“NEW VILLAGE HOMES” is about as generic a moniker as one could pick for an urban infill community. The choice was utterly intentional on the part of Lincoln Street Studio, the architecture firm selected by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to knit 100 new homes (including 20 affordable ones) into a six-acre pocket of Columbus, Ohio's Italian Village Historic District.

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The whole idea was to pre-empt the stigma that often erupts around affordable housing. “We chose the name because it's the antithesis of a public housing project name,” says architect Frank Elmer. “We needed a name for zoning applications, but we wanted something that had a good chance of going away once the new houses became part of the neighborhood fabric.”

And yet the artsy pocket that was once home to a derelict senior housing high-rise and several bland, garden-style apartment buildings now adds a distinct flavor to a neighborhood largely inhabited by turn-of-the-century Italianate homes. With their simple, porch-front elevations, tight setbacks, and curbside parking, the new dwellings evoke tradition, but don't quite replicate it.

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Cottages, for example, are clad in variegated materials to appear as though they've been added on to over the years. In a riff on historic terrace homes, brick townhouses are delineated not with cornices, but with beveled rooflines and accordion-like façades. Duplexes look as though they've been sliced down the middle and jogged askew, with one side resting a step in front of the other.

“These are postmodern ideas. They create a new way of articulating the individual dwelling units even though they are attached,” says Elmer. “Our preference here was to use compatible materials and styles to create buildings that were undeniably fresh and new—and, in some cases, playful.”

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Category: Community with mixed-housing types; Entrant/Architect/Land planner: Lincoln Street Studio, Columbus, Ohio; Builder: Smoot Construction, Columbus; Developer: Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Columbus; Landscape architect: Beckwith Chapman Associates, Oxford, Ohio

FIRE AWAY New Village Homes packs 37 buildings into a tight pocket, achieving a density of 17 units per acre. Thus, noncombustible building materials were imperative for the mix of loft-style townhomes, city flats, and duplexes. Metal stud construction allowed for side windows, even in dwellings cozying up to each other on small lots. “We used wood trim, but the metal studs are sheathed in gypsum and reinforced with weather-bearing furring strips,” says architect Frank Elmer. “The skins are predominantly brick, cinderblock, and metal siding with asphalt shingles.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Columbus, OH.