The Productive [Narrow] Lot

small lot | BIG IDEAS Competition

In the face of climate change and resource scarcity, humans are seeking new ways to produce energy, food and materials, to repair our ecosystem, and to nurture community ties. This paradigm shift—from parasitic residence to a new productive urban occupation—could be appliqued onto the current town fabric by appropriating underused spaces, reimagining building surfaces, and inserting new programming onto the existing framework of traditional dwelling models. From the scale of the neighborhood down to the detail, productive architectural accretions could position the single-family house as a catalyst for change.

This project proposes a “kit of parts” that transforms ordinary architectural elements into a productive tectonic language. simple insertions and accretions—design interventions that can be deployed over time and as needed—the architecture of a conventional house can be made to work for more productive ends. The Productive [Narrow] Lot proposal layers three new categories of design thinking onto the envelope of a typical single-family urban residence:

Biodiversity: Design features that provide enhanced animal habitat and ecological services, improve soil and water conditions, or help to minimize the negative effects of climate change.

Production: Surfaces that are reconsidered as spaces for animal husbandry, food cultivation, or the generation of new resources, such as fuel.

Infrastructure: New systems that help to produce, protect, or preserve limited resources and energy reserves.

This menu of options can be mixed and matched in a variety of synergistic combinations. It can be assembled on any type of dwelling regardless of aesthetics or vintage. The productive potential implicit in many Narrow Lots can, in aggregate, scale up to create greater beneficial impact on their environment than their modest footprints suggest.




Carey Clouse AIA, Crookedworks Architecture

Project Team

Marcel Alvarez, Frances Goyes


102nd ACSA Annual Meeting, Miami, FL, April 10-12, 2014 A.P.E. Gallery, Northampton, MA November 2013