In one year, the small, vacant house at 139 Howell Street in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood was transformed into a livable, fully renovated home known as "Quad Space."
Four UB architecture students, Paul Dudkowski, Dan Stripp, Michael-John Bailie and Ernest Ng, were entering their second year of graduate school in the summer of 2008. The students chose to purchase the once vacant house that is now "Quad Space" at a Buffalo auction for $6,500, with the intent of renovating the house into a useable living space. In October 2009, the fully finished project was revealed to the Howell Street neighborhood and the public for an open house.
The house at 139 Howell Street was built in 1901 by a mason. Some recycled materials from the Pan American Exposition that was held in Buffalo in 1901 were used in the construction of the original house. For about 100 years, one family owned and lived in the home, but relocated in 2004. Two years later, the house was put up for auction and was ultimately bought by Dudkowski, Stripp, Ng and Bailie.
Currently, Bailie, Dudkowski, Stripp and his girlfriend Stephanie and Cosmo, a 60 pound lab mix, live in "Quad Space." The house requires minimal living, but the four housemates plus Cosmo have learned to adapt, according to Dudkowski. "Personally I have really enjoyed my stay at the house," said Dudkowski. "I have never felt as if the place is crowded... it has forced me to be more responsible with my possessions and value what I really do need."
Indeed, adaptation is essential in order to live in "Quad Space." "It is small, but definitely livable; I find it very interesting to see how we are adapting our lifestyles to fit the space," Stripp said. "It makes me think that almost any space is livable; the occupant will always adapt to the given situation, within reason." The group has begun to build furniture in a dual effort to create an individualized area for each inhabitant, and to maximize the house's useable space.
Bailie, Stripp and Dudkowski are all taking advantage of the work Buffalo has to offer in the field of architecture. Bailie, who previously lived in New York City, hopes to be working for a design/build firm before the end of the summer and put his present interest in cabinetry and hands-on architecture to good use. Stripp and Dudkowski are both working construction side jobs and assisting two former UB professors on a housing project in Derby, NY. Ng is currently working as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University.
The UB students feel that their thesis project was "ambitious." Indeed, the four graduate students completed the purchase and entire rebuilding of a house within one year. The Black Rock neighborhood appreciated and welcomed the group since the preliminary planning stages of the project. "It is of greater value and community benefit to have homeownership, investment, and adaptive re-use than demolition and a vacant lot," said Mark Kubiniec, President of the Grant/Amherst Business Association (GABA). The inspiration, construction and realization of the house were beneficial in the ongoing promotion of Buffalo.
The future plans for "Quad Space" include the renting of the house to three UB architecture students, up until the end of this summer. Bailie hopes that this will allow Ng, Dudkowski, Stripp and himself to gain "criticism that we would not otherwise get from guests." Presently, "Quad Space's" current inhabitants will be moving out by July 31st, according to Dudkowski.
Photo courtesy of Michael-John Bailie