Revisiting My Yale School of Architecture First-Year Building Project
I attended the Yale School of Architecture in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the student protests of the 1960s. What drew me to Yale was its commitment to using architecture to change the world, building one community at a time. By applying aesthetic innovation in a humanistic way, we could create new shapes of buildings and homes that people would delight in, by themselves and with others.
It is one thing to imagine new designs for community interaction, but it’s another to actually build them. To give students real experience with hammers and saws, Professor Charles Moore, remembered as a genius in architectural forms, created the First Year-Building Project. It was a mandatory class in which we worked in teams to design a building for a community in need. At the end of the year, Professor Moore selected a winning design for the students to build as a culmination of their first year of studies.
In my year, we were asked to design a pavilion for Camp Farnam, a sleep-away camp for disadvantaged youth. I can still recall the great feeling of constructing a building from wood and steel bolts, bending fiberglass, and angling rafters to bring our design to life. More recently, the First-Year Building Project has partnered with Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Housing Services, Common Ground, and Neighborworks New Horizons—each are organizations that help develop affordable housing.
In 2007, Richard W. Hayes published a book, The Yale Building Project: The First 40 Years, which documents each of the projects in the program. You can read more about my project and those that followed in the book. There is also a Facebook group where you can see photos of this year’s project-in-progress!
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