C.H.O.I.C.E. House

Small Spaces, Big Questions

After weeks of work, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House Emergency Shelter team finally got the chance to meet with the Executive Director of C.H.O.I.C.E., Emefa Butler! The team got to show her what we have been working on and further discuss Emefa’s vision and details of the project scope. Initially, we were asked to design and build two units and a shared washer and dryer space. However, through many design iterations, we found that aggregating the units into one larger volume is a more efficient way to reach the goals of the project. For example, the “dead space” in between the individual units would most likely be unoccupiable and cause maintenance issues. Aggregation offers a hierarchy of outdoor spaces with a private porch and a shared porch to give C.H.O.I.C.E.’s clients the opportunity to socialize, but not force interaction. After presenting our findings to the client, she was fully on board with aggregating the units for the financial and social benefits. 

As we move forward with aggregation, we are still wrestling with the question of what a dignified dwelling is and how we can instill dignity into small spaces. To understand how the idea of dignity would manifest itself into architecture, we drew vignettes of what the ideal condition could be for each space. From this, we learned that instilling dignity isn’t necessarily done with big moves like many windows or a dramatic form. It can be as simple as having enough space to put a toothbrush or a designated place to hang up clothes. 

Along with these vignettes that we developed in studio, we had the pleasure of working with Amanda Loper of David Baker Architects in Birmingham, AL, to develop these dignified goals into our design of the individual unit. 

team meeting with Amanda Loper
Amanda Loper helping us understand some of the big questions that arise from small spaces
team working in studio
AC keeping the team up to date with a new Harry-Styles-themed calendar

The current iteration is built around a “core” that consolidate all plumbing, storage, and a third sleeping space to the center of the plan. This allows for more open spaces on either end, while also acting as a privacy buffer between the sleeping and living spaces.  

plan iteration

Thanks for tuning into the continuing story of the emergency shelters… or should we say dignified dwellings? 

The Emerging Story of the Emergency Shelters

Every year during spooky season, the Studio hosts visiting architects and professors for a day of “boos” and reviews. This hallowed event has come to be known as Halloween Reviews, and every student was “working like a dog” to prepare. Let’s look at “a day in the life” of the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team leading up to the big review, shall we? (Ps. Can you guess what the team’s costume was by the end of this post?) 

The team began by preparing all the drawings they would need for their presentation. They consolidated the existing plans, sections, and diagrams from “here, there and everywhere,” and completed any new drawings that were needed.

Next up, the team needed to make edits to their presentation and practice presenting to other teams in preparation for Halloween Reviews. This task is a never-ending process that the team seems to be working on “eight days a week!” But, they got it done, “with a little help from my friends.” 

team revises presentation
cohort meeting at cat drop

Once the team was confident in their presentation, they decided to “let it be.” Next, they started to “bang bang” their “silver hammers” to build full-scale mock-ups of two out of the four units. These mock-ups allowed people to experience the small space inside and the different porch conditions created by the units. 

assembling walls from abov

On Wednesday night, the team took a break to celebrate the annual Pumpkin Carve, an Auburn Architecture tradition. Everyone from the community is invited to “come together,” outside Red Barn to carve pumpkins and eat foot long hot dogs… because “all you need is love,” pumpkins, and hot dogs, right?!”

The day before Halloween reviews, the team spent “fixing a hole” and “filling the cracks” of the mock-ups and their presentation. After “a hard day’s night,” the big day had finally arrived. Under a “sky of blue and sea of green,” teams dressed in costumes the students presented and the reviewers, “speaking words of wisdom.”

team presents

The team received a lot of helpful feedback on their work that really help to “shake it up, baby!” Now, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team is ready to get back to the drawing board and “work it on out!”

the beetles as beatles
Four beetles as Beatles: Ringo, John, Paul, and George!

“We hope you have enjoyed the show. We’re sorry but it’s time to go. We’d like to thank you once again.”

Did you guess our costumes by the end? 

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

After they pushed through “Neckdowns,” passed workshop season, and survived project selection, the new 5th-year teams are here and ready for their debut!

*Cue drumroll*

Hello from the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team!

team sitting together outside
Davis Benfer (Jacksonville, FL), Yi Xuan (Raymond) Teo (Singapore), AC Priest (Saltillo, MS), & Hailey Osborne (Ashburn, VA)

The team has been working hard these past few weeks to begin the design process of two emergency housing units in Uniontown, AL, alongside their community partner, C.H.O.I.C.E. Each unit is meant for thirty-day stays and will support C.H.O.I.C.E.’s rapid rehousing initiatives. To kick it off, the team met on site with the executive director of C.H.O.I.C.E. and the driving force behind the project, Emefa Butler.

team meets with client

She happily discussed her visions and goals of the project with the team to give them a better understanding of how to emergency housing can best serve the organization. With all the new information, the team immediately started to dive into design work with a goal of making sure the housing units remain dignified and comfortable, even though they are meant for short stays.

diagram of components of a dignified dwelling

This team loves a good charrette as much as the next architect, so there was no better way for them to start getting ideas on paper. They produced drawings, lots of drawings. The team explored ideas for the individual units and began to think about how these units replicate on the same site or how they could be implemented in different contexts in the future.

After having some time to work with the project as a team, the first set of visitors came to review the team’s progress. Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg, founders of Koning Eizenberg in Santa Monica, CA, helped the students work through a site design exercise to start thinking about how the units will connect to each other and the activities of the site.

team working on site plan for shelter units

Following the review from Hank and Julie, the team has been iterating on the site plans and continuing to push the design of the individual units.

That’s all for now!

Until next time, we’ll be somewhere under this rainbow!

double rainbow over red barn