The Jim Vlock Building Project

Since 1967, the Yale School of Architecture has offered its students the opportunity to design and build a structure as an integral part of their graduate education. Unique among architecture schools, the Jim Vlock First-Year Building Project is mandatory for all first-year graduate students.

This year, we are partnering with Neighbor Works New Horizons of New Haven, an organization committed to develop and operate affordable quality housing, and HTP Ventures LLC, a private equity firm interested in mass producing micro dwelling units. Our design work this semester is part of a continuing, long-term collaboration with the New Haven Livable City Initiative to develop the city's 100+ vacant sliver lots. A primary criterion of the selected design proposal will be its ability to be replicated across New Haven as a solution to the longstanding challenge of small, difficult-to-develop urban spaces. The City of New Haven has begun to develop a financial mechanism to fund this endeavor.

This year's house is an approximately 800 square foot dwelling at 179 Scranton Street in the West River neighborhood of New Haven. The house will be divided into one 500 sf unit for the homeowner and one 300 square foot unit for a tenant.

Students worked independently during the first half of the semester and are currently working in teams to develop seven design proposals. At the end of the semester, the entire class of 55 first-year graduate students will work together as a studio to build the selected house.



Lisa Albaugh Mohammad Alothman Luke Anderson Jessica Flore Angel Jack Bian Dorian Booth Benjamin Bourgoin Jean Chen Michelle Chen
Andrew Dadds Shayari De Silva Jessica Elliott Dov Feinmesser Hugo Fenaux Dante Furioso Anthony Gagliardi Michelle Gonzalez Michael Harrison
Pearl Ho Kiana Hosseini Anne Householder Cynthia Hsu Samantha Jaff Lila Jiang Chen Charles Kane Sarah Kasper James Kehl
Nicolas Kemper  Jenny Kim John Kleinschmidt Liz LeBlanc Vittorio Lovato Clarissa Luwia Anne Ma Richard Mandimika Megan McDonough
Anna Meloyan Seokim Min Kristen Nothwehr Justin Oh Chloe Pu Feng Qian Madelynn Ringo Luis Salas Porras Dima Srouji
Katie Stege Andrew Sternad Eugene Tan Winny Tan Caitlin Thissen John Wan Susan Wang Xinyi Wang Xiao Wu


  • Design team A
  • Three essential tenets of dwelling - services for biological needs, storage for mental and physical clutter, and a strong connection to site - are distilled into three distinct elements: prefabricated kitchens and bathrooms, a modular structural storage system, and a series of outdoor garden walls. Service walls and storage walls are delivered to the site for rapid installation; floors and roof are built on site, supported by those prefabricated units.

    By packing all essential equipment and storage into the perimeter of the house, generous and flexible living spaces are created with open corners to views beyond. Garden walls and strategic plantings gather the landscape into outdoor rooms in order to conceptually and physically expand the house’s volume.

    The spatial qualities and organizational logic of this prototype hold true for other potential sites: Prefabricated elements set boundaries; living spaces fit between, and garden walls and outdoor rooms tie the house to its site.

  • Design team B
  • Our proposal improves on a time tested model, the row house. By delivering street access and private yards to each unit, the row house strikes an ingenious balance between the demand for economical and efficient dwelling and the need for dignity and privacy.

    Our house activates that partition, placing it at an angle. Thus skewed, the partition creates dwellings which become alive to the needs of the inhabitant. Substructures form bands which organize the internal rooms. The narrowest band holds functions which require little space, while using ready access to the exterior to create a feeling of spaciousness. The kitchens span the middle of each unit, naturally bringing the inhabitant into their main living spaces, their extraordinary width spilling out onto balconies and then into the site itself.

    For larger units a loft over the wide end of the house further augments the flow of the dwelling. Our proposal for 179 Scranton Street demonstrates a small single story unit as well as a larger unit with a loft.

    The activated partition not only makes more efficient and effective use of narrow lots like that at 179 Scranton Street, but also allows for easy adaptation onto a wide variety of irregularly shaped sites.

  • Design team C
  • Our project consists of two volumes, one suspended within the other, pinned together with an efficient stem of bundled utility connections. From the street, the building is scaled to its context and the tenant unit is clearly articulated within the owner’s larger frame.

    The owner occupies the first floor with ample access to sheltered outdoor areas that expand the perception of interior volume. Inside, a long double height space links front, side and rear porches and reflects light down into the kitchen and living areas.

    The tenant unit upstairs features two generous porches and is visually distinguished from the owner’s space by a lighter material palette.

    As the owner’s family grows, the upstairs unit easily reconfigures into two bedrooms and the owner can occupy the entire house.

