Midterm Reviews


In mid-October, the CetraRuddy Housing studio students met with fantastic jury panels, engaging in productive discussions about their initial attempts to create sustainable housing models in the complex urban context of Stapleton. The reviewers who joined the studios of Fabian Llonch and June Williamson included Nancy Ruddy, John Cetra, Theresa Genovese, and Meredith Cocco of CetraRuddy, Tiffany Broyles Yost of ARUP, Albert Figueras of nArchitects, Sagi Golan of the New York City Department of City Planning, Anne Landau of SHoP, and Andrea Steele of Ten Arquitectos, as well as SSA’s own Brad Horn, Julio Salcedo and Loukia Tsafoulia. The reviewers debated with the students their powerful concepts and highlighted that the projects are already provoking many interesting ideas that will nurture what is expected to be a fruitful final presentation.





Students are connecting their analyses and key ideas to the opportunities Staten Island’s Northshore has to offer by asking questions such as: How are people living today? What are their needs? For whom are we designing these dwellings? They are also studying the larger context, which includes the connections to transportation infrastructure, the urban fabric, the connections of open spaces, the desired character of Bay Street and the waterfront, and the natural ecological systems.




Midterms are over and Thanksgiving is around the corner, which means students are in full production mode, translating the feedback given by the jury panels into fascinating housing projects.

David Peraza, CR Studio teaching assistant

Exhibit opening, Artspace @ Staten Island Arts

Several of us ventured out to Stapleton last month for the opening of an exhibit on public art proposals generated from the Design Trust for Public Space’s Future Culture project.


SI Future Culture 1 - Sunset from ferry

SI Future Culture 2 - students on ferry
Students in the CetraRuddy Design Studio in Housing relaxing on the Staten Island Ferry


We enjoyed a fabulous sunset from the Staten Island Ferry before arriving at the Artspace @ Staten Island Arts gallery, located on in a ground floor space at URBY Staten Island.

Student Kazia Garvey described the exhibit as featuring “social, educational, and environmental focused projects from local artists and scholars, each taking a unique position in the effort to revitalize the area. Members of our studio were able to speak to John Schettino, a graphic designer and Design Trust Fellow who designed the exhibit and had conducted extensive research on the area. He was very insistent that the artistic community in the north shore was not properly served. My first impression of the north shore was that there is a lot of potential that was not being realized.” These insights are proving important to the housing proposal Kazia and her partner Isaac are designing this semester.

Soon after we arrived, the musicians behind “Sonic Gates,” a Future Culture pilot project, began performing on an array of unusual “sound sculpture” instruments.


Musicians from the Sonic Gates project performing at the opening.


Afterwards we ventured out to walk the studio sites. It was too dark for photographs; regardless, we formed an initial strong sense of the neighborhood – a place in transition, with tremendous potential for building a culture of community.


SI Future Culture 4 -vacant lot
One of our studio sites. What kind of housing might be built here?


The Future Culture exhibit will be up until December 9, 2017.

June Williamson, CR Studio faculty

Dwelling units for new & evolving households: adapting to the co-living economy

New York City is experiencing an acute crisis of housing affordability1. At the same time, urban households in all boroughs are undergoing significant shifts in composition due to a confluence of factors:

  • Longer life expectancy means more older residents, who increasingly wish to “age-in-community”
  • Young people want to stay in the city, rather than move to the suburbs, and seek ways to share the costs
  • Immigrants continue to flow in from across the globe, bringing a diversity of cultural traditions and preferences

People are seeking new dwelling models for living today, with a greater emphasis on shared amenities: co-housing, co-living (Common, We-Work), baugruppen, and micro-units. In Professor June Williamson’s fall 2017 studio, “NYC Hous(e)ing: designs for co-living,” we are probing the myriad opportunities for new architectural design thinking afforded by these urgent housing trends.

Recently we participated in a whirlwind two-day design workshop with housing expert and studio consultant Karen Kubey.

As she reminded us, in the words of David Madden and Peter Marcuse, from In Defense of Housing, “The built form of housing has always been seen at a tangible, visual reflection of the organization of society.” Some questions that follow, for architects, are: What sort of societal organization do we wish to see? How can we design and build our housing to reflect those desires?


KK workshop - 1
Student Natalie Pesantez discussing workshop scheme with classmate Avi Nagel


For the workshop, students matched an “inhabitant group” whose housing needs could be better met with desired outcomes, such as resident health and wellness or economic equity. Then, in 24 hours, they designed and sketched (on trace! with colored pencils and markers!) a 58,000 sq. ft. building, for a typical infill lot in Stapleton, Staten Island. The lot is one of five studio sites we will design housing proposals for over the semester. It was an exhilarating couple of days!


KK workshop Studio Sites
Selected sites for the “designs for co-living” studio, along the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island


June Williamson, CR Studio faculty


1 The current median 1-bedroom apartment rent in New York City is over $3,300, which consumes 66% of the median household income of $60,800. Households that spend more than 30% of income on housing are considered “rent-burdened.” Over 60,000 New Yorkers are completely priced out and are housed in shelters.

First stop: Technologies / Typologies


The journey has started to a destination ahead of us: better housing for our future cities. Professor Llonch’s section -NYC Hous(e)ing, re thought- plans to research, evaluate, analyze and propose a truly speculative approach, while maintaining the major goal, which is to design an innovative project in the housing typology. With the new construction technologies at the core of our research, the objective of this studio is to offer an inventive response of affordable housing to the local, social and environmental challenges of our time. From the cityscape, to the “bedroomscape,” houses should be spaces that respond beyond the basic needs of the people who will inhabit them. We need to bring architecture back to the housing industry, we cannot continue letting a hungry market decide how we should live. Homes are sacred spaces with the power of transforming the societies for which they are built.

This journey has many stops; the first one is “Technologies / Typologies.” In the physical space of houses, technics acquire a leading role. What is the materiality of each space? What construction methods should we use? Which are the newest housing delivery technologies?


On September 19th, Professor Llonch’s students met to discuss their findings on these aspects, pinning up their research, and sharing their analyses of new methods. The technologies and concepts that were presented during the session were: Modular Housing, Kits of Parts, 3D Printed Housing, and New Findings. Meredith Cocco, Director of Marketing at Cetra Ruddy, attended the session.

In addition, students researched different typologies of dwellings, exploring the nested scales of housing: spaces for domestic activities (eating, cooking, washing, sleeping, among others), dwelling units (in a variety of households, from individuals to multi-generational families), residential buildings, and urban morphology. The analyzed projects included Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie (Montreal, Canada), Star Apartments by Michael Maltzan Architecture (Los Angeles, USA), Via Verde by Grimshaw + Dattner Architects (Bronx, USA), and Via 57 by BIG (New York City, USA).

The next stop will be “Site / Dwellers.” Stay tuned!

David Peraza, CR Studio teaching assistant

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.