What began as a sketch to provide temporary housing for Pittsburgh’s homeless grew into an innovative solution for anyone displaced and in need of temporary housing, thanks to AIA Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Studio Competition (YASC).

Jake Morrison’s winning design, SRO Village, gives each resident a home, access to food-producing plants and a community market in which to sell the food. His was one of five entries in the annual competition.

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View of SRO Village units.

“I started thinking about how to break down the barrier of the basic interaction between people on the street and those walking by,” says Morrison. “How do you change the dynamic between them and how do you bring purpose to them through the market.”

YASC is held by AIA Pittsburgh as part of their annual design awards celebrating Pittsburgh’s outstanding architecture.

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Architects submit designs that solve a regional design challenge—last year it was to propose a new concept for the iconic Bayer sign on Mt. Washington.

This year architects designed for the resilient future of the region based on Pittsburgh’s participation in the 100 Resilient Cities initiative. The architects were challenged to answer the question: “What should Pittsburgh look like in the year 2050?”

Morrison’s SRO Village proposes that a resilient Pittsburgh incorporates SRO Villages into new planned developments to provide additional housing for the city’s homeless population. In Pittsburgh where there are 1,424 documented homeless persons, and 22.8% of the population lives under the poverty line, SRO Village provides a real-world solution. The Village can even be elevated to be sited in flood areas.

Morrison, who went to Kent State and works locally at NEXT architecture, says the Village can stand alone using “passive” energy efficient strategies. At Kent State, Morrison became interested in these design techniques and his passion is to design “buildings that are formed around the way people live and use them.”

The YASC jury was made up of architects F. Jeffrey Murray of CH2M and Laura Nettleton of Thoughtful Balance, as well as Pittsburgh’s Chief Resilience Officer Grant Ervin.

The jury commented that Morrison “has an acute understanding of resilience and the needs of vulnerable populations, giving people a sense of community and purpose.” In regard to the Village design, they added, “it’s sustainable and socially rich. It’s also adaptable and transferable and works for a variety of neighborhood and urban settings and for a variety of occupants and disenfranchised populations. This could really go somewhere.”

young architects studio competition

Jake Morrison’s original sketches for SRO Village.