2022 Forge Prize Winner

Common Sky: Reinvigorating Public Housing in New York's Harlem

Images courtesy of Temporary Office

Vincent Yee Foo Lai of Adjaye Associates and Douglas Lee of University of California, Berkeley took home the $10,000 grand prize for an inspiring concept to transform public housing in New York City’s Harlem. The team partnered with Rob Williams, PE, vice president of sales at AISC member fabricator Steel, LLC, to further develop the concept.

The “Common-Sky” vision would essentially create a new steel housing block atop the Riverton Square development in Harlem, with a focus on building community not just among neighbors but between occupants of the new and old sections.

“To rebuild is very easy--just take down the existing building,” said Lai. “Why don’t we think of ways to leverage the existing community and build a new one? This is a very apt idea to forge new and old communities through steel construction, which is fast and easily modified.”

Public space is central to their plan to build community.

Their design would open up the first floor of the existing building to create a porous space that welcomes residents and those from the surrounding areas. Even the corridors are designed to create a village-like atmosphere. The “Common Sky” area between the new and old units would serve as a focal point for people to gather, with a library and cafe. A roof terrace with modular steel trays provides space for an urban farm, as well.

The new prefabricated, modular units (each selected to meet a resident’s needs) would be supported by columns attached to the existing building. Lai and Lee drew inspiration from the gerberette system in Paris’s Centre Pompidou.

To pay homage to the existing brick, Lai and Lee’s concept would use weathering steel as the primary structural material; perforated metal mesh cladding would let in maximum daylight.

Meet Vincent Yee Foo Lai and Douglas Lee

The design collective of Temporary Office, led by Yee Foo Lai and Douglas Lee, and sometimes in collaboration with friends and colleagues, has worked on several projects crossing the boundaries of architecture, public space-making and preservation. With a strong focus on historic research and precedence, the Temporary Office team seeks to constructively respond to the ever-changing needs of our environment in a rational yet playful way.

Vincent Yee Foo Lai (left) is currently a full-time practicing architectural designer at Adjaye Associates in New York. He holds a Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from NUS Singapore, where he received the AKZO Nobel Gold medal for distinction in Architectural Design. He has diverse design and research experience, previously working in leading international firms such as SOM, OPEN Architecture, Vo Trong Nghia Architects, and Aedas.

Douglas Lee (right) is a Chinese-Canadian designer and a Master of Architecture candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning, Design & Management from The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL. His work experience includes OMA/AMO, SANAA, BIG, Neri and Hu, Atelier Deshaus, The Open Workshop and SLA.

"The work here is not done; we will be carrying this momentum to further unlock the potential of modular construction to house communities in need. To forge living spaces for the common good."

-2022 Forge Prize Winners Vincent Yee Foo Lai and Douglas Lee

2022 Forge Prize Finalists: Runners-Up

Martin Miller of Antistatics Architecture in Ithaca, N.Y., designed a unique future icon of Silicon Valley. 

Miller's concept capitalizes on computational tooling and steel's flexibility to create a bold design. Miller worked with Brett Manning, vice president of engineering (Western Region) at Schuff Steel

Levi Wall of DLR Group in Denver created Re-Adaptation for a site in Detroit. His concept is a nod to the city's long history in automobile fabrication techniques and is intended to revive existing infrastructure with an infusion of structural steel innovation. 

Wall partnered with Matt Cole, business development director at AISC member fabricator Drake Williams Steel.

Meet the Finalists

Martin Miller

Martin Miller is a designer, researcher, artist, and educator. Along with Mo Zheng, he founded Antistatics Architecture in 2015 as a practice seeking innovative and evolving solutions to challenges within the built environment. Creating works across scales, from installations and interiors, to masterplans and city design, the studio seeks to synergize conventional methodologies with emerging technologies as a dynamic and adaptive design process. 

He received a BFA in Sculpture with minors in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Colorado and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. His work finds synergy between material behavior, conventional construction, robotic automation, and computational processes. Of particular interest is post-digital integration of physical and digital spheres, seeking novel solutions to complex problems through the simulation, analysis, and prototyping of designs simultaneously across media. 

As an educator, he has taught several studios and seminars as an assistant professor in practice at Cornell University, directing the master’s computational design studio, exploring big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and generative form-finding. The elective studios he has taught have investigated the blurring boundaries between physical and online spaces, collective iconographies, digital fabrication techniques, and architecture as narrative.

Levi Wall

Levi Wall lives with his wife, Arwen, and their son Matteo in Lakewood, Colo. 

For the past seven years, he has worked on educational, commercial, and civic projects as a designer and architect at DLR Group's Denver office and has been a frequent reviewer and occasional studio instructor at CU Denver's College of Architecture and Planning.

Before that, he graduated with his Master of Architecture from Kansas State University and helped design commercial buildings and masterplans in Colorado and Bangkok as a designer at AU Workshop in Fort Collins, Colo.

Levi is interested in immediacy in architectural systems, leading him to experiment with IKEA-hacking, and has researched the ethical underpinnings and potential of design and building processes, creating and hosting a session for AIA's 2019 conference titled "How to Design Ethics". 

Congratulations to the 2022 Forge Prize winner and runners-up!