Big Hearts, Tiny Home

Annie Wright Schools’ first year with an Upper School for Boys wrapped up this week with a send-off of a tiny home designed and built for the homeless by ninth grade boys. The house, which combines a sleek look with a practical design that prioritizes storage space and comfort, left its building location in Annie Wright’s parking lot on June 13. Its final destination? Nickelsville Georgetown Tiny House Village, the fourth City of Seattle sanctioned homeless encampment.

By getting involved in such a project, ninth grade boys at Annie Wright got a hands-on learning experience in power tools and empathy. They also have a greater appreciation for all the work going into the construction of the new Upper School for Boys, which is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2019, on the Annie Wright campus.

“We’re starting a new school and building a new building on campus, so we thought we should learn about the design process for that building by designing our own,” said Joe Romano, teacher of the Architecture and Design class. But Romano wanted the class to go far beyond the logistical elements of architecture and design.

“When I think about design, I think about design for impact,” he said. “It’s important to look at problems that exist in a community and think about how we can use a design mindset to solve those problems. Homelessness is one of the greatest challenges in the region, especially up and down I-5. I think it’s important that we make a contribution to people experiencing homelessness by doing something like this.”

tiny home

The home’s functional and stylish interior. The lower bed platform also serves as a large storage compartment. Photo courtesy of Zoe Branch.

Over the course of the school year, the boys studied homelessness, design, and architecture; they visited Georgetown Village to interview people experiencing homelessness about what they would like in a home; they received feedback on their architectural drawings from Mithun, the same architecture firm designing their to-be classroom space; and they built a fully functional two-person tiny home in three months.

This kind of project at Annie Wright had never been undertaken before, and it was pulled off thanks to the support of many organizations. The nonprofit Sawhorse Revolution, which has been instrumental in the construction of many of the homes in Georgetown Village, provided sponsorship and design advice, and two community volunteers — contractor Tyler Kolbo and retired Boeing employee Karl Stromvall — helped Romano supervise the building process.

With a successful sendoff to such a highly ambitious project, it seems certain that this class will be offered for many years to come. Romano said that Annie Wright is likely to continue its partnership with the Low Income Housing Institute and Nickelsville until a tiny house village is implemented in Tacoma as a partial solution to homelessness.

is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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