Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
2010 YAF/COD Ideas Competition
Eric Polite’s third-place entry “The Community Unit,” takes a scalable, programmatic approach to building community amongst disaster survivors. It takes typical trailer massing and dresses it up with smooth, recycled, “vacu-formed” plastic molding that makes each module look a bit like a section of a space station.
These pre-fabricated units bolt and screw together in six succinct steps, and can be assembled in five hours. The long, large strip of unprogrammed living and multipurpose space that takes up most of “The Community Unit’s” footprint provides lots of programmatic flexibility. One unit could install a grocery store here. Another could be a doctor’s office, daycare, or library. Or residents could simply use it as more sleeping space.
Polite’s design doesn’t dictate how people whose lives have been turned upside down might want to live, and understands that they’re probably trying to figure this same thing out, day by day. All this flexibility allows for the installation of basic neighborhood services and functions on-site, building a sense of community ownership and identity. Instead of going to a government distribution point for food and water, neighbors can visit their own community store.
Units can be stacked and configured in many different ways. Polite, a recent graduate of Georgia Tech now living in New Jersey, envisions them as groups of 33 units, stacked up to three levels with a green public terrace and photovoltaic panels on top. The units can also be placed in pairs, or groups of four, with a central courtyard. They can be scaled up to almost any level; one to 100. “It’s almost infinite,” Polite says. --ZM
Each pre-fab Community Unit is made out of recycled plastic and put together in six simple steps. Image courtesy of Eric Polite.