A Second Visit to CetraRuddy!

The students in the CetraRuddy Design Studio in Housing began the new semester with a visit to the CetraRuddy office. This continues the year-long collaboration between the Spitzer School of Architecture (SSA) at The City College of New York and CetraRuddy Architecture. Professors Fabian Llonch and June Williamson have selected a new set of sites in Stapleton, on the North Shore of Staten Island, to be the base for design in this semester’s studio investigation into housing.


Visit to CetraRuddy-2

The 2nd year M. Arch students listened intently as John Cetra and Nancy J. Ruddy gave a presentation on their extensive portfolio of multi-family housing work.

These are the main points made during the presentation, which students were encouraged to consider as they developed their designs:

The Role of Zoning in Promoting Creative Solutions: CetraRuddy has been adept at understanding zoning and manipulating its provisions in tall building projects, such as using the transfer of air rights to add extra FAR for a tower or working with the sky exposure plane. Nancy Ruddy emphasized, “Zoning is an opportunity for creativity; not just to build the zoning envelope.”  For example, see One Madison and 242 W. 52nd St.

Efficiency in Planning and Cost: John Cetra described the concept of net-to-gross ratios in building planning and design, and explained that the goal for a typical floor plate in housing is 90% efficiency, with an overall efficiency of 80% when the ground floor lobby and other service spaces are factored in. For examples, he pointed to 443 Greenwich and the Walker Tower.

Optimizing Apartment Designs and Providing a Good Mix: Good housing design results in a range of apartment unit types, mixed vertically and horizontally. Internal shear walls in tower design can provide more design flexibility in window openings, exposure, and views. For example, see Orion and One Madison.

Creating Community: John and Nancy outlined two kinds of community they seek to engage. The first is context, as found in the surrounding neighborhood. The second is social, programming opportunities for residents to connect and interact with one another. For example, in the courtyard and open mail room at 535 W 43rd St., and in the two complementary towers, one condominium and one rental, built together on a shared garage podium, at Hudson Greene, in New Jersey.

These are important aspects of housing design for the students to remember while they tackle this semester’s studio, as well as in their future work in the architectural field. We will continue to post and document the students’ development over the course of this fall semester. Stay tuned to the blog for progress on their research and investigations into housing on the North Shore of Staten Island!


— Kiamesha Robinson, CR Studio Research/Teaching Assistant


Staten Island AIA Presentation

Last month, students from the past semester’s studio were asked to share their work with the Staten Island chapter of the AIA, a perfect place to show off a semester’s worth of hard work and research.  Along with Professor Llonch, student’s presented their own projects, pointing to the great potential of Staten Island’s Stapelton and Tompkinsville neighborhoods as sites of increased traffic and growth.

Coming off of a great, extensive final review, it is always exciting for your project to have another life after school finals.  This opportunity allowed for students to expound more upon the impact that development can have on these neighborhoods, and shed light on local community issues to a group of like-minded professionals.  It will be great to see if any of their research can be taken up by local firms and put to good  use.

Below, find a sampling of the students’ presentations; across the next few weeks, we will be highlighting individual projects and bringing you more work as the fall semester quickly makes it ways towards us.

Urban Village
Urban Village
Green Paradigm
Bridging Connections



Visit by Ronda Kaysen

Thursday proved to be an exciting afternoon, as New York Times reporter Ronda Kaysen visited the studio and shared some of her experiences with us. Typically, Kaysen writes for the Real Estate section, so she brings a particularly interesting view to the realm of architecture and the development of housing in New York. It was Kaysen who declared 2017 “The Year of the Renter”.

As Kaysen shared her writing methods with us, she emphasized her own approach, looking for buildings with impact on the city/neighborhood, buildings that point towards new and continuing trends, and architectural design that is innovative, interesting, or intrusive. You could see professionals and students alike take particular note as she spoke about those things that would bring a certain building to the front of the pack- we are all always interested in making sure our work gets the publicity we feel it deserves. Noting that “We are coming to the end of a cycle”, Kaysen pointed to the glut of luxury rental housing that has spread across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and questioned how the majority of the population is served when housing is geared towards the top and the bottom. What a perfect segue into the work being done this semester by the students, looking at exactly those under-served populations in today’s marketplace.

