Is it possible to provide an architectural solution that builds a sense of community, empowerment, and hope for the homeless in Seattle?




Is it possible to provide an architectural solution that builds a sense of community, empowerment, and hope for the homeless in Seattle?

  • agricultural
  • provides living space for 160+ people
  • sustainable
  • gives back to the community
  • family friendly


    With one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States, Seattle lacks shelters to provide for the homeless. The lack of safe shelters has made many of the homeless turn towards drugs, resulting in a high rate of death from overdose. This building is not just a shelter but also a therapeutic place where residents are able to give back to the community by gardening, farming, or harvesting food for the city. Harvested crops can then back to the city through farmer’s markets, local restaurants, and grocery stores. Workshop programs will be initiated as well so that the residents living here are able to find a secure place in their lives from their jobs to their health and even go on to move into a permanent house. The building will also be reconfigured to utilize the city’s abundance of rainwater to provide water for the building as well and cycle back into the different gardens.

    Case Studies

    Case studies consist of research on inspirational and similar projects to note what my project needs and what will work best.

    Users, Needs, & Insights

    This project will not be able to provide for every person so some kind of qualification will be needed to prioritize who is allowed to live here. This qualification can range from their drug abuse history, interest in applying for jobs, largeness of family and/or children, age, and willingness to participate and help the community. These qualifications will also be considered for moving people who have shown security in a stable job and health to a new home while moving others off a waiting list.

    Since a fair amount of this building consists of living quarters, the building will need community bathrooms, spacious rooms to house multiple people, and a community kitchen/ dining space on each floor. Multiple indoor and outdoor gardens will also be needed throughout the building and the water from nearby runoffs or collected rainwater will be treated before being pumped back into the building. A clinic will be stationed so that residents can monitor their health. Different types of volunteers will also be needed from medical students checking the health of residents, to farmers and plant specialists who are able to help oversee the farms. Anyone can volunteer and making this a more community space will be beneficial!

    While Seattle is a very expensive place to live, many of the large tech corporations are willing to step up and fund shelter projects. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft have recently been involved with creating homeless shelters in the city so this project will need a partnership with one/or multiple companies for funding.

    We now look at key components of the project: the site, the interior & exterior plans, and the specifics of furnishing.

    The Site

    Site Plans

    2nd Floor Blueprint
    Rooftop Blueprint

    My Response: The Green Shelter Model

    From the Outside…

    From the Inside…

    A spacious lobby

    The lobby represents many qualities that we want to showcase to everyone. A clinic and lots of bathroom space are available to address basic necessities. Different farming techniques from vertical gardens to hydroponic farms are also showcased to raise awareness of indoor farming and increase interest in volunteering.

    Similiar layout of 2nd and 3rd floor

    Each floor features living space for around 80 people with compact but private capsule beds. A community kitchen, a living room, and well-equipped bathrooms are also equipped on the residential floors.


    The rooftop contains many diverse forms of outdoor farming and although it’s very hard to see on the model, wells around the sides of the rooftop collect rainwater that mixes with other filtered sewage water from around the neighborhood to pump water for the hydroponic, vertical, and indoor farms.

    More info + my Works Cited!

    (link to insights to specifics of room descriptions, pictures into the furnished rooms, and more below!)

    The Green Shelter Presentation Process (includes citations)

    Sneak peeks!


    Please respond to the following questions in the comments below and think about shelters around you that might be able to adapt similarly!

    • Can you think of ways to make shelters or even buildings around you more “green” and sustainable?

    • How can different communities destigmatize the labels we put on people who are homeless?

    • Do you think that this design could be implemented in other parts of the world to be utilized to the best of its ability?

    • What about this shelter do you think works well and what could be improved upon? For example, looking back, I think that the building structure looks very institutionalized. What changes could help make this design more user-friendly or homely?



    1. Hi Clair, I am one of the other Architecture teachers along with Mr. Sarsfield. I am very impressed with your attention to detail, your ability to address the SDGs, and your ability to identify a design opportunity in your community and develop an architectural response to that opportunity. I like not only how you have addressed homelessness in Seattle with a humanized approach, but have also dug deeper to include water catchment, hydroponics, gardening, etc. and integrated this into your building’s design. I see in the feedback section that you wrote that your building feels “institutionalized”…. I agree to an extent, but when you are trying to create a building with the scale that you chose on the size of site that you selected this becomes difficult. Reducing the scale of your project or selecting multiple sites and using the actually earth of the site for more gardening may have allowed for more of a deinstitutionalized feel. Well done! Mr. Schwartz

      1. Hi Mr. Schwartz! Thank you so much! That’s actually a great idea of separating it into different compounds rather than just one big building. With that plan, there are many opportunities to integrate the surrounding nature and make it a more outdoorsy open plan.

