Marfa housing complex masterplan

Marfa, Texas was thrust into the art scene with Donald Judd’s permanent art installation in the Seventies. The town, with a population of less than two thousand, has developed a thriving series of art-related events brought on by organizations such as the Chinati and Judd Foundations, as well as many other attractions – all of which have generated a steady increase in tourism. In recent years a new infl ux of artists have relocated to Marfa creating an atypical economic symptom in the town. Prices of real estate have increased substantially, but the primary problem lies in the extremely high price of rental homes. Compared to the sales price, rent prices are abnormally high, which in turn forces local residents to look elsewhere to rent. Despite the fact that houses on the market are for sale, local residents cannot aff ord to buy or rent these spaces. The arrival of artists and tourists has had a positive impact on the local economy, but it has simultaneously created a rift in the supply and demand of Marfa’s housing market. Consequently, this small town is facing a housing crisis. While the estimated household income in Marfa has risen from $24,712 in 2000 to $40,240 in 2012 (1.63 times), the estimated median home value has risen from $$44,000 in 2000 to $114,362 in 2012 (2.6 times). In comparison, in El Paso, Texas, the estimated household income has risen 1.27 times and the estimated median house value 1.68 times, and in San Antonio TX, 1.26 and 1.66 times respectively.

It is also notable that, based on our research investigating rental housing in Marfa, it was still very difficult to fi nd available housing, despite the fact that the local real estate market is asking for disproportionately high rental prices compared to the market’s housing sales price. Reviewing this interesting social and economic phenomenon, we questioned how a new multi-family housing development can properly supply affordable housing to meet Marfa’s current housing demand. Careful regulation by local authorities is essential to prevent out-of-town renters from inflating the rental prices of the new development.

Therefore we propose a new development typology: one that embraces a symbiotic living environment for both local residents and visitors, while also allowing the development to be financially viable and provide affordable rental units to the local residents. Our proposal encourages the development to be financially backed by the money generated by visitors, while still being maintained by the local residents who hold the main lease of the units. The development community as a whole will be designed to incorporate flexible configurations within the units, so that a part of the unit can be subleased out to visitors. The high demand for short and long term visitors will in turn subsidize the high rental price in Marfa, and ultimately make the project viable.



LOCATION : Marfa, Texas, USA

CLIENT : Local Community

YEARS : 2015

STATUS : Competition

PROGRAM : Masterplan 

COLLABORATORS: Architecture Work Office


PROJECT gallery