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Students Design Tiny Homes for Nashville Homeless Veterans

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Interior Design

July 16, 2015

When Nanette Rhodes, adjunct faculty member at The Art Institute of Tennessee—Nashville, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, told her colleagues and interior design students about a project to create “tiny houses” for homeless veterans, the school’s creative community banded together to put their skills to work. They created a plan for an entire community, to be called Hope Farms Village, which provides housing and support for homeless veterans. The community will be located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near the Veterans’ Administration hospital.

Fellow interior design instructor Diana Bradford explains that the project not only gave the students real-world experience in interior design. It also met the requirements for their Residential II class in developing higher density housing models for a specific clientele or population. “The students researched the historical aspect of urban planning and applied design concepts from the Garden City movement. They designed the entire site, not just one residential dwelling,” she says.

Keeping in mind those who will occupy the homes, the students planned for persons with disabilities, whether mental or physical, as they created the houses and walkable community. For example, they separated pedestrian and vehicular traffic, chose complementary exterior colors schemes, and developed a cul de sac concept that created a true community feeling.

There will also be an onsite community center to offer counseling and educational services to help the veterans reintegrate with society, as well as recreational space, security, and laundry facilities.

In addition to the hands-on experience the students gained, the project put a spotlight on social and community issues that many of students had not experienced. “They were surprised by statistics of homelessness among veterans, including women, and the age spread. In their world, they do not have experience with persons that have given their all, only to lose everything they fought for. It was eye opening to them,” Bradford states.

She adds that one interior design student in particular took the project to heart—Susan Crossland, a veteran, was aware of the issues and challenges that homeless veterans face. Susan spent seven years in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Bragg. She’s currently serving in the Reserves in Nashville.

“[The tiny houses were] just a project for us, until we had a meeting with Matthew O'Dell,” says Crossland. O’Dell is one of the owners of the property where Hope Farms Village will be built.

“Once we meant with him, he asked us if we would be OK helping him with some of the preliminary ideas. Of course all of us students jumped at the opportunity. It made the project so much more thrilling to take on. Also after our meeting with Matthew, we had more direction for what the true envision of the property was,” Crossland adds.

The project continued to become more “real” to the students as they dug into the design and focused on the veterans that they were designing for. The students became aware of how many veterans ended up on the streets. “We had many group discussions on the issues these people would face while in the process of re-integrating back into traditional society. We did not always agree on things. With my age and experiences I tended to be way more passionate about my thoughts on things. It was very exciting to have a glimpse at working on a team with a real world project,” according to Crossland.

She mentions that most challenging part of the project was keeping it simple. Because of their passion for the project, Crossland and her fellow students wanted to do more then the project required. She says that the team environment also forced her and her classmates to take into account each other’s life and work experience. “[My classmates] knew how passionate I was about the project, so the pressure of being held to a higher standard by a peer was also discussed throughout the process.”

Crossland, who will complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Tennessee—Nashville in December 2015, says that her educational experiences have helped to prepare her for a creative career. “All of our projects have a massive amount of research involved. Our abilities we have been developing through research, and our understanding of getting knowledge on codes and zoning helped us so much.”

Now that the students’ designs are complete, the owners of property where the houses are to be built are working through initial planning issues, such as
zoning and utility connections. It’s hoped that the community will be completed within the next three years.

Special thanks to The Art Institute of Tennessee—Nashville interior design students who participated in this project: Susan Crossland, Jenny Morrison, Tyler Claggett, and Courtney Malone. All students are currently working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Tennessee—Nashville.

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By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Interior Design

July 16, 2015

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