Restrictions breed creativity, with Caterpillar, the restrictions were as follows: one Quonset Hut, two endwalls, eight units, all one story—no stairs and no zoning variances. Architect, Ishtiaq Rafiuddin, came back with a very strong and simple proposal. He understood the desire to invest in the quality of the spaces—indoor and outdoor—therefore he proposed using 100 percent prefabricated Quonset Hut components for almost every portion of the project. Rafiuddin implemented window frames purchased directly from the Quonset Hut manufacturer and even made the proposal to use their very basic endwall system for our two large endwalls. The entire exterior of the hut, except for the glazing, was purchased from the Quonset Hut provider; this minimized investment in structure and the exterior shell.
The result is an 8,000 SF, residential project in Core City, Detroit. A simple project that saves and then invests into the elements that truly matter—the quality of indoor and outdoor space and generous landscape. A rigid and disciplined approach whose objective was poetry.
Using a Quonset Hut allows the project to offer impressive span and height to the spaces. Each apartment has 23 foot ceilings and 12 to 18 windows and receives both Southeastern and Northwestern light. The units are designed to capture the sunrise in the bedrooms and the sunset in the living room, which reflects off of the calming, curved walls—creating an aura of ceremony and reflection.
The building features a wraparound deck anchored by a 160+ tree woodland. On the backside of the structure you will find arborvitaes, river birches and hornbeams in a staggered pattern—inspired by sheet music for A Love Supreme by John Coltrane—to create privacy for the units and visual interest for the deck. Terrazzo tiles salvaged from a previous development were added as walkways and public benches on the perimeter of the woodland invite neighborhood passersby to stop and enjoy the greenspace, while still providing privacy for the futuristic monument existing within.
The project turns the standard ratios of a multi-family project totally upside down. Instead of 150 apartments surrounded by eight trees with just one window per room, Caterpillar provides eight apartments surrounded by 150 trees and 12-18 windows per room.
Caterpillar expands on the success of True North, a previous development from Prince Concepts completed in 2017 that sprinkled eight Quonset huts of various shapes and sizes across 25,000 SF of land, cut them into 10 leasable units, planted 63 trees, and, on average, offered residents 16 foot ceilings. The result was a sculptural community with public and semi-private outdoor nooks that was Named 2017’s Multi-Family development of the year by Architect’s Newspaper, was a winner of a Progressive Architecture award, and was one of six finalists for the prestigious Mies Crown Hall Americas prize.