Low-rise, Medium-density Infill Housing Prototypes

Outer Southeast Portland, Oregon | University of Oregon 2004

Zone: R2
Lot Size: 95ft x 180ft | 17,100sqft
7-8 units allowed by zoning
Site Elevation
Street Elevation

Portland is a city rapidly filling with new housing and multi-family units, contrary to the prevailing trend towards the suburbs in many other metropolitan areas. As a result, pressure is rising to build typologies other than the single-family home within the city. The occasional open lot remaining within the city is thus often subdivided and developed with multiple units. Lots in outer southeast Portland are nearly twice as large—typically 95 ft by 180 ft—as the typical inner city lot.


The program calls for exploring different methods for arranging multi-family housing units in such a way as to provide common space, parking, and simple subdivision of the lot. Seven to eight units of housing are desired, the maximum allowed by zoning codes.


Designing single-family units at a multi-family density creates problems between expectations of privacy and the reality of community living. Thus, creating clearly defined and articulated private and public spaces takes on more importance than in traditional single-family units common to the neighborhood.

The interior and exterior spaces of each unit interact to create a 3D matrix of public, semi-public/semi-private, and private space. The ground level, facing the street, projects varying levels of public space–porch, elevated courtyard, living, dining, kitchen, office/den. Upper levels become increasingly private–bedrooms, laundry, screened terrace, screened balcony. The central lane leading to the street, along with the porches, courtyards, and open carports, provide a more open and articulated sense of public space than is often found in similar developments.


Each unit occupies a 40 foot x 41 foot division of the site. Material and elevation changes signal shifts from the public space of the lane to the semi-private spaces of the front yard. Materials similar to those of the front porch and courtyard continue inside the unit through the entry, living room, and kitchen, denoting the public space of the house, and continue out to the back courtyard. These interior spaces open up visually and physically to the courtyards to provide flexibility and make the fairly small spaces, by today’s standards, seem larger.

Two bedrooms are located on the second level, along with a sun room (a humorous name given the Portland climate) which opens onto a screened terrace over the living room and kitchen. The screen is composed of wooden slats which filters light in the summer and screens views from the street, though still allows users to observe both activity on the street and in the courtyards. During the winter, a transparent covering can be attached to the screen to make the terrace usable during the winter.

The top floor holds the master bedroom and another, private screened terrace.

There is parking space available for one car under one bedroom, including room for storage. The parking space has no garage door to provide a large enough turning radius and to extend the visual sense of public space and openness through the site.

Total living space: 1675 sq ft Ground floor, 600 sq ft, second floor, 640 sq ft, third floor, 435 sq ft. Total outdoor space: 1300 sq ft. Ground floor 850 sq ft, second floor 240 sq ft, third floor 210 sq ft.

Primary Media
  • SketchUp
  • AutoCAD
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
Site Plan
Site Plan
Section A
Section B
Section C
Section D
From top: Section A, Section B, Section C, Section D.