Drexel Home and Gardens

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  • Block of four townhomes. Block of four townhomes.
  • Rear view showing screen block wall. Rear view showing screen block wall.
  • Model of townhomes complex. Model of townhomes complex.
  • Sectional perspective of second floor. Sectional perspective of second floor.
  • Drawing showing front elevation and first/second story floor plans. Drawing showing front elevation and first/second story floor plans.

We tried to envision an affordable way that people could live in the city.
-Bertrand Goldberg, Oral History

Many of Goldberg's projects started with an ideal and the Drexel Home and Gardens was no exception: provide low-cost housing that is not mean, austere, and ugly. Believing that most public housing punished the poor for being poor, he endeavored to design attractive and integrated low-cost housing. Goldberg partnered with Arthur Rubloff to develop the project privately because he felt that what the government would pay for housing was not sufficient to create decent homes. With his design for the Drexel project, Goldberg replicated some of the thinking he had used in his design for the Al Warner House, which was a simple flat roofed house of concrete block. Both projects featured simple geometric exteriors and richly textured interiors. In the case of the Drexel Homes the effect was created by using standard masonry blocks that were scored vertically with a masonry saw. The blocks were then laid in a running bond pattern with the score marks mortared and struck to resemble the actual joints. The ceilings were beamed and the floors covered in colorful linoleum. Each of the sixty-four three bedroom apartments featured a rear patio enclosed by screen-cut concrete block walls that created an intimate space but did not completely isolate one family from another.

The project won awards from Progressive Architecture and Architectural Forum. However, Goldberg's dream of creating affordable high-quality integrated housing was never realized. According to Goldberg, lenders would not lend to white couples that wanted to live in the predominately African-American area because they were "not considered a good mortgage risk."