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The Front Porch House. Award-winning design for a center for homeless youth

24 of February '22

A graduate of the Faculty of Architecture at Wroclaw University of Technology moved by the problem of homelessness among young people, {tag:studenci} created a design for a help center - The Front Porch House, which could be built in Toronto. Her idea providing shelter for young people in distress won the Step Forward international competition organized by the UNI competition platform.

The goal of the Step Forward competition organized by UNI competition was to design a center that would meet the needs of minors affected by homelessness. The proposed facility was to stand in Toronto, Canada, where about 12 percent of the homeless are young people - between the ages of 13 and 24. A sizable portion of them are fleeing their homes due to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

center for homeless youth

Concepts submitted to the competition had to put the welfare of young people first, but also take into account the need for the center to fit in with the neighborhood of the Humber Summit district, of which it was to become a part. The building had to be inexpensive, take into account the plot's steep slopes and accommodate 60 people. The participants were also to include in the design: a community garden, an experimental kitchen, an outdoor theater, a workshop room, a classroom, a library, a meeting place, a psychological counseling center, a reception area and a waiting room.

The Front Porch House,
założenia projektowe Projekt The Front Porch House,
plan zagospodarowania

The proposed center could be built in Toronto

© Kaja Lewandowska

winning PWr graduate

The projects submitted for the competition were evaluated by a two-person jury of Canadian architects: Pooya Baktash(PARTISANS) and Guillaume Fafard (Quinzhee Architecture). They considered The Front Porch House concept by Kai Lewandowska of Wroclaw University of Technology to be the best. Her project, made under the direction of Dr. Grazyna Hryncewicz-Lamber, was also an engineering thesis.

Centrum dla bezdomnej
młodzieży, główne wejście

The Front Porch House project received the main prize

© Kaja Lewandowska

transition center

The main idea of the project was to create a center in the trend of "transitional housing" (literal translation "transitionalcenter"). Facilities of this type provide young people with accommodation and access to education, medical care, psychological counseling and career counseling, and largely focus on adapting homeless youth to independent living in society, Kaja explains.

Projekt The Front
Porch House, rzut parteru Projekt The Front Porch House,
rzut pierwszego piętra

The center consists of four residential modules

© Kaja Lewandowska

The center is divided into residential wings and a teaching area, including workshop rooms, an open-air theater, a library and an experimental kitchen. The entire building relates in shape and elevation to the neighboring buildings and grounds.

The center consists of four residential modules: a single unit, a double unit and two units adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Each is equipped with a private bathroom and study space. The residential modules have direct access to the front porch - typical of single-family homes in the United States and Canada.

Projekt The Front
Porch House

The author referred to the typical porch locations of single-family homes

© Kaja Lewandowska

In addition to providing basic rooms, such as offices and social rooms, it was important for the author to create a space where the youth would have a chance to talk to the center's staff about their problems and progress. So she designed an office for project coordinators, a career office, a consultation room and a space in the staff room for individual conversations and advice - separated by a wall of glass to keep the conversation safe and open.

Projekt The Front
Porch House, szklarnia

The greenhouse is a link between the residential wings

© Kaja Lewandowska

peaceful private space

The motif of the front porch, typical of single-family houses in the United States and Canada, became the starting point when creating the project. It is a symbol of a quiet private space on the urban periphery, where residents can take a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the city center. This motif was transferred to the center's design so that each tenant would have direct access to his or her private space as a substitute for home, the author says.

An equally important point of the project is the greenhouse connecting the residential wings, which, in addition to growing plants, provides a place for group hortiterapy, based on physical work related to gardening.

Projekt The Front
Porch House

The facade was made of limestone and wood planks

© Kaja Lewandowska

reference to the neighborhood

The entire building was designed using CLT technology. Inspired by the surrounding single-family buildings, the author covered the facade of the center with limestone slabs and wooden planks. The entrance area was additionally glazed over the entire height of two floors. The architect used window woodwork in color to create a contrast between the uniform facade and the massive glazing. Meanwhile, the balustrades of the porches and the canopies over the balconies were made of milk glass.


interior community garden

© Kaja Lewandowska

Read also about the design of an asylum for homeless youth by Katarzyna Lech, which received an honorable mention in the 2021 competition "The Safe House - Homes for the homeless students," also organized by the UNI platform.

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