For first-year architecture students, an assignment of consequence

Generations of Yale architecture students have designed and built affordable homes in New Haven. Follow the latest Vlock Building Project from start to finish.

For decades, the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project has offered students at the Yale School of Architecture the opportunity to design and build a house in New Haven, creating badly needed homes for individuals and families who would otherwise struggle to afford one.

The project recently launched a multi-year partnership with the Friends Center for Children, an early-childhood care and education in New Haven, offering to design and build five adjacent houses for two of the center’s educators and their families by 2027. The partnership is part of the Friends Center’s Teacher Housing Initiative, which addresses both the crisis in childcare and affordable housing by providing 20% of the center’s educators with rent-free homes, substantially increasing their take-home pay.

Last year, Yale students designed and built the first duplex dwelling, in the Fair Haven Heights neighborhood of New Haven. In this video, we follow the Yale students throughout the year-long process, from the first site visits, through design and construction, and ultimately to the celebration of the newly completed home.

(Photos by Allie Barton)

The project, a key facet of the curriculum in the school’s professional architecture degree program, was established in 1967 when the late Charles Moore, who directed Yale’s Department of Architecture from 1965 to 1971, sought to address students’ desire to pursue architecture committed to social action. The first-of-its-kind program is now emulated by many other architecture schools.

In its early years, students traveled to sites in Appalachia to build community centers and medical facilities. Since 1989, when the project switched its focus to building affordable housing in New Haven, first-year students have designed and built more than 50 homes in the city’s economically challenged neighborhoods.

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