Affordable doesn't have to mean forgettable. That's the theory behind a novel affordable housing design competition launched earlier this year by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem, N.C. The HOME House Project called on artists and architects to propose designs for single-family housing using Habitat for Humanity's basic three- or four-bedroom model as a point of departure. "We wanted to show that there was a whole range of people out there who were willing to introduce a new housing model, one that wouldn't have so much of a stigma attached to it," says David J. Brown, SECCA's senior curator. "In the past, affordable housing has been a noble idea with a bad reputation."

More than 440 entrants from 17 countries were charged with not only executing plans that broke the safe-but-often-boring design mold, but they also had to interject sustainable materials, technologies, and methods into the equation. An exhibition of 200 of the designs is currently on display at SECCA, and there are plans to mount a smaller traveling show.

But the real excitement comes early next year, when the Housing Partnership of Winston-Salem and the Forsyth Technical Community College will join forces to construct one of the houses in Winston-Salem. It promises to be affordable, but definitely not run-of-the-mill.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Greensboro, NC.