the community to build structures that seek to serve people's needs.

Its designs include Erbograph Apartments, a senior housing project that was the first LEED Silver building in Harlem, as well as Home Street Residences, an affordable housing complex in the Bronx.

"I feel that affordable housing just gives end-users, particularly people who are disenfranchised, people who don't have social equity, the power to move from point A to point B in their lives," Body-Lawson said.

"So that by the time they get to point B, they are much more socially, economically, culturally, and spiritually stronger."

His methods for doing this focus on balancing the needs of communities with the prerogatives of developers.

"One of the interesting things about architecture is that it's like a jigsaw puzzle," he said. "And dialogue is absolutely important when it comes to putting the jigsaw puzzle together."

According to Body-Lawson, having architects that come from the communities where building is happening is essential to really understand the needs of the people who live there.

"When I first started it wasn't 100% sure that we had to have people from minority backgrounds," he said. "But I noticed that the representation at the table was very, very important."

Wise words indeed.

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