2011 Vlock adds new house to New Haven block

The Vlock Building Project requires School of Architecture students to design a house during their first year.
The Vlock Building Project requires School of Architecture students to design a house during their first year. Photo by Earl Lee.

Over 200 people gathered at 456 Orchard St. on Monday for the unveiling of the Architecture School’s 2011 Vlock Building Project.

The Project is a program that has been in place in one form or another for over 40 years and in the past several years has resulted in the ground-up construction of a brand new house in a New Haven lot. It is a mandatory part of the first year Masters of Architecture curriculum, in which six groups of students propose designs for a house during the course of a year. This design is then decided upon by representatives from the Neighborhood Housing Services and members from the School of Architecture. These individuals, along with 14 architecture students, stay in New Haven over the summer to oversee construction. The final product is a house that betrays the traditional molds of its neighbors, introducing a dose of high design to a depressed quarter of New Haven.

The Vlock program at the School of Architecture has been in place for over 40 years.
The Vlock program at the School of Architecture has been in place for over 40 years.

The director of the project, Adam Hopfner, said he believes the effort lays a good foundation for students.

“It’s a great way for students to learn all the forces that come to bear in creating a real structure,” he said. “They have to deal with all these elements, whether it be the weather, practical design or dealing with zoning restrictions.”

The Orchard Street house has a three-bedroom owner component and a two-bedroom tenant unit, a challenge to achieve in a tight lot; but the students did not cower, said the former director of the Vlock Building Project and noted architecture critic Paul Brouard ARC ’61. He commended the students, saying that “the houses get better every year — the use of space in this house is the best we’ve ever seen done.” One of the student architects noted that while both of these units are separate, the design was manipulated so that if the owner wanted to combine both parts, they would only have to demolish a small wall roughly the size of a doorway.

Other characteristics of the house include an open floor plan, large windows and skylights, a roof that slants downward at a 30-degree angle to create interesting geometric spaces inside the house.

The students overcame many obstacles to complete the house.

“We were designing with 10 other people,” said Raven Hard ARC ’13, one of the student architects. “Our team had many type A personalities, at one point we decided that we’d rather do a good project than like each other. We all worked really hard to make the best final product and this is definitely what we envisioned.”

Other students expressed similar sentiments and said they felt the project was an integral part of the curriculum.

“It’s incredible to see people actually look at your work and want to buy it,” Cortez Crosby ARC ’13, one of the 14 students who interned over the summer to see the construction through commented on the culmination of their work in the unveiling. “It’s really nice to see our vision realized.”

This is the 23rd consecutive year that the Vlock Building Project has resulted in a new house in New Haven. Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, the dean of the School of Architecture called the project “a real testament to the commitment of the students and the school to the community.”

Adam Rollings, a representative of the house’s client — the Neighborhood Housing Services in New Haven — said he was also pleased with what these houses mean for the community. The 2011 Vlock house has since been sold but a tenant has yet to move in.

“The house is beautiful and definitely raises the profile for the neighborhood.” Rollings said, though he added that there is a concern about gentrification. “There is the possibility that these houses will make it harder to find affordable housing in New Haven.”

A new house will be built in the 2012 Vlock Building Project this summer.

Comments

  • newhaven

    Why would adding an affordable house and apartment unit make it more difficult to find affordable housing? Come on people. Affordability is about much more than the list price of housing. You have to also consider income, transportation, location efficiency and many other factors. Rebuilding cities, even if prices increase somewhat, doesn’t make them less affordable (as an overall system), it more often does the opposite.