Each project brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities. A completed build is the result of many long days, sore muscles and lessons learned. More important than an eye-catching new space is a student’s growth over the course of the project. Teamwork, professionalism and problem-solving skills serve as a foundation for students’ future success.

2113 Harmony Street

URBANBuild 15’s research agenda focused upon the creation of a prototype that could be repeated side by side, thus producing dense urban multifamily options. This base single-story unit possesses two bedrooms and two baths, and schematic developments critically questioned the need for the two courtyards of UB14. Instead, UB15 possesses a single generous open-air courtyard that is located as a continuation of the entryway porch that’s roofed by a translucent cladding system.

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1920 Harmony Street

This “infill” prototype is an integrated single-family dwelling with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. UB14 goes above and beyond this request by generously incorporating two porches as well as two interior courtyards into the scheme. Sunlight, fresh air, and garden views improve the quality of every room in the home.

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The mission of URBANbuild 13 is to create a 2 bedroom/2 bath house with the flexibility to function as two separate rental units with a shared kitchen. The scheme is a single level “infill” prototype with two units anchored by the shared kitchen, complimented by an outdoor common area.

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Situated directly across the street from URBANbuild 7, URBANbuild 12 is the program’s fourth house on Toledano and 10th project in Central City. NHS allowed students to design a two-bedroom scheme instead of the typical three-bedroom program, enabling the development a single-story project. By reducing the scope of work, students provide a project with greater resolution and detail. As the design strategy was not limited by a second floor ceiling plane, the home features several rooms of dramatic vertical dimension.

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URBANbuild 11 is the program’s third house on Toledano Street in Central City and the program’s first true infill site, where only the front façade is visible.

URBANbuild 11 faces due west, necessitating a shading system to reduce heat gain and mitigate sun exposure. This requirement provided students with an opportunity to play with light and shadow resulting in the development of a movable shutter system made from painted cedar framed in aluminum and set on a rolling track system.

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URBANbuild 10 was developed on a substandard lot, just two doors down from the previous year’s two-story URBANbuild 9 home. This year’s house was designed to function as a single-family dwelling or a duplex incorporating a two-bedroom unit with bedrooms upstairs and public living space and smaller studio downstairs.

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URBANbuild 9 marked a return to the program’s partnership with NHS. By this point, URBANbuild completed six projects within a few block radius in Central City, and a body of work was beginning to emerge. Continuing this trend, this year’s home would become the first of three neighboring projects to be built on a single block bounded by Harmony and Toledano streets. Completing these three homes was an ambitious goal on a block that was in the greatest need—its water and sewer lines were broken, and its storm drains were not functional – so URBANbuild worked with the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board to repair the storm water drainage system.

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URBANbuild 8 was completed in collaboration with Harmony Neighborhood Development, a local community development corporation working to help create a more vibrant Central City and New Orleans. In this year’s design studio, students worked on schemes for a series of mixed-use facilities consisting of retail space at ground level with housing units located above—a project of substantial scale compared to the first seven URBANbuild homes. The project was further developed as a series of six movable market units or “pods” that rolled on metal tracks so that the site could be arranged in a number of ways.

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“I had a really great experience. The neighbors responded really well, being students, building by hand, rain or shine, every day. We started to form good relationships with them. Just that level of interaction with the neighborhood was pretty powerful.”

– Rena Foster, Alumna UB5


URBANbuild 7 is a finely crafted home that raised the bar on expectations for all projects to follow. For this house, NHS gave the program two adjacent substandard lots, allowing students to pursue a different planning typology than many earlier URBANbuild homes. Students were not constrained by the typical narrow “shotgun” lot configuration so common to New Orleans and were able to pursue a wider, center-hall strategy.

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For URBANbuild 6, the studio was able to once again partner with NHS and reestablish a connection with Central City, a relationship that continues to this day. The studio was glad to be back in Central City and the neighbors were happy to see the students return. URBANbuild 6 became the first of four houses on Toledano Street. This year’s house represented a return to the original three-bedroom, two-bathroom program and to the focus on maintaining a close connection between house and street, in keeping with the neighborhood tradition of socializing from porches and stoops.

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The year of URBANbuild 5, Program Director Byron Mouton’s private firm, BILD Design, was invited to work with Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation. URBANbuild’s student team then collaborated with BILD Design and TKO Construction on a house project for Make It Right. This relationship allowed students to work with materials and systems in compliance with “cradle to cradle” goals.

Provided with access to geothermal cooling systems, solar energy systems, heating systems of greater efficiency, and the opportunity to work alongside an established contractor, students were able to achieve a project of greater scale.

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The URBANbuild 4 studio focused on pursuing LEED certification. The project achieved a LEED Silver rating through the provision of an energy-efficient building in compliance with national energy standards and requirements. The house also responded to the city’s new hurricane preparation requirement through the invention of a shutter system using impact-resistant polycarbonate materials. In doing so, it also provided a home with remarkable qualities of diffused natural light.

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In an effort to further the program’s research aims and allow for experimentation and revision during construction, the URBANbuild 3 studio utilized a prefabricated wood framing system so wall panels could be more easily altered on site. The structurally insulated panel (SIP) system was also selected with the goal of improving energy efficiency. It proved to be an incredibly effective thermal barrier. Construction of this project was featured in the Sundance documentary, “Architecture School.”

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In URBANbuild 2, with proof of concept established, the directors shifted their attention to the program’s educational component and a focus on research. This led to experimentation with different building systems over the next few years, with each house considered as a full-scale model for an academic and experiential research project. URBANbuild 2 was constructed using a prefabricated metal wall system in an effort to test speed of assembly, provide a termite-resistant structure, and introduce students to a new building system and the coordination it required.

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URBANbuild 1 was initiated in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) in response to a HUD grant recieved after Hurricane Katrina, when many New Orleanians were just returning to the city. This grant presented an opportunity to prove the program could work—that a group of students could build a house on time and on budget in the space of 14 weeks. Achieving this goal required inventing a system in which students engage with licensed professionals when necessary in order to fully complete each project within the time frame of a single academic semester.

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