Since 1967, the Yale School of Architecture has offered its students the opportunity to design and build a structure as an integral part of their graduate education. Unique among architecture schools, this program is mandatory for all first-year students. For the past ten years, the school has partnered with organizations in New Haven to build affordable, single-family homes.
This year, the Yale Building Project has joined forces with national supportive housing developer
Common Ground Community . The Building Project contributes to their "Pathways" program, which provides supportive housing in a multi-step process that helps families at risk of homelessness achieve self-sufficiency and stability as tenants or even home-owners. Additionally, the Yale Building Project has also forged a relationship with the Connecticut Veterans Administration in an effort to address the challenges facing a relatively new group that is particularly vulnerable to homelesness: female veterans. After the construction of the home, representatives of the Veterans Administration continue to consult with the new homeowners regarding issues of home-ownership as well as physical and emotional needs.
Before the Building Project even begins, the design assignments of the 502b Architectural Design Studio introduce fundamental design problems of shared dwelling and affordable housing. The three projects - "Cohabitation", "Transmogrification", and "Prototype" - challenge students with questions of affordablity and efficiency, specificity and repeatability.
In April, the building project design competition began when sixty-four first-year students formed seven teams based on common design interests. Each of these teams works to design, develop, and document a proposal for a 2100 square foot, wheelchair-accessible, two-family house. Throughout the five week design period, students are challenged to solve the "formal, spatial, and technical problems of building affordably, accessibly and efficiently with environmental sensitivity." At the culmination of the five-week design process, one proposal is chosen to be further developed and constructed with the full class of sixty-four students once again working in collaboration.