  • Design team D
  • The faceted cube pushes the limits of residential convention by maximizing internal efficiency and compactness while allowing internal spatial constraints to find their release in the landscape. This allows the importance of landscape to come to the fore, lending a greener and lusher feel to the very dense housing stock of New Haven’s urban-scape. As proposed, the tenant occupies the 3rd floor, allowing the owner’s space on the first and second floor to spill out onto the land in the form of interior furnishings such as dining tables and pop-out window seats. These elements push and pull on the building’s envelope, establishing a unique dialogue between the interior and exterior. As a result, the site becomes an extension of the owner’s interior living room that can be visually enjoyed by neighboring sites.

    Depending on the owner’s level of involvement in the up keep of his/her land, landscape possibilities may vary. One can imagine it to be as simple as a flat landscape planted with tall, wild grasses to something more programed such as a planted vegetable garden, thriving because of its direct access to the southern sun.

  • Design team E
  • This three-story house can adapt to a variety of living situations and sites due to its modular construction and flexible plan. Each living space is continuous and open. Windows at each end of these rooms welcome north and south light, connecting livable spaces on the interior back to the community street-front and private backyard. Utilities, services, and furniture are densely aligned along the west edge of each room. Opposite these working zones, the rooms are clear—opening to the east side-yard gardens, in addition to views down the street. These distinct zones help simplify daily routines and activities. Stairs extending from the utility wall connect each level, enabling convenient reconfiguration of dwelling units.

  • Design team F
  • Our project responds to the problem of the minimal dwelling through a pinwheel organizational strategy, in which spaces expand sequentially from a dense central core. Beginning with a primitive rectangular volume, four programmatic arms spiral from the stacked core to generate interior and exterior spaces. Our scheme deploys the utility core to its traditional functional purpose, while also expanding this volume outward as a plastic composition of planar projections. The result is a spatial layering of owner and tenant, in which each unit experiences the core as a knot that both unifies the whole and defines the part.

  • Design team G
  • A house shelters one from the harshness of environment and the turbulence of the exterior—but to be deemed a home, it must transcend the mere desire for protection to take on qualities of comfort and psychological ease. Given the challenge to design a micro-house in an urban neighborhood, the demand for spatial compactness might imbue a house with the characteristics of a confined fortress rather than those of a comfortable home. Without mediation, an abrupt transition from exterior to interior can carry with it unresolved anxieties of the outside.

    Our design mediates these concerns by considering the house not as an object upon a lot but instead as a landscape. Through a layering of gardens, inner courts, and differing elevations, the site becomes the house, and the house, the site. The scheme meanders through a shifting exterior landscape to arrive within an interior that in turn carefully borrows exterior views in the creation of perceived spaciousness. Walls perform all the functions of enclosure, all the while unexpectedly expanding space rather than defining boundaries.


Project Director
Adam Hopfner <adam.hopfner@yale.edu>

Building Project Coordinator
Herbert Newman

Building Project Staff
Avram Forman

Studio Coordinator
Alan Organschi

Andrew Benner
Peter de Bretteville
Amy Lelyveld
Joeb Moore

Executive Director - City of New Haven Livable City Initiative
Erik Johnson <ejohnson@newhavenct.net>

Executive Director - Neighborworks NewHorizons
Seila Mosquera <Seila@nwnh.net>

Director of Real Estate Development
Julie Savin

Partners - HTP Ventures
Thach Pham <thachpham@comcast.net>
Kurt Roeloffs <kurt.roeloffs@gmail.com>
Student Leadership
Project Managers
Katie Stege <katherine.stege@yale.edu>
John Kleinschmidt <john.kleinschmidt@yale.edu>

Fundraising Directors
Pearl Ho <pearl.ho@yale.edu>
Nicolas Kemper <nicolastkemper@gmail.com>

Budget Coordinators
Michelle Gonzalez <michelle.gonzalez@yale.edu>
Richard Mandimika <richard.mandimika@yale.edu>

Xiao Wu <xiao.wu.xw264@yale.edu>

Website Manager
Anne Ma <anne.ma@yale.edu>

Construction Document Coordinators
James Kehl <james.kehl@yale.edu>
Kristin Nothwehr <kristin.nothwehr@yale.edu>

Detail Coordinator
John Wan <chengqijohn.wan@yale.edu>

Engineering Coordinator
Eugene Tan <eugene.tan@yale.edu>

Field Crew Managers
Luke Anderson <luke.anderson@yale.edu>
Dante Furioso <dante.furioso@yale.edu>
Samantha Jaff <samantha.jaff@yale.edu>
Megan McDonough <megan.mcdonough@yale.edu>

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