Courtyard House

Fall Semester 2015

Professor John Folan
With the Urban Design Build Studio

The Urban Design Build Studio at Carnegie Mellon is a public interest design studio which engages with a number of civic and community groups to produce built works which inspire and benefit the people of Pittsburgh through both the process by which they are made and the final products. As a member of that studio for one semester I had the opportunity to work with a team developing affordable housing designs set to be built during the summer of 2015. My group of three focused on the design of the right-hand house in the elevation rendering below, but both groups coordinated on issues of construction elements and concepts.

A courtyard is a bastion of light, air, and solitude ensconced within the walls of a building. Drawn deep inside and made open to the interior it becomes a beacon about which spaces congregate, and through which they become related.

In the Uptown community a courtyard also becomes a secure and introspective place, a lens to the outside world that redirects the focus of the whole house to the inside. This design endeavors to create spaces which render these qualities in ways which its inhabitants may adapt and employ to make this house their home. The kitchen pictured below was developed by a parallel team ofo students as a wheelchair accessible kitchen adaptabible to the needs of different users and home layouts, and utilizing reclaimed building material from the UDBS partner Construction Junction.

The studio developed a pair of housing schemes. My team focused on the right-hand house pictured above.

Kitchen interior, looking into courtyard.

Second floor, looking toward light monitor.

Basswood model deconstruction.

Models, ranging from 1/16" = 1' scale sketch models to very large 2" = 1' scale models of brick walls constructed from scale bricks cut from plywood.

Brick wall process model.

Section cut through the monitor at the front of the house and looking into the courtyard.

First Floor Plan.

Second Floor Plan.

Uptown community map, showing the variation in vacant lot dimensions and locations.

A variety of possible housing layouts based on the system of panel sizes shared between the two housing groups' schemes. This allows both for more reach for these projects and for variation which matches the community among identical lot sizes.

Parametric processes make possible the creation of unique geometries with great speed and technical precision, but often at the cost of artistic control oversmall detais. Based on experiences gleaned from physically modelling 2" = 1' scale brickwork studies, a definition was developed in Grasshopper to interpret grayscale images into a brick-by-brick digital model of a brick facade. This design tool permitted rapid creation and critique of facade designs without sacrificing design control over small details.