Intergenerational Housing: A Vernacular Perspective

Open Access
Miller, Daniel John
Graduate Program:
Master of Architecture
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 03, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jawaid Haider, Thesis Advisor
  • Darla V Lindberg, Thesis Advisor
  • Deryck William Holdsworth, Thesis Advisor
  • architecture
  • intergenerational
  • multigenerational
  • retroit
  • vernacular
  • housing
  • elderly
Demographic studies and trends indicate that multigenerational households are becoming increasingly common in the United States. This thesis examines design strategies that can improve the quality of intergenerational home architecture through the study of successful vernacular examples. These vernacular case studies offer lessons about intergenerational design validated by years of architectural evolution and experience. Studies of development and aging attribute a variety of mental and physical benefits to living in an intergenerational environment. The design of homes that encourage and facilitate interaction between generations can truly foster healthier living for all ages. There is, however, scarce research conducted on the subject in the architectural realm; consequently, no universal insights for effective intergenerational design have been developed. This research explores the vernacular houses of three different American subcultures that embraced an intergenerational existence in order to illuminate architectural design concepts and approaches that can be implemented in future designs. The three vernacular case studies selected for this research—the Amish farmhouse, the Spanish-Colonial hacienda, and the industrial alley house—were visually documented through drawings, photographs, and historical research. Identification of potential intergenerational design issues, distilled from existing research, formed the framework for subsequent architectural analysis. Examination of each vernacular case study determined how each issue manifests itself in the existing architecture. The analysis of the three distinct structures, condensed and combined to identify commonalities and differences, designated significant architectural lessons. Through this process of vernacular analysis, a number of architectural ideas that could be implemented in future design and investigated through further research became demonstrably clear. These ideas are centered on the design of variable hybrid spaces, the inclusion of space for productive activities, designing for flexibility, and the connection to a larger community. These design concepts, when considered together, should lead to the creation of more effective intergenerational architecture.