Author: Naomi Tony-Alabi

Lofts and Lots of Fun

The 18×18 House team got all dressed up and presented at the Halloween Reviews as cubes: an oven, an ice cube dressed as Ice Cube, a LEGO, and a present.

Their review gave the team some much needed insight into what was working well in their design schemes and how to further improve them. They were pushed by guest reviewers to dive deeper into some of the details and to find the potential “beautiful” qualities of the 18×18 House.

Since then, the team has been pushing the 18×18 House design to its limits by asking: How much more can you get beyond the essential design needs? The team categorized essential and non-essential elements. The next step was to test how small changes to the plans could give way for things like additional storage, additive porches, or sleeping lofts.

At the beginning of November, we were visited by friends of the Studio Frank Harmon (Frank Harmon Architect in Raleigh, NC) and Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL). They pushed the team to explore how the interior layouts and roof shape can facilitate porches and lofts. The team developed concepts showing how the buildings can aggregate and they tested appropriate sizes for the spaces through models and sketches. The loft exploration got the team especially excited about the idea of an upstairs living room and how beautiful the space can be when a sleeping loft pairs with a living-sleeping configuration.

Dan and Frank also led the 5th-years in very special hand-drawing workshop. The students practiced one-point and two-point perspectives and enjoyed a relaxing watercolor session.

After that, the 18×18 House team worked together to mock up ceiling heights downstairs in Red Barn. They tested 7′ 6″ and 8′ ceiling heights to find out the minimum comfortable height for a ground floor bedroom. One failed pulley system later, they decided to mock up only the 7′ 6″ ceiling instead.

Most recently, the Studio had a few more visitors: David Baker, Amanda Loper, and Brett Jones (from David Baker Architects, with offices in San Francisco, CA, and Birmingham, AL). They helped the team refine their priorities so they could finally narrow them and move forward with two. 

Now the team is getting down to the details and working towards Soup Roast, which is in two weeks! Catch the next post to see where the 18×18 House lands next!

New Cubes on the Block

After weeks of workshops and charrettes, the 5th-year teams have been chosen! The 18×18 House team, and your official new besties are: Naomi Tony-Alabi, Jake Buell, Meagan Mitchell, and Julie DiDeo!

The name 18×18 House comes from the dimensions—18’ x 18’—or the size of two parking spaces. As some US cities are negotiating with developers to swap out parking spaces in exchange for housing units that are affordable, one of our Front Porch Initiative partners approached the faculty team with a challenge to design an affordable unit that could fit within the footprint of two 9’ x 18’ parking spaces. In order to offer enough space for occupants to live comfortably, the team has taken this on as a double-story house.

While the student team does not yet know their client or site, the nature of the 18×18 House holds many possibilities: 

In urban neighborhoods, the scale of the footprint could be a good size for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), independent living spaces that are built on the property of existing homes. These can be built on single-family properties to create more density and housing opportunity. 

In rural neighborhoods, a house this size can be built on family properties that may not have usable space for a larger home. The 18×18 House can provide extra space for a family to grow/maintain the kinship network on sites without large areas for new construction.

As the newest addition to the family of Rural Studio “stair houses,” the team was challenged to have the stair do as much as possible because of how much space it would take from the small footprint. The team studied different types of stairs and spaces in previous Rural Studio homes, testing how different combinations fit within the footprint like puzzle pieces. Each modification to the stair type changes the floor plan completely, resulting in the “plan matrix:” a collection of plan iterations which as a baseline for new explorations to branch out.

Since then, the team has visited several recently completed Rural Studio projects (Myers’ Home, Mrs. Patrick’s Home, and Ophelia’s Home) to begin to understand kinship networks and the scale of living spaces as they are being used here in Newbern. Visits from consultants Joe Burns, Julie Eisenberg, and Hank Koning also had the team work on drawings, mockups, and models to explore different possibilities for the floor plan and the stair.

Soon the 18×18 House team will start to build mockups and continue exploring the challenge of the multi-functional stair, but for now Halloween reviews are steadily approaching. The team is testing iterations with one large question in mind: Can one design be created for a developer where the first and second floors can be flipped easily to allow for sleeping downstairs and living upstairs as a potentially accessible building option? Follow the team’s journey to find out!