Zimmerman Architectural Studios
7707 Harwood Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53213


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Brady street neighborhood


Viva Voce

“In time, we may even come to accept balance bet VivaVoce roughly translates from Italian as “word of mouth,” a fitting notion that aligns well with the design intent of the Zimmerman Architectural Studios proposed scheme for the Three Holy Women site on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.  The concept includes a combination of elder co-housing along with an adaptive re-use of the old St Rita’s School as a multi-generational co-housing both sharing a private courtyard. In the traditions of this Italian working-class neighborhood, the concept of an elder co-housing complex combined with family style housing fully integrates into the neighborhood builds upon the strengths of the existing community.  The Three Holy Women parish has a support network in place that will enhance the sense of community within the proposed residence. These community bonds are further enhanced by engaging the elders in more social interaction with the neighborhood people.

Social integration is a major planning concept in the VivaVoce scheme.  The elder co-housing is designed with a hierarchy of privacy with the very public spaces pointed toward the busy street and progressively quieter and private as the residents retreat into their individual dwelling units.  In the co-housing concept, these individual houses are deliberately smaller to encourage the residents to interact with each other in the shared dining room and living room located at them crossroads of each floor. The building also supports several shared spaces for the complex as a whole including a coffee lounge in the entrance and a “taverna” with a sunset terrace overlooking the entrance lobby and the street.  These places are intended as social magnets for not only the residents but also the entire neighborhood.

The elder co-housing continues to engage the neighborhood by creating an outreach opportunity we call the “living history center” where children from the neighboring Cass Street School and the neighborhood can participate in after-school programs and the elders can offer their assistance to the young families attending the school by offering their wisdom and guidance along with tutoring and supervision.  This communal space is deliberately situated adjacent to the Cass Street School and the playground.  The space is designed in the form of a Native American Kiva or Sweat Lodge.  In the native Ojibwa culture, the sweat lodge is a sacred ceremonial space where offerings are made and the oral traditions of the elders are passed to the next generation.  It is from this spirit that the overarching “word of mouth” theme is rooted.

The VivaVoce concept boldly suggests to Milwaukee Public Schools to consider reorganizing the Cass Street School as a charter school focusing on wellness. This broad theme will afford MPS to integrate programs they  have currently in place, such as science programs with UWM’s Great Lakes Water Institute, with a curriculum  that would enhance and interact with the elder co-housing next door.  Programs such as health care, nutrition,   fitness, environmental stewardship and history would align well with activities in the neighborhood.  The elders could participate in the daily classroom events and the children could participate in events with the elders.  The co-housing can serve as a living-laboratory for the students.

The VivaVoce proposal takes the wellness concept further by incorporating sustainable design principals. The plan layout around a courtyard affords maximum daylight penetration into the building and saves private garden views for the individual residents from their sitting room. Each of the building facades are tuned with external shading devices that are intended to filter daylight into the building without heating the mass. Also incorporated into the facade is a dual ventilation system that utilizes a natural convection flow of air. The first natural airflow system is a series of operable windows along the courtyard facades and is intended for use on temperate days.  This air is drawn through the individual resident rooms and transferred to the shared corridor where a ventilator draws the air through the shared spaces very much like a chimney.

The second natural ventilation system is designed around a push-pull ventilation system in a vertical shaft between the residences. This system is intended for use during the extreme conditions where heating or cooling is required and incorporates a water-to-air heat exchange system tied to geo-thermal cooling source.   The tempered air is drawn through the shafts, distributed to each dwelling, and then drawn through the same chimney as our first ventilation system.
The wellness concept runs deeper into the building design in the form of carefully selected construction materials that include sustainable harvested wood, high concentration of fly-ash in the concrete, locally  quarried stone and recycled fiber carpeting. The plumbing fixtures throughout the building will conserve an additional 20% of the water and a cistern water collection system that is designed to run the non-potable uses throughout the building such as toilets and irrigation. The Living Machine is an aggressive on-site wastewater  treatment system that is housed in a greenhouse adjacent to the shared garden courtyard. This system works  very much like a synthetic swamp and naturally filters waste water through a series of tanks that contain  water plants, snails and fish until the water is 98% pure. This greenhouse becomes a focal point for the courtyard garden and is intended for use by the residents to grow hothouse flowers and vegetables for use in their kitchens.
The collective goal of the Aging in Community weekend charrette was the creation of innovative designs  which clearly reflect the five objectives that shaped the competition.  The following bullet points outline how  Zimmerman Architectural Studios proposed to address each of the Aging in Community competition goals:

•     Create opportunities to age in place

•     Strengthen links to the larger community

•     Nurture informal social supports

•     Foster energy conscious design

•     Provide barrier free settings

The team representing Zimmerman Architectural Studios was comprised of five core Zimmerman employees  and three very enthusiastic UWM students.  Prior to the charrette weekend, our team held Visioning Sessions  with other talented Zimmerman employees who could not participate over the weekend, but had very useful  and valid experience and information to share.  These Visioning Sessions helped us to form the ideas that  shaped our solution. Special thanks goes out to all those who participated in the development of the VivaVoce scheme.


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Brady Street neighborhood

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