written by:
May 21, 2015
If you live in a city, you've seen it all around you: infill, the land-reuse movement that's popping up around the world. Get the skinny on this space-saving design strategy here.
affordable concrete house in Jersey City

In urban planning, infill is the utilization of land within an already built-up area. Often this means new construction between existing buildings, usually on the sites of derelict lots. In Jersey City, Denis Carpenter turned a 1,300-square-foot lot sandwiched between a row house and a public basketball court into a modern home that riffs on the traditional houses around it in its scale and design. 

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Originally appeared in Garden Statement
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A rear view of the narrow house shows how Chong twisted the house’s volumes to bring daylight into each room.

Working with small spaces in cramped quarters means architects need to get creative. In Toronto, architect Donald Chong cleverly stacked the volumes of a three-story house to let in more light and maximize space. The 2,100-square-foot home sits on a narrow lot that once held a rickety 800-square-foot cottage. 

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Originally appeared in Narrow Modernist Three-Story Home in Toronto
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Outside their homes on Throckmorton Street in Dallas, architect Edward Baum (right) and his neighbor admire the fruits of Baum’s labors.

Infill projects don't have to be tall and skinny, but they do increase density while promoting community through proximity, walkability, and the repurposing of otherwise underutilized spaces. In Dallas, architect Edward M. Baum created a quartet of townhouses on two lots bought for $80,000 each. “This neighborhood and these lots presented the perfect opportunity to create single-family homes that are still somewhat affordable and could tempt young families and singles into returning to the city,” Baum says.  

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Originally appeared in Developer Does Dallas
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Segal’s urban-infill units (like the Titan shown here) eschew typical features like dysfunctional balconies and underground garages.

Infill projects should respond to and enhance the existing architecture around them, rather than ignoring their surroundings. In San Diego, architect-turned–developer Jonathan Segal has transformed dozens of undesirable lots and brownfields into relatively eco-friendly rental units that eliminate unnecessary features like underground parking and decorative balconies. “Our stuff is less expensive than sucky architecture,” he says, “but you can’t mandate good design.” 

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Originally appeared in The Jonathan
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On an eight-foot-wide site in London, architect Luke Tozer cleverly squeezed in 
a four-story home equipped with rain-water-harvesting and geothermal systems.

Infill gives overlooked spaces new life. “Only an architect would have been crazy enough to buy it,” says architect Luke Tozer of the skinny lot—the site of a derelict 1950s cottage in London's tony Notting Hill neighborhood—where he built his family house. In Tozer's case, building from the ground up rather than renovating offered the chance to expand up, back and down, while also allowing him to incorporate sustainable features like a geothermal system. 

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Originally appeared in A Slender Geothermal Cottage in London
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Imai House by Katsutoshi Sasaki + Associates

Building between existing architecture doesn't have to mean sacrificing space—inside or out. In Okazaki, Japan, architect Katsutoshi Sasaki turned a small garden no wider than an urban alley—just three meters across—into a minimalist and light-filled home. “The lot is so small ... I thought the client needed to get a feeling of freedom,” he says. “I connected the different spaces, and still managed to plot a garden at the edge of the house.”  

Originally appeared in Minimal Home on a Narrow Plot in Japan
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affordable concrete house in Jersey City

In urban planning, infill is the utilization of land within an already built-up area. Often this means new construction between existing buildings, usually on the sites of derelict lots. In Jersey City, Denis Carpenter turned a 1,300-square-foot lot sandwiched between a row house and a public basketball court into a modern home that riffs on the traditional houses around it in its scale and design. 

Photo by Samantha Contis.

At Dwell on Design Los Angeles 2015, three innovative architects—Apurva Pande, AIA, of CHA:col; Jeanine Centuori, principal and founder of UrbanRock Design and director of the Architecture of Civic Engagement (ACE) Center at Woodbury University; and Nathaniel Funk, of Vancouver-based Shape Architecture—will share their perspectives on the topic in the AIA Continuing Education panel Urban Infill and Small Spaces. Through current and recently-completed projects, these architects will demonstrate their solutions for maximizing living space in urban infill projects, and how preservation and sustainability can go hand in hand. 

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