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The Near Westside: Architectural Diamonds in the Rough

The Near Westside: Architectural Diamonds in the Rough

Just Around the Bend

Syracuse’s Near Westside is certainly not for those faint of heart. However, it’s a developing neighborhood and an important section of the city that is worth traversing. While the area reflects the city’s struggles, it’s also a canvas against with potential for redevelopment shines. Several architectural diamonds, R-House, TED, and Live Work Home, are hidden in the rough between dilapidated residences and vacant lots.

Can We Get Together

In 2008,  Syracuse University School of Architecture joined forces with Home HeadQuarters and Syracuse Center of Excellence to devise the From the Ground Up competition. The initiative sought to generate designs for affordable, innovative, and sustainable homes. Who better to revamp the desolate properties than this team of slick architects and engineers? Their goal was to turn these lots into smart, trendy living quarters and to attract new residents to the Near Westside.

The Crown Jewels of the Near Westside

The R-House project on the 600 block of Otisco Street in the Near West Side


A pair of these urban architectural trendsetters is found in the middle of the 600 block on Otisco Street.  The aluminum clad R-House (a collaborative effort) sits to the left–sharp, sleek, and gleaming in the sun. The gabled roof transforms as its surface folds to create expansive interior spaces, while keeping a scale outside relative to nearby homes. But, it’s the performance component that makes it smart. The architecture follows standards for passive energy. Windows are positioned to utilize southern exposure while providing pleasant exterior views.

The TED project on the 600 block of Otisco Street in the Near West Side.


Originally designed to fit on a variety of lots, TED sits next door to R-House. Its cube form makes it spatially versatile and fills with light like a lantern. The roof lines are designed at angles to best take advantage of the sunlight and rainwater it catches. In addition, TED employs a slew of other systems to manage storm water, landscape needs, heating, and cooling.

The Live Work Home Residence on the 300 block of Marcellus Street in the Near West Side

Live Work Home

Just a short stroll away on the 300 block of Marcellus Street is the most radiant of the three–the Live Work Home. The best time to appreciate the aesthetic of its perforated screen is at dusk, when the structure is lit from inside-out. The long, narrow composition pays homage to local architecture. But it’s made adaptable to the needs of future residents with mobile walls for the inevitable change. Live Work Home is also constructed from locally sourced and repurposed materials, tying it to the urban fabric.

Service Architecture

Beautification of the city, or the enhanced aesthetics of a neighborhood, aren’t the takeaway here. These designs establish a precedent for housing that is affordable, adaptable to inhabitants’ needs, and has minimal energy consumption requirements. Their concept and execution are brilliant efforts in this Near Westside initiative. Such developments truly make Central New York more livable by providing homes of sound construction that are inexpensive and efficient to a community that’s been underserved by local architecture.

About The Author

Joseph Sgambati III

Architect // CrossFitter // Designer // Graduate Student // Runner // Writer


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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