Biru Cao

MArch I

Layered Voids: A Senior Living Community Inspired by Courtyard House Typology

Advised by George L. Legendre

This thesis explores the critical factors in courtyard house typology: the hierarchy and dynamics of voids and how it could provide senior cohousing design possibilities. By 2029, there will be over 14 million middle-income older adults in the United States, and over half of them will lack the financial resources to pay for senior living. This presents a massive opportunity but also a potential crisis for public health and senior housing. This project aims to aid the older adults who will not qualify for public assistance and may not afford private-pay senior housing as it exists today. 

In China, there is a distinctive variety of traditional courtyard houses. Among them, the Beijing courtyard house is considered the most outstanding example. It contains a clearly defined hierarchy of spatial transition from public to private with a very flexible typology and consists of only a few architectural components. The project aims to challenge the traditional senior living community layout by building modular homes inspired by this Chinese courtyard house typology. 

The project tries to design a senior living community that is smaller and more intimate with neighborhoods in the parklike setting of the existing Sumner Houses campus in Brooklyn, New York. The site is home to 2,400 public housing residents and intends to build over 100 senior housing units further. Compared with the typical senior apartment complexes, this design is in a horizontal model, providing more quality spaces for the residents. 

Isometric rendering of a cluster of single-story residential units surrounded by larger buildings.

Entrance to a courtyard of a single-level residential structure showing a person tending a raised-bed garden and a bicycle and dog in the background.

Rendering of an interior room with a large window, a table against the right side wall, a potted plant on the floor and a painting on the wall at the left.

Courtyard of a single-level building showing a stairway going up to the roof level, with a bicycle in the foreground and a person and dog in the background.

Roof terrace of a building with with potted trees and people enjoying the view.

Rendering of an aerial view of a cluster of connected single-level residential buildings with sloping roofs and people taking part in various leisure activites.