Anice Hoachlander

Commissioned as part of an initiative to close Washington, D.C.’s aging and overcrowded affordable short-term housing facilities, The Aya is a new seven-story building that provides a soft landing for those seeking temporary housing, with access to service-enriched programming that assists with stabilization and exiting homelessness.

The facility houses 50 families in seven to 10 units per floor, with community rooms, private rooms, family bathrooms, laundry facilities, and a federally qualified health center on the lowest level.

Sited on one of Pierre L’Enfant’s original arterial streets, local firm Studio Twenty Seven Architecture designed the building with four uniquely different elevations that preserve the existing tree canopies and allow for maximum daylighting and views. The glassy north façade contains the community rooms that look out toward the Capitol, the south façade frames the entrance to the health clinic, the east façade contains screened outdoor play spaces, and the stepped west façade creates a front lawn for each unit.

Anice Hoachlander

“The project team worked hard to create a space that reflected respect, empathy, and hope for its residents while reshaping the idea of what affordable, temporary housing looks like,” says the award application.

Inside the LEED Gold–certified building, residents are immersed in bright, clean spaces with pops of color. Each floor features a different organizing color, such as the red above, to foster a sense of community and ease of orientation.

“I think what’s interesting—and probably what we all gravitated toward—is this doesn’t express itself as affordable housing. This is not the typical expression of it,” notes one juror during the deliberations. “You just don’t see affordable housing look like this.”