Alligator / buildingstudio

© Will Crocker

Architects: buildingstudio
Location: , LA, USA
Design Team: Coleman Coker, David Dieckhoff, Varuni Edussuriya, Tom Holloman, Jonathan Tate
Client: Neighborhood Housing Services
General Contractor: Evolution Builders
Project Area: 960 sq ft
Budget: US $116,000
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Will Crocker & Undine Prohl

This affordable home arose out of the post-Katrina re-housing effort in New Orleans for an inner city neighborhood in dour need of new places to live. was working with an affluent client in Boulder, CO who voiced great concern for the lack of effort being made in New Orleans after the storm. As result we asked if they’d be willing to contribute toward an affordable home for a Katrina refugee. Not only did the clients generously give their own money, they invited their friends and colleagues to participate towards the cost of constructing an affordable home. The total sum contributed was $50,000.00. This generous contribution allows Neighborhood Housing Services, who promotes and markets low-cost properties in economically-strapped neighborhoods of New Orleans, to offer the house at a vastly reduced rate. , contributed its full design and coordination services as well.

floor plan

The project is located in Central City, an impoverished inner-city neighborhood situated between the CBD and the prosperous Uptown area. Though Central City’s infrastructure was severely deteriorating before the storm and it has one of the highest per capita of drug-related murder rates in the country, a resilient community fortitude still abounds. Infill housing is actively taking place on several fronts. Non-profits and faith-based groups have built several dozen homes for new residents hoping to move back. Most structures are either panelized or modular with little concern for design.

© Undine Prohl

And while the best intentions went into these, they’re disappointingly constructed. This limits their lifespan and undermines the long-term viability of the neighborhood. Tulane University School of Architecture has also completed four experimental design/build projects in the area as tools to better research affordable construction strategies.

© Will Crocker

With an unusually narrow lot width of 19-ft, a maximum 13-ft wide scheme was all that was allowed. This resulted in an 9600 SF two-bedroom, bath-and-a-half scheme. Nicknamed “Alligator”, because of its “open-mouth” profile, its based on a very common traditional typology in the New Orleans area— the shotgun. This layout is where all rooms align in a single row, front to back, in order to fit the long narrow lots typical of the City. In this design though, to overcome the lack of privacy for the middle bedroom that a shotgun typically demands, a set of rolling doors permits privacy and allows passage to the rear bedroom and bath. In older neighborhoods like Central City, the front stoop is key since so much community involvement takes place on the street. It’s the common gathering place where neighbors meet and entertain each other. For that purpose, metal grate steps stretch across the front of the house for casual sitting while visiting with neighbors. The street facade is clad in translucent white insulated plastic panels on each side of the stud structure. Between these panels, fluorescent fixtures provide indirect lighting both for the exterior and interior living room. Off the rear main bedroom there is a narrow rear porch the width of the home. While considered low-cost, the budget still allowed for engineered hardwood flooring and ceramic tile in the bathrooms. The home, meeting hurricane resistance requirements, has insulated windows with an efficient thermal envelope to lower utility bills. Exterior walls and roof are clad in factory-painted, preformed metal siding for ease of maintenance and long-term durability.

Products in this project

Bathroom Equipment: Kohler, American Standard

  • Plumbing by Kohler
  • Plumbing by American Standard

Construction materials, Semi-finished materials: Polygal, Pilkington

  • Glazing: Polycarbonate Walls by Polygal
  • Glazing: Glass by Pilkington

Floor: United States Ceramic Tile Company , Home Legend

  • Floor by United States Ceramic Tile Company
  • Wood Floors by Home Legend

Joinery: Hager , Steves & Sons, Amazing Windows & Doors, LCN, Schlage

  • Hardware: Hindges by Hager
  • Doors: Wood Doors by Steves & Sons
  • Window: Aluminium by Amazing Windows & Doors
  • Hardware: Closers by LCN
  • Hardware: Locksets by Schlage
  • Doors: Entrances by Amazing Windows & Doors

Lighting, Heating, Home/building automation: Halo , Hampton Bay

  • Lightning: Exterior by Halo
  • Lightning: Downlights by Halo
  • Lightning: Pendant lighting by Hampton Bay

Roof: Firestone Building Products

  • Built-up roofing by Firestone Building Products

Walls: United States Ceramic Tile Company , Sherwin Williams

  • Wall Tile by United States Ceramic Tile Company
  • Paints and stains by Sherwin Williams
Cite: "Alligator / buildingstudio" 03 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Dan

    Really nice work! Congratulations to those responsible for it!

