urban infill 01 - milwaukee, wisconsin
Urban Infill 01 is the first in a series of prototypical production homes for blighted urban infill sites in Milwaukee’s central city. The design had to be adaptable to different lot dimensions, and flexible enough to function as a single family residence, or, alternatively, as a two-family duplex. Urban Infill 01, the first built prototype configured as a duplex, sits on a 30’-wide lot that the client bought from the City for $3,000, in a neighborhood that has seen its share of economic disinvestment and continues to suffer from three decades of urban decay. Working with a limited budget, we designed a simple bar building made up of three interlocking components: a cedar-clad box for the entry and vertical circulation; a stucco box, assembled from standardized stud wall panels, for up to 1,900 SF of living space; and a concrete veneer wall that peels away from the house and transforms into a free-standing, perforated garden wall. In the front, the garden wall repairs the street edge of the existing urban fabric, something the narrow shotgun building – only 16 feet wide – could not have accomplished on its own. Alongside the building, the garden wall defines a semi-private trellised courtyard – a virtual extension of the first floor living hall, whose large glass doors allow it to expand sideways and utilize the courtyard as an outdoor living room. On the upper level, an oversized picture window unit provides spectacular views of the city and, at night, turns into a bright lantern for the otherwise dim neighborhood street. Similarly, the openings in the garden wall frame views of the neighborhood, but also provide glimpses from the street into the courtyard, subtly blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, between totally public and totally private. Urban Infill 01 demonstrates how a modest, low-budget project can become a confident, new urban constituent; it exemplifies how the battered fabric of a neglected neighborhood can be mended, one house at a time. Completed in early 2005, the project won a National AIA Housing Design Award that same year, the first such recognition for a residential project in Wisconsin.