In the spring of 2017, we were offered the opportunity to redesign the residence of Whitestone Life Center, a local non-profit based in North Providence, RI. Whitestone Life Center provides counseling and transitional housing for men over eighteen at their facility. The group homestay serves as a training period and a launch platform for when the residents are re-integrated into the community. After time in shelters or living on the streets, when clients join the home they begin to re-familiarize themselves with the basics of daily living, personal responsibility, communal participation, and private space. Most residents stay for a period of one to no more than two years, and as they achieve certain milestones they are granted more independence and privileges. For instance, in the early part of their stay they are in double rooms on the first floor with little privacy, and as they progress they are allowed to move into single rooms on the quieter second floor.
Our team, Lily Huo, Ziying Peng, and I, undertook the task of redesigning a prototype for the shared bedrooms, located on the first floor of Whitestone Life Center. The clients have requested a thorough design proposal which includes an innovative bedroom layout and simple furnishings that can provide uniformity, repeatability, and a personalized feeling of home. The design should be neat, easy to clean, and organized for easy access. It should include spaces for two single beds, storage for clothing, linens, personal items, dirty laundry and drying towels/toiletries. While there is a communal kitchen, residents each prefer to have their own small refrigerator, a stockpile of food and plates et al. Additionally, the clients mentioned that many of its residents have come from chaos and disorder, and a physical environment that supports consistency, orderliness, and cleanliness is important. And as a new organization, much of the furnishings have been donated, do not match, and are not necessarily suited to the needs of the residents. Therefore, designing customized, functional furniture is an integral part of this project.
We embarked on our design process with the understanding and wish that the design of the individual rooms can and will be a critical support in the men’s progress. In designing transitional housing for Whitestone Life Center, we asked ourselves to not only explore the utilitarian solutions to the use of the space, but also think closely about the emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of the lives that take place within. Our final design solution is named ‘Loop.’ Partially enwrapping the beds, the ‘loop’ provides individual residents with a sense of privacy, stability, and security and accommodates managerial needs of the institution to monitor and control. The slots at various heights on the structure allow the residents to hang shelves, panels, hooks and customize the layouts of storage and working spaces. The simpleness of the design makes the manufacture efficient and affordable. Meanwhile, the ‘loops’ can be easily moved around to create different configurations and thus are highly applicable to the other rooms at Whitestone Life Center as well.