Building with Purpose

Yale School of Architecture rebuild the streets of New Haven house by house.

While passing rows of rundown homes lining the streets of Newhallville in New Haven, it becomes clear that local residents are no strangers to poverty and crime. Enter graduate students armed with hard hats and tool belts. As part of Yale School of Architecture’s Vlock Building Project, 
these students are constructing what will become an affordable two-family home.

For the past two years, Connecticut Cottages & Gardens has donated the proceeds from the Innovation in Design Awards raffle to the Vlock Building Project. A mandatory course for first-year students, the program was started in 1967 with the mission of harnessing architectural skills to serve a social good. The class is first divided into competing teams and asked to create a design for a two-family home. After 
each design is presented, directors choose the winning model. In the following 
three months, the entire class works to convert the design into reality, executing a double purpose of intellectually challenging the students and benefiting the underprivileged community.

“There is a real learning opportunity in experiencing that transition from the design stage,” says Program Director Adam Hopfner. “We work with nonprofit developers to target locations within the city to build new housing that is greatly subsidized, which makes it affordable.”

With no prior construction experince, a tight budget and even tighter deadline, students are challenged to deal with the everyday struggles of architects. They learn to emphasize function over form in design.

“Building the house really informs how we design in the future,” says student Henry Chan. “Every single pencil stroke has tremendous implication.”

The team strives to be sensitive to area residents by attending a series of community organization meetings. A member of the winning design team, Kate Warren, stressed their goal of constructing a home that blended with Newhallville rather than “standing out as a Yale house.”

As a police siren sounds, Hopfner explains, “We are a mile away from Yale campus, but also a world away.”

To follow the progress of the project, visit

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