The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is a non-profit organization that strives to eliminate homelessness in Colorado. They do so by attacking the problem at it’s root, focusing on rehabilitation and providing housing for individuals and families in one of their many developments across the city. Beacon Place is just such a development. In collaboration with CCH, our class was tasked with renovating the existing building and adding a new addition to increase the capacity of the complex.
The existing building began its life in the 1930’s as a Jewish community center and has since been placed on the national register for it’s historical significance. As such, I attempted to leave the shell of the building as intact as possible while still bringing efficiency and purpose to the interior. In the same fashion, the addition gently wraps the existing building, touching lightly only where necessary. The glass curtain wall of the new entry visually separates the existing from the new in an attempt to pay homage to the historical building.
Homelessness is redundant in that it shames people, exacerbating mental illness and drug abuse problems. As part of the rehabilitation process, developments such as these strive to normalize the lives of their inhabitants. The existing layout, however, forced 4 inhabitants to live in each room, in addition to sharing large bathrooms and one large living/recreation area.
My main design goal was to give the occupants a place they could call their home, not just a roof over their heads. To accomplish this, I investigated what goes into a “normal” apartment living experience. I discovered that first and foremost, tenants need their own space. After much deliberation, I decided that a little private space was better than a large amount of shared space. With a limited amount of square footage on site, it wasn’t feasible to give everyone their own apartment. The design did, however, allow for one small bedroom per occupant and I was able to keep amenity sharing to an absolute minimum.
Not only do individual living spaces give privacy to occupants, but they also help to create a sense of ownership. Allowing the tenants to make changes to their environment, however small, was crucial, in my opinion, to making the tenants feel at home. By the same token, the louvers on the exterior of each residence allow each occupant to control light, visibility and air movement in their space. What’s more, the adjustment of the louvers effects the appearance of the facade, adding to their sense of ownership over their building.
In addition to a sense of ownership, the overall design is meant to stress the individuality of each occupant. The elevations have strong breaks at every level, and the residences are angled in plan, breaking the facade up vertically as well. On the interior, you get a sense for each room when walking down the hallways, and the canted plan allows for a small amount of entry space for each tenant.