So how do we meet the needs of these people? Students shared their current work with Kaysen, emphasizing the key issues that each group is tackling , be it immigration, refugee status, age integration, or homeless youth. What can bringing these people into a neighborhood on Staten Island do for the community, and how do they integrate into one of the most diverse areas in the city? Kaysen, along with myself and others, was struck by the demographic map of northern Staten Island, which shows a huge mix of ethnicities and income groups. Perhaps as we look to continue improving the quality of New York for every New Yorker, we can look to Stapleton and Tompkinsville for potential answers.

-Cameron Shore, Research Assistant, CR Housing Studio

An Interview with Marta Gutman

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of sitting down with several professors here at CCNY’s Spitzer School of Architecture (SSA).  The first was Marta Gutman, Professor of Architectural History here at SSA, where she has been leading the history department since 2004.  Professor Gutman and I began our discussion with a seemingly simple question- “How did you get involved in the issue of housing?”.  Little did I know that that single inquiry would lead us forward for the better part of an hour, the conversation traversing education, theoretical giants, cross-country moves, and the under-pinnings of current architectural curricula.  Rather than providing a transcript of our conversation, I want to highlight several particular points that were made, and provide references/resources for the students of the CetraRuddy Design Studio in Housing- hopefully these will be helpful in the push to complete the semester.

Professor Gutman began her architectural career at Columbia University in the late ‘70s, a particularly interesting time to be at the Columbia GSAPP.  Professors included Richard Plunz, Kenneth Frampton (A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form), Robert A.M. Stern, J. Max Bond, and many others, who at the time that Gutman attended, were emphasizing housing as a most pressing issue.  Gutman worked alongside Richard Plunz on his book A History of Housing in New York which would come to have a large impact on her work for the foreseeable future.  I found this relationship particularly of interest, especially since his book has had a large impact on the way that I consider housing in the city, and would recommend it to any who have not read it.  Gutman continued to work with Plunz even after graduation, heading competition entries for prospective housing projects not only in the city, but across the country as well.  

In our conversation, Professor Gutman continued to circle back to the importance of typology in her education, teaching, and practice- it serves as the underpinning for the way that she approached design and now approaches teaching about housing.  Having had her as a professor now in both architectural history and comparative critical analysis, I can attest to her stress on typology.  It is clear, both from our conversation and her teaching, the impact that both Plunz’s and particularly Kenneth Frampton’s ways of thinking about building types have made.  I would point specifically to Frampton’s A Genealogy of Modern Architecture as in important source for understanding typology and the comparisons between similar typologies.  

I am sure that Professor Gutman will have more to add to this in the final reviews, but hopefully this provides a few pertinent examples and resources for more fully understanding the underpinnings of a typological study of housing, and how using the work of those that have come before us can lead to more successful projects in the future.


Last week, the studio students presented their schematic propositions for new housing on Staten Island to a large jury of professionals and professors, inviting critique and feedback on the work as it stands. The overarching theme of the projects was contextualization within the Staten Island community and providing services to new residents. The jurors offered a bevy of comments, focused on integration into the existing community, housing typology, and environmental performance of each proposition.


Invited jurors and students discuss work


The focus on community integration and the environment had me thinking about the power of mapping, not only as a formal exercise, but as a means to make an argument for certain housing strategies and inclusive living. The students had done a series of mapping activities prior to starting their housing investigations, and the information gleaned began to have an impact on their proposals; but what if those maps came to the forefront of the projects?  James Corner, of Field Operations and High Line fame, wrote “The Agency of Mapping” in 1994, and it has since become a part of the academic literature that many of us have read. Corner argues for a mapping technique that draws out new relationships and opens new social and environmental potentials for design to increase agency within a community, starting with a regional understanding and working down towards the local.

