gbA recently took part in a pro-bono project called “Imagine Home.” The purpose of this project was to pair architects with members of the homeless community in Burlington, in order to re-imagine housing options for the homeless population. Each individual told their architect specifically what they wanted out of their home, and then the architects went to work.
Our client was primarily concerned with safety and privacy, wanting a space that would allow him to be far away from crowds and protected from anyone who might pass through. He also emphasized that he did not need much space, and that he preferred his space to be created out of natural materials that would blend into the landscape. He wasn’t concerned with electricity or running water, but honed in on the need for warmth and insulation during Vermont winters. He was also interested in a permanent dwelling. He acknowledged that he travels frequently, but stated that he wouldn’t mind leaving it behind for another member of the community to use.
Our studio worked together over the course of weeks to design what we feel would be the perfect solution for our client: a small rounded dwelling, carved directly into the land. Gabion walls would be erected and filled with stones gathered from the immediate area. Round wood columns would support an overhang, and a polycarbonate wall would allow light to filter through, while a steel door ensured security. A rocket stove would spread heat throughout the dwelling, provide a cooking surface, and heat the sleeping area.
p>Apart from the practicalities, we wanted to ensure that this space felt like a home, not a fortress. We created a labyrinth of vegetation to provide security while also creating a softer feel to the entrance. The addition of natural light brought a more cheerful aspect to the space, and a nearby gardening area would foster a “cozier” feel.
Our project, as well as those of the other architects involved, will be displayed in multiple locations across the state in fall of 2017. This is an important step in recognizing the need for compassion and creativity in attempting to assist more members of the homeless community.