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Las Casitas ReImagined, Columbia GSAPP

Urechi Oguguo, Research + Visualizations + Model making
Aaron Sage, Research + Analysis

Gabriella Etchegary

This project is inspired by the history of the neighbor-hood and one of its historical architectural typologies,Las Casitas.Casitas are traditional Puerto Rican housing types that were introduced to New York during the 1960s/70s coinciding with the wave of Puerto Rican immigration to the city. The Casitas grew out of the necessity to occupy abandoned lots in the Lower East Side, Harlem and theBronx (among other locations). These casitas were not intended as dwelling units, but anchored to a garden and served as community gathering spaces as well as a safe haven for residents of all ages. Some of the activities housed in these buildings included: music, dance, BBQs, festivals and other celebrations.Inspired by the functions and architectural characteristics of a traditional Casita, this project attempts to reimagine how the Casita can be integrated into a new multi-family housing typology. Our approach addresses the need for low-income housing by proposing a new community living style which densifies the neighborhood while using the casita-garden relationship to improve the safety and well-being of the residents.The project aims to preserve some of the most identifiable characteristics of traditional casitas: the porch, the pitched roof, the cross-balustrade railing system, the garden component, and perhaps most significant – the spatial opportunities to reinforce community.

​The first three floors of the complex operate as a ‘town’ as they connect through the entire block with public functions that serve the residents and the neighboring community. With markets and restaurants providing food sourced from the gardens, to art and exercise spaces providing opportunities for the youth and the neighborhood at large, the project serves as a necessary instrument promoting the health and well-being of the neighborhood. Rising from above the town are three towers which are strictly residential, with ‘casitas’ dispersed throughout that serve the residents on each floor.The dormitorio sizes are determined based on the most essential needs of a dweller – varying from units with living, sleeping and cooking spaces, down to units with only sleeping spaces whose dwellers will have the opportunity to share cooking/ living spaces with their neighbors in the closest ‘casita’. This allows for the building to not only be truly affordable but practical for various household sizes in its Bronx neighborhood.
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