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3rd place
Ben Tillman DESIGN

Ben Tillman - New Leaf

This is a housing complex focused around nurturing a sense of independence and community for each resident by providing a variety of opportunities for personal growth and social connection while also helping to shoulder key emotional and financial burdens that would otherwise hold them back.

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Housing should reflect the needs and desires of the residents, accommodating their current status while facilitating them on their journey to reach their full potential. This design responds by creating spaces that feel both intimate and expansive, protected and exposed. It’s in these moments that residents can thrive independently with the strong support of their surrounding community. The housing forms highlight a beautiful and graceful imbalance as a broken piece of hard shell allows light, color and growth in. The gap in the lower level becomes key for occupants, as it provides ease of social connections for residents that may need it most, such as young parents or elderly residents.

A series of integrated gardens act as a multifaceted resource, reducing grocery costs and improving dietary independence. They allow for the therapeutic benefits of hands-on work, nurturing living things, physical activity and a collaborative experience, as the vertical gardens, medium planters and large agricultural plots providing diverse social opportunities.

The structure at the east end contains a wide range of tenant services configured to help reduce a variety of financial and emotional pressures. A dedicated support staff on the lower floor increases security, while also being on hand to respond to any tenant needs. Childcare services and tutoring spaces support education while providing a safe social space after school, reducing the emotional and fiscal pressure of finding care and allowing parents to put more energy towards pursuing their own opportunities. Finally, a dedicated social space on the top floor provides space for large gatherings and impromptu activities, especially during the cold months.

The emphasis on education extends to adults as well. A variety of sustainable life skills and job training classes are provided in the small corner building to both residents and the surrounding community, allowing them to learn together and form new bonds.

The design of the housing units supports the residents as well, as it revolves around a series of passive sustainable systems, including rainwater collection, high thermal insulation and a focus on natural lighting and ventilation. These aspects help to radically reduce the utility costs while providing a healthier living environment for the residents.

The emphasis on mental wellbeing, social connections, urban agriculture, integrated family and tenant services, and highly efficient sustainable design, holistically provides a more stable emotional and financial base for the residents and the surrounding community.

The design maintains affordability and low operating costs in many key ways. The buildings employ simple geometric forms, modular systems and adherence to a grid to maximize structural efficiency and minimize material waste. Primarily using economical materials with long lifespans and little need for maintenance, reduces construction and lifetime costs. The use of pier foundations minimizes excavation and site work required and by raising the structures above the ground plane greatly reduces the risk of flood damage and pests. Focusing on passive sustainable strategies and high insulation values reduces the size and wear on mechanical systems, minimizing upfront and long-term costs.

For more information
on the winning designs, contact Helen Malani at

Ben Tillman

Ben Tillman

Ben Tillman is currently an Architectural Designer at Wold Architects in St Paul, and has previously worked for DLR Group in Minneapolis and NORR Architects in Chicago. His professional design experience includes educational, commercial and civic projects, as well as branding, graphic and web design for a number of small businesses. He received his Masters of Architecture from the University of Kansas with a personal focus on sustainable design in urban environments.

A passionate young designer with a strong belief in the power of design to improve the daily lives of others, Ben follows a pragmatic idealism, the thought that efficiency and function can create beauty in their own way. He is very interested in the idea of social sustainability in terms of architecture, specifically the effects that new development can have on its surrounding community and neighborhood.

Tillman Design

Minneapolis, MN