  • DP

    really nice project, but imho some of the furniture just doesn’t fit the building…

    • Daniel

      imho, some of the building just doesn’t fit the neighborhood context.

  • FG

    I like this, but is this really what the people of New Orleans want? Is this truly their aspirational housing model? I somehow doubt it. There was some off-base criticism of Make It Right and their production, but those as well, don’t really seem to represent what people actually want.

    • amian

      I think your comment is right on. A form-driven shotgun seems unlikable by anyone but an architect.

      And as an architect I can’t like it because they seem to have really sacrificed the traditional functionality of a shotgun house by restricting the window locations for some facade making reason.

      So better would have been a functional building that people would want to live in.

      Wacky, I know.

      • donna

        I totally agree with amian’s comments………….

    • Rob

      FG: I’m guessing that “the people of New Orleans” are like the people of every other city in the world, in that they are a broad group of varied individuals with different likes and dislikes. Therefore, there is no such thing as one house design which is what “the people of New Orleans” want. Some of them want traditional, some want modern, some urban, some suburban, and so on. This house would need to appeal to exactly one person or family of New Orleans, and it seems to me that a design this open, light, modern, and clean will be able to find one person who will be thrilled to move in and make a home there. I would live there in a heartbeat. Kudos to the buildingstudio group, this house is a work of art. You should all be so proud.

      • David

        I agree with Rob! The style may not be for everyone but it probably works for a lot of people. To me, it looks optimistic. I’d live there.

      • joshisanonymous

        Yes, that’s all that’s required for the house to be purchased and lived in, but this was built in a historic neighborhood in a city that’s extremely protective of their traditions. That doesn’t mean styles can’t change, but this clearly interrupts the look of the neighborhood. Maybe this would be fine after many of the houses around it had gone through a number of small changes but it looks like the designers decided to jump 50-100 years ahead of everyone else. While it’s a cool design, I wouldn’t want it next to my historic New Orleans home.

  • Meg

    I actually really, really love this. I’m from north Louisiana. It’s no NOLA, but we have tons of shotgun houses. I’ve rarely seen one so well-designed for use of the entire space. I would love to live in this house.

    For the record, I’m neither an architect nor a designer.

  • Kit

    9,600 square feet? That’s a typo. Maybe 960.
    It seems a bit stark for a home that should be welcoming people back to these colorful neighborhoods.
    Sure, they’ve paid attention to context by using a stoop, and a common typology (shotgun), but what about the character of the neighborhood? I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that modernism doesn’t have to polarize people. People in this neighborhood will either hate it or love it, and that’s not a good approach for our profession. I’m not saying that it has to have bevel siding and a dormer, but at least find some way to symbolically relate to the neighborhood.


    just to bring up race first photo african american riding by on his bike then if you look in the building plans its European americans from vogue i can only assume they received a government taxpayer funded grant to build this house and i am still not sure what race is going to live in it. I like to see cheep modern homes so i will like just about anything that goes that way so i like this too.

  • james

    its ok.
    it would be better if it wasnt such a silly shape

  • Ldom

    The unusual high front+rear facades seem functional to me. It brings a lot of light inside the construction. With its tunnel-like shape, it would probably lack some in the middle. Doesn’t look to me as just an architect fantasy. Nice design.

  • tim

    amazing what you can do with just a 116 k bucks..

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  • knock

    the interior choices are a bit … strange. The base, the furniture, those pendants …. seems like whoever designed the exterior and form wasn’t calling the shots on the interior.

  • Nicholas Patten

    I'd Live Here: Alligator.

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  • Steve

    “In *dour* need”?

    I suspect you mean “In *dire* need”.

  • feven

    i can’t appreciate this it looks like its gonna eat you,forgeting that it doesn’t look like home,we must always think about the concept of the building,if one is designing a residential house it must look like residencial house no matter what form

  • tsevis

    Alligator / buildingstudio | ArchDaily

  • J

    Cool building but it doesn’t respect the vernacular of the neighborhood. Some theorectical correlations can be made, but essentially this house turns it’s nose up at the neighbors.
    ROB, I have no doubt some people will like it, but there’s also people who would like a bright pink trailer parked there too. I don’t think your argument holds water.
    Neighborhoods have a character as a whole, and it should be observed to a certain extent.

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