Kia_Glenn_Schematic Design_Page_4_Image_0003

Population by Race by Glenn Bell & Kiamesha Robinson

What new opportunities could this framework unveil for the two Staten Island sites? A refocus on the wider context and environmental concerns on the site could lead to new and exciting discoveries, both for the existing community as well as the new residents for whom housing is being supplied. As the students continue to investigate Staten Island, housing, and the potential for development there, I am excited to see students integrate the jury feedback and strong arguments for an inclusive community on Staten Island’s north shore.

Sarah_Mahesh_stapleton analysis

Stapleton Staten Island by Sarah Ahmad & Mahesh Mistry

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting an interviews conducted with SSA CCNY housing studio Professors Fabian Llonch and June Williamson, as well as a conversation with architectural historian and SSA CCNY Professor Marta Gutman. In addition, students will be contributing short pieces to the blog. Stay tuned for these and other new features!


-Cameron Shore, Research Assistant, CR Housing Studio


Students, professors, and invited guests came together at the Spitzer School’s J Max Bond Center on February 24th to discuss the past, present, and future of housing, building technology, and policies dictating development. Several students made presentations on building technologies, highlighting the resonance of future technologies and past ones; as architects and builders look for new methods and materials, we are continually looking to the past to influence our decisions. Not only does the method of construction influence the way we live, it can also serve as an indicator of contemporary thoughts and practices. It follows that the development of new building practices advances with changes in society.

I thought this point was particularly present in the projects of Mimi Hoang of nArchitects. After Hoang presented Carmel Place, as well as another project in Hong Kong with even smaller units, students and other guests raised the questions of light and air, overall size of living space, and influences on the project. Hoang and her firm spent a lot of energy researching precedents and, alongside New York officials and other architecture firms and non-profits, studying the best means for developing a micro-unit, or under-300 sq. ft. apartment. Co-housing and other social housing projects clearly influenced their work, as they moved towards communal spaces in the lobby-as-dining room, or gym-as-porch. It will be interesting to watch as people continue to live in these new small spaces, to notice their transformation and use over time.

This is exactly what the other invited guests are studying in their work. Kate Dunham’s presentation on her work from the mid-1990s was a fascinating; she looked at single and multi-generational housing across the globe. “Messing,” a term coined by Dunham but derived from the military term for a group of soldiers living and eating together (thus mess hall), seeks to begin an understanding of how groups of people live together with shared spaces, rooms, and lives. As noted later in the conversation, her ideas begin to mesh with Keith Krumwiede’s take on a new vision for suburbanism. What does it begin to look like when we reimagine the single-family home as a continuous structure, serving not a single family but a messing group? Krumwiede’s book Atlas of Another America light-heartedly pokes fun at the North American suburb and dreams of homeownership, but raises important questions along the way. I am looking forward to investigating his work more closely in the future, and seeing how students use his and Kate’s ideas in their studio work.

Karen Kubey’s work on new (or old) forms of city dwelling was actually a part of investigations undertaken for a design challenge sponsored by the Citizens Housing Planning Council (CHPC) with the Architectural League of New York, similar work to that of nArchitects mentioned above. In fact, Hoang said herself that the Museum of the City of New York show Making Room that Karen participated in was used as research for their own micro-unit.

Several final points were made by our guests, which I will discuss further in future posts, but I thought that John Cetra summed up the symposium rather succinctly. He challenged the students to wear their “future glasses” as they begin the next phase of the semester, designing housing on Staten Island. In order to create and build housing that people want and will continue to care for, an aspirational quality is required of everyone involved, looking not just to the issues of today, but also how housing in New York will continue to work over time, simultaneously integrating with community and creating solutions.

Continue to follow along as students descend on Staten Island and begin to better understand what their housing designs can do for the community. Issues, questions, and possible solutions raised in the symposium and studio will be revisited with every design proposal, and written about here each week.


img_20170216_165948589_hdrThis past week in studio, the students were focused on housing precedents and creating new conglomerations of housing types. One of the most challenging aspects of designing housing is not necessarily the individual unit, but the way in which you put those units together, either by aggregating units together into a single building design, or by designing the exterior and then fitting units into the envelope. In designs today, we see both methods being undertaken, resulting in drastically different buildings.

