The Yale Building Project, Week 16: A Sneak Peek

In the final installment of their summer-long blog, Yale’s student-builders give us a tour of their nearly-complete house.

All summer long, first-year graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture have been blogging about their progress building an affordable, accessible owner-renter residence in New Haven. This week, we present the final installment of the Yale Building Project blog. Click here to read the series in its entirety–and, as always, leave your thoughts in the comments form below.

Click for a larger image. Photos: courtesy the Vlock First Year Building Project

As we ramp up in fervor and productivity to the imminent finish line, this final blog post is a tour of the house, melding concepts and thoughts. To give a holistic and cohesive view of how the Building Project is solidifying as the final week of construction approaches, I asked my fellow summer interns to help create a virtual tour of the house. Here is a raw glimpse inside:


Owner Entry
Approaching the house from the northwest corner, one perceives the mass interrupted by a protruding volume signified by the plywood surface and orange veneer. The ceiling plane floats above with joints connecting the exterior and interior. On the left side of the front porch, the thickness of the kitchen cabinets extend out, forming a bench and screen behind. The front door is just to the west side of the house, combining access from the driveway and street.


Owner Kitchen
The door opens to reveal the plywood progression that grows and connects to the backyard. In front is the kitchen, divided from the entry by a high counter and sink, and tucking the front closet and refrigerator in the corner. The central wall consists of a line of cabinets and counter space carrying the birch plywood finish to the ground.


Owner Dining/Living
The kitchen is open to the flexible dining and living spaces, which extend up and over the tenant unit mass. Carved into the central wall is a series of hallways and shelves carrying the plywood functions through the house and signaling its upward movement to the tenant unit.


Owner Master Bedroom/Bathroom
The north connector leads to the master suite, hiding the washer/dryer, master closets, and a desk area in the line of cabinets to the right. The track door slightly protrudes from this line and can divide off the suite, including the bathroom and closet. The high ceiling and corner windows bring in plenty of light to the bedroom and give the space an open feeling from the plywood-clad passage.


Owner Bedrooms
The south connector choreographs four doors into a small area leading to the shared bathroom, two bedrooms, and the basement. The bedrooms’ shared wall extends the plywood armature to the east wall with a series of closet doors and a desk per room.


Shared Backyard
Outside the owner’s French doors is the backyard, a shared area that aligns to the green space of last year’s house.


Tenant Path/Entry
The tenant path starts from the northeast corner and follows the depth of the house in a pathway zone of pavers and gravel that extend to the back fence. The path turns under the projection and to the entry door four steps up from the ground, negotiating the two-foot rise in the backyard grade.  From this portal the tenant ascends the stairs toward the central skylight.


Tenant Kitchen/Living/Balcony
At the top of the stairs the space expands in two directions: toward the kitchen and dining area with its large skylight drawing one’s view upwards; and toward the living room compressed by a plywood ceiling, which extends out and into the trees. This interior/exterior link is similar to the owner kitchen ceiling and leads to the porch area on the south elevation. The screen to the right blocks the view to the owner unit and afternoon sun.


Tenant Bedroom/Bathroom
From the tenant kitchen there is a bend in the hallway leading to the private areas of this one-bedroom apartment. The first in the series of doors is the bathroom, compactly fitting in all amenities–even a washer/dryer stack. Next is the bedroom door, which leads to the cozy room tucked into the slope of the roof and with a generous window and seat protruding out from the house.

As finishes go up and scaffolding comes down, it’s wonderful to see the project in total and much easier to explain it. Of course, the view also exposes the lengthy list of tasks ahead: finishing the flooring, tiling, plywood application, kitchen cabinets, and appliances, railings, not to mention all of the landscaping. But with 17 sets of now experienced (or at least more practiced) hands, it doesn’t seem too daunting. The decisions are narrowing further and we move forward with greater cohesion, making it successfully to the finish line, hopefully on budget, on time, and with a great result.

The Vlock First Year Building Project is partnering with Common Ground, a national supportive-housing developer, and the Connecticut Veterans Administration to build affordable, fully-accessible housing for female veterans. Although this is the last installment of the student-builders weekly blog, stay tuned for an update when the finished house opens in mid-September.

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