St. Louis eco-BLOCK™

  • Node A: eco-BLOCK
  • Node B: eco-BLOCK
  • Node C: eco-BLOCK
  • Node D: eco-BLOCK
  • Node E: eco-BLOCK
  • Node F: eco-BLOCK

The eco-BLOCK™ is a strategy designed for resiliency, incorporating passive design strategies and utilizing a form-based code [define] to create a cohesive character and eco-parameters for development. Each block is intended to include mixed-use components, which might include live-work units, intergenerational housing, and single- and multi-family residential units, as well as commercial and neighborhood services. Each block aims to achieve Net Positive Energy Water and Waste, and provide for car optional urban living.

For this spring 2016 undergraduate architecture options studio led by senior lecturer Don Koster, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, a local community development corporation serving Old North St. Louis, identified a test block within the community for the development of an eco-BLOCK™ prototype. Old North served as an ideal testing ground, because after many decades of population loss, residents have begun moving back into this neighborhood. Other proposed infrastructure improvements, including a proposed transit line, will hopefully connect the already walkable neighborhood to nearby downtown St. Louis. The selected block is vacant except for two occupied buildings, providing an opportunity to study how to best integrate existing structures into new development proposals.

To get to know the site and understand the form of the neighborhood, students conducted in-depth historical and contextual research, compiling a book mapping the assets and conditions of Old North. As part of this research they developed an inventory of every existing building within the neighborhood from which a set of building typologies was developed, identifying common features that could serve to guide building proposals.

From this initial research, students individually developed proposals that considered building massing, scale, program, and landscape design. A community workshop, together with the leadership from Urban eco-Block, engaged Old North residents and interested community members. Feedback from this workshop was used to identify a set of schemes, each approaching the communal space, massing, and structure of the block in different ways. Working individually and in small groups, students’ final proposals included a variety of mixed-use development models, and raised questions about what might be possible in an eco-BLOCK™ development.

Final concepts and models were exhibited during the Old North St. Louis Home Tour in early May, where students were able to further engage interested residents, developers, and city officials in an increasingly informed dialogue about the viability and merits of this redevelopment model. Throughout the semester, representatives from Urban eco-Block participated in the studio, providing feedback and interpreting the students’ work toward their own organizational progress.

The following students participated in this course: Carmen Caldwell, Rylie Davis, Haley Elliott, Sunny Feinstein, Mason Herleth, Lorraine Kung, Amanda Lages de Lima, Joseph Palmer, Ethan Poh, Fisher Ream, and Megan Simmons.


Urban eco-Block
Old North St. Louis Restoration Group