Division Street Dogtrot

In 2017, Yale School of Architecture began a five year partnership with Columbus House, a non-profit developer of permanent supportive housing, to design and build ten dwelling units. Each year, the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project would include two units -- one for a small family and one for a single individual. The site is a narrow, deep lot in New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood that will accommodate all ten units. Being the first class to work with the site, we had a chance to propose a master plan for future developments on the site and prove how our proposed design could be replicated and adjusted over time. Proposed designs required a prefabrication strategy, as the final house would be built offsite and assembled in pieces. 

From conversations with current and former Columbus House clients, I determined that privacy was critical to the safety and peace of mind of the our houses’ future residents (who will have experienced homelessness). In fact, complete separation of one unit from the other was a frequent request. 

The lot was the site of a failed high density public housing project. When it was demolished in 2003, the city did not regrade the site and left foundations intact that formed a sectional break running along the length of the lot. I organized the site plan along this edge, with a wide boardwalk along the length of it. The forward part of the lot was wider than the back part and so platted for housing. The rear end of the lot was set aside as a green space shared between the residents. 

My houses butterflies along the central “pedestrian street,” a single story volume on the high side and a double story volume on the low. I am interested in the organized community that this configuration forms -- an enforced set of relationships between houses end to end and side by side, with clearly territorialized side and rear yards. My two dwelling units, a single story volume plus a double story volume, share a roofline. Rafters extend out of one roof, across the boardwalk, and into the other in a gesture of neighborliness. 

The units themselves are long and narrow, based on the dogtrot house typology. Each room is bracketed by equipment packs that are clipped to a circulation corridor along the front edge. The front and back facades have different characters -- veiled on the front and exuberant on the back. The repetition of this pattern across the site ensures that each unit has a private side yard, screened from its neighbor. 

YALE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE  | Spring 2017 | Building Project

Joeb Moore, critic