Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC

Housing Design Competition

Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC

Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC

Housing Design Competition

Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is a design competition for small-scale, urban infill housing. The competition is organized by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the American Institute of Architects New York (AIANY), and seeks to address the challenges associated with the design and construction of affordable housing on underutilized City-owned land.


On May 14, 2019, HPD and AIA announced the Finalists of Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC. The winning proposals were selected by a panel of nine jurors, and evaluated on their design, replicability, and construction feasibility.

The Finalists (in alphabetical order):

Anawan/101 + Kane, “Mass Green Living”
Michael Sorkin Studio, “Greenfill Housing as Garden”
OBJ, “Fold and Stack”
Only If, “System for Narrow Living”
Palette Architecture, “More with Less”

Learn more about the Finalists and their proposals.


In November 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Housing New York 2.0 plan, which builds on the success of the original Housing New York plan and furthers the City’s bold commitment to increase the supply of affordable housing by building or preserving 300,000 affordable homes by 2026. In support of the plan, HPD has aggressively moved through its inventory of vacant and underutilized City-owned land to create more affordable housing. Much of the remaining inventory includes lots that are challenging to develop due to their small size.

Launched in February 2019 by HPD and AIANY, Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is a design competition to find housing solutions for these lots, and to explore their potential to contribute to citywide affordable housing options.


The design competition seeks proposals with the goal of:

  • Promoting excellence in urban infill design
  • Exploring design and construction strategies to inform quality, affordable, small-home development
  • Demonstrating feasible, replicable housing solutions across various site and neighborhood conditions
  • Engaging and building capacity of architects to act as critical partners in the development of City-owned, vacant sites


Finalists for Stage I are awarded by AIANY a monetary stipend in the amount of $3,000 and invited to participate in an exhibition and panel discussion at the Center for Architecture. HPD will organize a series of workshops and networking sessions for finalists, in conjunction with AIANY, to facilitate the formation of development teams and aid finalists in developing their Stage I submissions into site-specific proposals. HPD will choose to designate one or more development proposals formulated in Stage II to be developed for affordable housing on City-owned land.


Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is a two-stage design competition.

Stage I
Stage I is an open affordable housing design competition. A jury reviewed Stage I submissions and selected five finalists based on competitive criteria as described in the Design Brief. Submissions should address a site located on the northern side of West 136th Street in Manhattan and demonstrate how such design can be replicated across various site typologies as exemplified by the City-owned sites listed in the Appendix.

Finalists are invited to enter Stage II of the competition, awarded a monetary stipend in the amount of $3,000, given the opportunity to participate in capacity building workshops, and to be featured in an exhibition to be curated and hosted by AIANY at the Center for Architecture

Stage II
Stage II will commence immediately after finalists are announced. Finalists will be invited to further develop their Submissions into an affordable housing development proposal pursuant to requirements and criteria in a Stage II brief that will be provided by HPD. HPD will assign one or more City-owned sites to each finalist according to their interest, capacity, and the appropriateness of their initial Submission.

At the end of Stage II, HPD may designate one or more teams to develop their proposals into affordable housing project(s).


February 1, 2019  | Competition launch and Design Brief release
February 15, 2019 | Q+A Addendum 1 release
February 22, 2019
  | Questions due
March 8, 2019 | Q+A Addendum 2 release
March 24, 2019 | Responses due
May 14, 2019 | Stage I finalists announced
May – July, 2019 | Finalist workshops and meetings
August 1 – November 2, 2019 | Exhibition at the Center for Architecture


New York City Selects Designers With Big Ideas for Small Lots in The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2019.

Wanted: The Oddest Lots in The New York Times, February 15, 2019.

Architects Wanted: Design These Odd Lots. in The New York Times, February 4, 2019.


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