On November 11, the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) Design Competition showcased winning designs aimed at fostering familial living environments. The event, hosted by Prospera Housing Community Services, brought together 11 victorious participants, along with friends, family, coworkers, and supporters.
The citywide competition, held in the summer of 2023, was a collaborative effort between the City of San Antonio, local architecture and planning firm Able City, and its nonprofit affiliate City Makery. Veronica Garcia, Director of the City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department, emphasized the community-driven nature of the competition.
“Communities came together and imagined what an Accessory Dwelling Unit could look like in their neighborhoods,” Garcia stated. “This design competition is an example of how we can partner together to connect multiple generations to housing conversations, so we better understand the considerations of our neighbors.”
Funded by a $15,000 2023 AARP Community Challenge Grant and a $500 grant from DisabilitySA awarded to City Makery, the competition aimed to enhance livability and accessibility, particularly for adults aged 50 and older. The initiative included the creation of a video explaining ADUs and the launch of the citywide design competition.
Seema Kairam, associate at Able City and a member of the San Antonio Housing Commission's Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Subcommittee, highlighted the campaign's goal to engage families in discussions about the role of ADUs in the city’s housing landscape.
“As architects and planners focused on making cities more livable, sustainable, and equitable, we understand the many potential benefits of ADUs,” Kairam stated. “While we can think through design and policy, it is crucial to understand the lived experience of those who could benefit from having an ADU on their property.”
The competition received over 200 entries, with jurors from disABILITYsa, the National Organization of Minority Architects of Central Texas (NOMA), the San Antonio Housing Trust, and the San Antonio Area Foundations’ Successful Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) initiative selecting the winning designs.
City’s Chief Housing Officer Mark Carmona expressed admiration for the creativity and thought put into the designs, as well as the substantial number of submissions. Carmona noted that many designs incorporated sustainable building practices, accessibility, and intergenerational living, aligning with the city’s Strategic Housing Implementation Plan (SHIP).
A winning entry was selected for six categories. The winners for each category are:
Most Innovative Design: HiWorks
Represented by Brantley Hightower and Austen Kernodle
“That’s one of the things that always excites me about architecture. For other people who are interested in pursuing a career in architecture is that the great thing about it is that there is no one right solution, but it’s going to take all of us kind of working together to make those solutions work.”
Most Cohesive Story: Anne Englert, an active member of the Dellview Area Neighborhood Association who built an ADU with the help of neighbors.
“I always kind of think about who I can serve, who I can help but who’s going to be my neighbor. I want a good neighbor.”
Most Accessible Design: Nataly Lopez, a second-year University of Texas San Antonio student studying architecture
“Three years ago my grandpa got really sick and so our mom had him stay at our house and we realized that the house couldn’t accommodate him because he was wheelchair bound. And throughout that process, we started talking about all the struggles that my mom went through to help him through it, and I used that experience inside my design.”
Best Student Entry: Jimena Sanchez, a freshman at Lee High School
“The house I didn’t want it to be something like a square house, something like I see all around. I wanted something different. I saw the question like for it to be more accessible, and that’s when I got the part to make a circle and to make the house circular, too.”
Best Design Professional Entry: Alamo Architects Represented by: Trent Tunks, Michael Clancy, Alyssa Rodriguez, Sarah Monroe and Jim Bailey, who have donated their winnings to ADU housing initiatives.
“We want to make sure it seems like something that’s a reality and accessible to people to be able to imagine not only having an ADU for a family but how to do it.”
Best Older Adult Entry: Robert Reisen, a member of Walker Ranch Senior Center
“Anytime I’ve designed a floor plan or designed a house, I’ve always thought of it in terms of is this a house I would like to live in? It kind of sprang from a possibility that my wife and I might have to have a little living area.”
The jurors selected the five runner-up entries for a chance to compete for two People’s Choice Awards. Nearly 3,000 votes were received, and the two winners are Toan-My Le and Samantha Baumann, who has donated her winnings to ADU housing initiatives.
For more information and to find out what’s next for ADUs in San Antonio, visit SA.gov/ADU.