2020 AIA Housing Awards: Broadway Housing by Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Broadway Housing

Architecture Firm(s): Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Owner: Indie Capital

Location: Sacramento, California

Category: One- and two-family production homes (category two)


On a long-dormant site in Sacramento, this compact urban infill development features nine small production homes targeted at young families seeking homes near the city center but without the insurmountable price tag. The cluster of two- and three-story homes responds nimbly to the context presented by two different streets, one busy and one quiet, while creating a carefully proportioned rhythm in the neighborhood.

“This project represents the power thoughtful design can have, regardless of budget.” Juror comment

The team developed the two prototypes for the project based on a shared kit of components and materials to address the varying urban conditions that surround the site. Each home, despite its scale, offers 1,500-square-feet of living space organized within interlocking stucco and wood forms. The six two-story homes that sit along Yale Street echo the modest local housing stock, while the trio of three-story homes along Broadway have added height to stand up to the vehicular thoroughfare.

Exteriors of stucco and black poly-ash boards are complemented by redwood siding, and, where the wooden boxes front the street, large apertures with shifting wall panels present an unapologetically cheerful burst of orange. The restrained palette helps assemble the project into an easily recognized ensemble of modern homes. Inside, the living space is consolidated into one continuous open space and stairs lead to the bedrooms. Throughout, off-the-shelf components and finishes, including cabinetry from IKEA, helped the total budget by 10 percent and make the homes more affordable.

The development sits in Sacramento’s Richmond Grove neighborhood, which, for decades, has suffered disinvestment and a stagnant economy. Like many similar neighborhoods across the country, it has attracted young professionals, artists, and students as an affordable and viable alternative to downtown. Created for a small development firm with an interest in redevelopment, Broadway Housing is the neighborhood’s first ground-up development and represents the power thoughtful design can have, regardless of budget. While many doubted the validity of the project due to the challenges posed by the L-shaped site and the contemporary vernacular of the homes, it has catalyzed nearly a dozen similar housing projects aimed at lower- to middle-income families.

Engineer – Structural: Core 4 Engineering, Inc.

General Contractor: Indie Builds


Emily Roush-Elliott, AIA (Jury Chair), Delta Design Build Workshop, Greenwood, Mississippi

Valarie D. Franklin, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, Gresham Smith, Nashville, Tennessee

Michael E. Willis, FAIA, NOMA, Oakland, California

Guido Hartray, AIA, Marvel Architects, New York, New York

S. Claire Conroy, AIA Allied Member, SOLA Group Inc., Chicago, Illinois

About the 2020 AIA Housing Awards

Together, the 2020 AIA Housing Awards are a study in the capacity of architects and architecture to drive, evolve and model progress and new cultural norms through design and creative problem-solving. Renewal; accessibility; thoughtful, beatiful design regardless of budget; the stewardship of nature; a focus on community identity, diversity and health; and intentional design for both community and individual well-being are common threads throughout. Honoring the arc of this progress, architect Paul Mankins observes: “Our work on sustainability began decades ago and it is important that we place our progress — and where we are now — within that framework. We have done great things, are doing great things and will continue to.”

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