Tiny Homes

Project Overview

For the 2014-2015 academic year, we enrolled 70 high school and 150 middle school students in our Studio H class to build public architecture with our team. The challenge this year is housing: How is housing influenced by social and economic context? How does affordable access to housing empower communities or families? How does the design of a home uplift and inspire positive change in a person’s life? With these questions in mind, our team and students took on the design and construction of two (identical) tiny homes, approximately 7×16 feet, built on trailers. One home would be donated to Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon, a wonderful transitional housing organization that provides a home and job training to the unhoused or homeless (while we had hoped to donate the home locally, Bay Area city zoning codes do not permit the legal occupancy of tiny homes, but the city of Eugene has embraced the tiny home movement as a viable housing option). The other home would be auctioned off at the end of the year to fund the project in years to come. All this will take place during the academic school year, with final delivery and auction taking place in early June 2015.


Project Team Leads

Rebecca Seward, Project Lead       Thomas Gardner, Studio Instructor



A huge thank you to our sponsors who have provided us with financial support or in-kind material donations: John Sander and Patti White, Simonton Windows, Charles Window & Door, Phantasos Foundation, Ashby Lumber, and Orlandi Trailer.


Unit 1: Boot Camp (Aug. 2014)

We kicked off the school year with a 2-week boot camp, which served as a primer for new students, and a refresher for returning students. Because our Studio H space is filled with tools and equipment that we will need to use over the course of the year, students must begin with vocabulary and procedures. Having a common language and common understanding of how to use each tool creates a culture of democracy, collaboration, and safety for all. Our boot camp units began with “(1) Make Your Mark,” learning how to hold and use different writing implements from a Sharpie for gestural sketching to a mechanical pencil for precise drafting. We followed with (2) Measurement (rulers and tape measures), (3) Cutting (X-Actos, scissors), (4) Scale (architectural scales),  (5) Modelmaking, (6) Hammers, nails and clamps, (7) Drills and screws, (8) Picture frames (putting it all together).


Unit 2: Precedent Study Research (Aug. 2014)

In architectural education, most projects begin with a precedent study: researching and analyzing a pre-existing piece of architecture that might inspire your own design. Typically, a precedent study is chosen for its common program or as an archetype of what you are designing. In the case of our tiny homes, our students were assigned small-scale structures (not all of them tiny homes, but some just compact structures using innovative space planning, materials, circulation systems, and more). For the precedent study unit, each student looked at their assigned structure, and analyzed its floor plan, systems, structure, light, and other elements, then produced a tabloid-sized layout to present this analysis to the class. Over four class periods and 70 students, we looked closely at dozens of structures that would inform our own design process moving forward. Each building had something to teach us about what our tiny home might be. A thorough understanding of their precedent study would be crucial for students, as the next two units, Drafting and Modeling, would require them to represent their precedent study visually in 2 and 3 dimensions.