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3-Star Rating – BuiltGreen
In a market environment where formulaic faux-craftsman townhouses are the norm, the developer of this project was hoping to do better. He wanted us to design a project with a contemporary aesthetic and livable units, but that would still fit the same financial model that his bank was used to working with.
Seattle’s typical townhouse developments are flawed. Small yards are enclosed by 6-foot tall fences, rendering them claustrophobic and alienating the streetscape. Parking courts are not designed spaces and are severely shaded by the maximum code-allowed building and roof overhangs. Narrow units have powder rooms on the main floor, congesting the main living spaces, and opening onto the kitchen, dining, or living rooms. Internal circulation is ill considered, leaving rooms that are difficult to furnish or live in. All that, and they are usually poorly designed and constructed.
Rather than pack in eight units as allowed by code, we convinced the developer to provide three wider units in the back, with two duplex buildings in front. The duplex units open to the street, and share an unenclosed entry garden. The rear units enter off the minimalist auto-court and are oriented to take advantage of private back yards.
The interiors are stacked by use. The utilitarian entrance level includes the garage, powder, mechanical, and laundry. The second floor offers an open-plan great room with a linear arrangement in the duplexes, while the triplexes have a loft-like space that extends to an outdoor room in the back yard. The upper floor is reserved for the private bedrooms. Circulation, closet placement, room sizes and layout were all considered providing for livable spaces.
Concrete walls serve as a base for the wood framed living areas above. At the outside property lines, these walls act as retaining walls, while at the driveway they serve to protect the structure from poor driving skills. Rainscreen siding joints were set at the party-walls to delineate each unit and to allow for maintenance to be done without impacting the adjacent neighbor.
The design can be read on three levels. The overall project is unified and distinct, each structure is composed as a unit, and each home is clearly distinguished. In this way it simultaneously offers levels of community, diversity, and individuality.