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Architecture students present design proposals for affordable housing options

| Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eight undergraduate architecture students, directed by Kim Rollings, assistant professor of architecture, presented design proposals Friday for a facility that will provide safe and affordable housing options for homeless people in South Bend.

“Permanent supportive housing [PSH] links safe, affordable housing with social support services that address challenges associated with chronic homelessness, addiction and other disabilities,” Rollings said in an email. “The facility in South Bend will be the area’s first permanent supportive housing, with 32 one-bedroom apartments and a variety of shared and support spaces, including outdoor space.”

Rollings said she and the University’s School of Architecture became involved in the PSH project when she heard about it through the St. Joseph County Health Improvement Alliance, where she spoke about community-based teaching and research.

“I proposed the student project to the South Bend Heritage Foundation, who will own the local supportive housing facility, and Alliance Architects, the local firm designing the building,” she said. “They were very interested in learning from the students, as well as providing the students with a real-world project experience.”

Rollings said eight of the fourth-year architecture students in Rolling’s Healthy Places studio class — who chose to participate because they were interested in building places that are “not only architecturally successful, but that also help people” —  began working on the project in March.

“Some chose to focus on, for example, promoting a sense of community in the building, while others focused on providing restorative spaces and access to nature, and connecting the look of the building to historic buildings in South Bend,” Rollings said.

The project began with students visiting the local site and learning about permanent supportive housing, she said. Then, they researched connections between architecture and physical, mental and social health.

“I also took the students to Boston to study two successful supportive housing examples designed by The Narrow Gate Architecture Ltd. [TNG],” Rollings said. “TNG, started by three Notre Dame alumni, provides architectural services for marginally underserved populations. Students visited the firm and interviewed the architects then visited the housing facilities. They shared meals with and interviewed residents, which gave a voice to the resident population in the design process.”

According to Rollings, the project is primarily funded by a state grant award and tax credits and the students’ research and design ideas will inform the finalized design of the building.

“People struggling with chronic homelessness and other challenges often cycle in and out of shelters and require costly emergency medical and public safety services,” Rollings said. “PSH helps to break this cycle so people can regain stability and move forward with their lives.

“The students really embraced the idea that this project was about people and not just a building.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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