    2. Hey Claire, I’m at a loss for words… your project was absolutely amazing, and it’s clear that you paid close attention to the project every step of the way, from the case studies to the bubble diagrams. I particularly want to praise you on your SketchUp models, for not only are the aesthetics immaculate, the labelling and added notes helps the viewer to better understand your project. Your idea of having a homeless shelter that can also help to deal with addiction through gardening and giving back to the community is truly spectacular; it’s clear how you incorporated various SDGs into this project. Your creativity is really inspiring! To answer one of your feedback questions, I think that while this idea is perfect for lush areas, this type of gardening community would not be possible in a location with a fluctuating or dry climate, somewhere where things are hard to grow. Thus, I wonder what could be done in areas where the climate makes things harder to grow? You should be incredibly proud of your work, Claire!

      1. Hey Mrs. Plata! For a drier climate, dry gardening for a similar project would be used. The limitations on the collection of water might be more of a problem but on the bright side, there might be more sunlight that can bring better power source for the building. Definitely super happy with the Sketchup model!

    3. Very cool design!

      1. Thanks Michael!

    4. Hi Clair, I really liked your project. The building is designed really well as I like both how inviting it looks, as well as the placement of the crop rows, hydroponics farms, and lounges. I like the design of the greenhouses, and I think the idea in general is really interesting, especially about giving back to the community through farming.

      1. Hi Ethan! Thanks for commenting! I hope there’s more of a trend of urban farming in the future and a project proposal like this might come to life!

    5. Claire, Like the other comments, I am impressed by your level of detail! I have one idea connected to the questions you ask us to reflect upon: Are there ways this project could be used as a teaching tool in the community? I ask because helping others is often a way to build resilience and if the project (in addition to feeling homey!) had a vehicle to do community outreach, maybe that would give some good experiences to the people living there. Thank you for working on this important issue in Seattle!

      1. Hi Mrs. Peterson! I think that partnering with local high schools or just any school, in general, would be a great way to build a connection amongst clients in this project and advocate for urban farming. Having a moving urban farming truck would also be a great idea and having it stationed everywhere could also provide relief for tent cities. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    6. Hi Claire! You did such a great job putting together a clear, detailed, and organized presentation! I especially enjoyed how many photos you added of your 3-D model as it helped make it really clear what space looks like. I also think you did a great job of integrating the farm space with the building space.

    7. Hey Claire!
      You did a fantastic job with your project. You should be very proud of yourself. It is clear that you put in a lot of dedication and time with your research, models on sketch up, and overall project. Your ideas were very well explained and your designs/maps were just as detailed. The labeling helped a lot and the overall vibe was amazing. Everything was done very well.

    8. Hi Claire! Your project is so impressive and directly addresses a major issue. I like how you included the gardens as a way to contribute to the community and workshop programs to encourage self sufficiency and stability. The rainwater feature is an excellent way to take advantage of the abundance of rainwater in the climate of the area! Your site plans are very clear and organized, and I like how you included arrows in your 1st floor blueprint to display the flow of the space. Finally, your SketchUp design is amazing; the vertical gardens are a functional element that also contribute to the appearance of the building.

    9. Hey Claire, I think you did a fantastic Job with this project. I love your idea and how throughout your process you constantly had the needs and main goal in mind and that is visible in your work. My favorite aspect of your design is the hanging terraces on the sides of your building and the greenery on top. It really gives off a welcoming and eco-friendly vibe. Great Job!

    10. Hi Claire! Your project looks so good! I’m super impressed with all of the sustainable aspects of your project like the green houses, rain water collection, rooftop gardens and the vertical garden. It adds so much to design to have so many green elements. I think adding renewable energy sources to buildings are one way to make buildings more “green” and also a building like this would be great to add all over the world as the design could be implemented in many situations. Nice work!

    11. Hi Claire, I absolutely loved the lobbies design and how clear it was. The outside of the building was also stunning. Just an incredible job overall.

    12. Hey Claire! I love the idea of your building. The idea of putting plants on the exterior also brings nature to architecture, which I really like. This kind of “green” architecture can really help deforestation. Great job!

    13. Hi Claire! The organization of your project is impressive. I find that your WordPress presentation is very clear and easy to follow. Also, the detail in all of your sketches and designs is fantastic. I can tell that you spent a lot of time making sure the viewer has a clear interpretation of your project. I also wanted to mention how much I like the idea of the rooftop. It is a very unique and smart way of incorporating the SDG’s into your project. Great job!

    14. Claire!! Your project is amazing! The award you were given is very well assigned because your citations on your project are so amazing! It is important to cite and label different parts of your visual designs to give the viewer a clear understanding and you do a very good job of that. Congrats!!

    15. Claire –
      Your project has absolutely blown me away. From your idea to your supplemental materials, I can tell that you paid close attention to every detail along the way. You knocked this one out of the park! This is something you should be proud of!

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