Proposed Project, Master Plan
Private community housing
We were given the opportunity to design a housing community in a densely wooded plot of land abutted on two sides by conventional suburban housing. It was clear from the beginning that it would not be possible, let alone ideal, to use a developer's methodology to find a solution. With so many units and so little space, this problem demanded innovation. Given our design constraints, we determined that it was wholly necessary to rethink the suburban house typology and its relationship with the environment and vehicular access.
Referencing Jerry Ford's earlier work in city planning and zoning controls in addition to other polemical calls for change including those of the Philadelphia Housing Association in the 60's, we were primed to radically redesign the suburban house in a new context. Our first action was to conjoin two dwellings into a duplex. This act afforded us space that would have been lost to superfluous alleyways of yellowed grass and air-conditioning units . Mirrored on a parti wall, the duplexes decentralized social spaces such as the living rooms and kitchens to bring towards the center the bedrooms and other private spaces. Employing Passivhaus principles, each duplex made is substantially more efficient than if they were singular units.
The next major change was to severe the houses' dependency to parking. The typical suburb, even with sidewalks, offers only unpleasant walking experiences due to its uncompromising scale designed around the automobile. To centralize the parking spaces of four or six units is to spare the community of endless rivers of concrete and asphalt.
The most radical decision we made was to invert the idea of the cul-de-sac. By creating rings of houses and routing a small road around the outside, we provided vehicular access to every front door and parking area facing outwards avoiding introversion. Inverting the cul-de-sac freed the center of the ring to preserve the existing forest, which brought privacy and walking paths under the canopy of trees.
These constraint-driven design decisions amounted to an intimate community of twenty housing units that occupies no more than half the foot print of a conventional suburb of equal quantity. We privileged green, walkable space against the overuse of pavement and were rewarded in efficacy and spatial quality. The contrast between our design and conventional suburban design is most visible in the aerial view. By prioritizing the human and not the automobile, we can design communities that are more efficient and better suited for living and not driving.