Starter Home* No. 4-15, Saint Thomas/Ninth
The continuation of the architect’s Starter Home* initiative, which delivers entry-level homes to historic urban neighborhoods that are quickly gentrifying, Saint Thomas/Ninth renegotiates existing site conditions in New Orleans to maximize residential density. The project levels the playing field for homebuyers in the city’s Irish Channel neighborhood by adapting to the difficult, irregular fabric found there.
Historically, Irish Channel has consisted of a mix of industry and low-density residential where it’s not uncommon to find warehouses and homes on the same block. The context of intimacy between strange neighbors was critical for the team when it added 12 homes—10 single-family and one two-family—through the reuse of an existing warehouse and by building on an adjacent vacant lot. Embracing the unappreciated warehouse form was the basis for the team’s exploration of the site, and the gradual roof pitch across the development furthers the neighborhood’s industrial language.
Zoning in the transitional neighborhood calls for abnormally large lot minimums for single-family homes. The project required an innovative tactic that leveraged the density allowed for multifamily developments but organized the site as a collection of detached condos. Reconfiguring the existing parcels grew the number of units on the site from three to 12. The adjustment required the team to subvert the general condo legal structure, resulting in the creation of provisional lots that promotes autonomous homeownership.
In a city where proximity to neighbors is the norm, the architects swapped long, flat dwellings for tall, skinny ones. Seeking maximum density, every square foot of the site is active and accounted for. To provide one parking space per unit, each house touches down lightly in order to free up the ground plane. Due to the revised legal boundaries on the site, the spaces between buildings have become implied side yards. Often ignored by the city’s shotgun dwellings, those spaces are claimed as front porches, instilling a greater sense of entry and ownership.