Dear landlord

First prize – small-scale interventions

Dear Landlord,

By: Nile Greenberg​

The Plan B competition invited us to think of solutions which prioritize density, scale and urbanization, but in some cities, such as New York City, we have an urban fabric so thick and intense that it takes significant effort to find distance from it. This proposal is for a communal vacation home which requires no effort to access. It turns our idyllic roof into a small agricultural farm with beautiful wooden house separating our community from the asphalt of the city.

This proposal is personal and I intend to mail this letter to my landlord with the hopes of beginning a conversation. I live in an old industrial loft building, surrounded by new developments, which despite their world-class architects, are so generic that they are unable to rent them. Our building has character, architectural space and a strong community which I want to leverage to build a communal second home. We would build and pay for the project ourselves and each co-owner could request a certain period of time each year when they get access to a suites. The communal ground floor would always be available for dinner parties, weddings or a work space. 

I was pleased to find useful and inspiring products of Metsä Wood. The Kerto-Ripa® floor and roof elements were of particular interest and so I used them in three different ways to build the home. On the community level the elements sit in between Kerto-T® columns, on the middle level the elements sit on top of a Kerto-S® beam and on the roof it rests on Kerto-Q® LVL Panels with a special exposed structure below. The design emphasizes the assembly of parts and this system allows for basic units to be brought onto the roof and assembled with little effort. The windows, glass walls and furniture systems always fit within these main elements ensuring that the self-built building can be realized.

Here is the letter addressed to my landlord.

Dear Landlord,

We the tenants write to you today with a proposition: a self-initiated improvement to our building in Downtown Brooklyn– a second home. Our loft building has always hosted a strong creative community; we’ve shared a rooftop farm for years, and now many of us hope to start families here. This second home would serve our community with a large kitchen and dining area, with a glass wall opening out onto the farm. The home will also provide our small families with two suites of rooms that offer privacy, silence, and simplicity to our otherwise complex New York City lives. These rooms are reminiscent of Japanese tea houses: quiet, warm, wooden rooms with large sliding windows, distinct from our all-concrete industrial lofts. This second home would be paid for and built by us, using sustainable prefabricated wood products. A wooden building in New York City is a rare thing, but this simple, shared structure would provide our community with a place to gather, find peace, and celebrate.


The Tenants

Downtown Brooklyn, NY​

The Designer: ​Nile Greenberg

Nile GreenbergNILE Greenberg is a modernist in New York City. He pretends to be Mies van der Rohe, but can’t really shake the feeling that he might be more of a Kahn. If it isn’t obvious already, escaping modernism isn’t really an option for NILE, so he embraces it. Luckily, those antiquated lessons about light, beauty, structure and utility are still pretty useful. Today, these simple elements multiplied in the right way can create utopias, oases and a generally better place to live.​


Jury's comments

Stefan Winter:

A wonderful,  idea, full of idealism  and originality. Creating additional space for the common use and socialising of the tenants, possibly built widely by themselves, this entry demonstrates the nearly unlimited variability of use of timber structures. A small project, created with limited resources, simply great! 

Mike Kane:
Extremely refreshing and original in its directness on the issues facing ordinary city dwellers. This seemingly simple idea is full of potential for many reasons. Urban roofspaces worldwide are unexplored and ignored. Its richness lies in questioning many preconceptions of what 'housing' is, who should 'provide' it. More importantly, it is an accessible and realisable solution to problems facing all cities and us, its citizens. 

Michael Green:

This was a surprise project for the jury.  It is an elegant simple pavilion if it stood on the ground but as a social comment on the state of affordability in New York it really stands out in this rooftop installation. Much of the world struggles with same issues of affordabilty.  Dear Landlord demonstrates that ingenuity can be found by thinking on top of the box.

The winners


Tammelan Kruunu by Lisa Voigtländer (Germany) and SungBok Song (Korea)



Lightweight Living by Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint​


Plug-In by Jari Lonka, Francesco Allaix & Lilja Mustila


Aboveall by Giuseppe De Marinis Gallo​ & ​​Gianluca Gnisci​​​


The Green Intervention by Minjae Kim &​​ Kwang Ja Oh​


Dear Landlord by Nile Greenberg​


Vertical Lilong by Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​


Colliding Lines and Lives by Sinan Gunay & Nurhayat Oz​​


Dachkiez,Village On The Roof​ by Sigurd Larsen, Simon Jendreizig, Vanessa Panagiotopoulou, Marlene Kjeldsen, Guillermo Fernandez Villar & Pedro Campos Altozano​

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

Explore the designs