In last week’s post I mentioned Karen Kubey’s recent article “How to Judge an Icon: VIA West 57.” This analysis and critique of housing design on the West Side of New York is pertinent in discussing methods of laying out housing units and creating new buildings in an age where every project appears to need to gain iconic status to validate both architect and developer. In the instance of VIA West 57, we see a world famous architect (Bjarke Ingels of BIG) designing an exterior form, and then a local architect being forced to design 178 different units along with 500 foot-long corridors. This is one method, though time will tell us if it truly successful and/or sustainable over the years.

As the students were laying out their preliminary studies in unit aggregation, the difficulties of designing from the inside out become quickly apparent as well. How do these units stack? What about long corridors or tall, narrow exterior courtyards? How will these new designs meet the sidewalk or create outdoor community spaces? Immediately we are faced with an increasing number of questions, from the alignment of units to zoning issues.

I spoke with Billy, a second year MArch student, and he raised many of these questions, specifically focusing on the zoning issues that the project proposes. The semester’s project is to design a mixed-use housing development on Staten Island. Being within NYC, the project will be heavily driven by the complex zoning regulations that dictate so many building forms and uses across the city. Billy’s struggle with zoning and inclusionary housing is an all too common one to architects, city planners, developers and the like in New York. This is made clear in the current zoning exhibition on view at the Museum of the City of New York.

It is also made clear in the students’ work thus far. We can see the efforts to define program, aggregate housing units, provide access, and create an urban form in their preliminary studies. With the help of precedents, visiting guest presentations, constant critique, and further research, these housing designs for Staten Island’s north shore will take shape, prompting even more questions and investigations. Stay tuned in as we delve into the gritty details of housing in New York.

– Cameron Shore- CR Studio Research Assistant

Studio Workshop


The upcoming studio workshop, “Hous(e)ing: What’s Missing” should prove to be a good conversation involving scholars, students, and practicing architects. Acting as a culmination of the students’ research into current and future housing prototypes and examples, the invited guests will share their current work and enlighten the audience with their views on housing in New York today. The list of speakers includes Karen Kubey, Keith Krumwiede, Kate Dunham, and Mimi Hoang.

Karen Kubey, the former executive director of the Institute for Public Architecture, has been studying, designing, and teaching about public housing and architecture for the past decade and a half. Her most recent article focuses on the public design implications of private housing, questioning how much a private project should and could bring to the surrounding community both physically and monetarily.

Keith Krumwiede, an associate professor and director of graduate architecture programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has spent his career focused on the American prototypical dwelling, the single family home. His current work, Freedomland: An Architectural Fiction and Its Histories, and book Atlas of Another America, investigate form and place-making within the American town/suburb. His graphical depictions of new forms of housing raise questions about the ideas of homeownership and community building.

Mimi Hoang is a co-founder of nArchitects, a leading architectural firm here in New York. Also a Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia’s GSAPP, she and her design partner have worked on a wide range of projects, from public amphitheaters and ferry terminals to mixed-use buildings and housing here in the city. One of their most recent projects is Carmel Place, a 32-unit building of “micro apartments” in Kipps Bay.

Kate Dunham is on the faculty at Columbia’s GSAPP, focusing on urban design and housing.  Over the past 20 years, she has worked both here and in Asia on developing public space and zoning guidelines, alongside public interest groups and private firms. Her work has continually had a focus on high-density housing in the urban setting.

Please join us in welcoming these guests to our public workshop, to be held at the J. Max Bond Center at CCNY’s Spitzer School of Architecture, 141 Convent Ave, New York, NY on Friday, February 24th from 9am-12:30pm. Gathering with students and professionals alike, I am interested to hear people’s vision for the future of the city, particularly as it relates to housing New Yorkers from all walks of life.  As the City looks to house an influx of 1 million over the next two decades, it becomes more important to have these conversations in preparation, and to look outside of the city limits for successful examples.

Cameron Shore- CR Studio Research Assistant