Future Shack: Architects building our tomorrow
AIA Seattle celebration showcases forward thinking for urban living, highlighting 11 projects that get it right.
Join the urban-living discussion
The two Future Shack juries will talk about forward-thinking urban residential architecture and the local projects chosen to highlight it during a panel discussion tonight, 5 to 7:30, at the Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center.
Members of the professional jury are Angela Brooks, a principal with Pugh + Scarpa Architects in Los Angeles; Larry Beasley, professor of planning at the University of British Columbia and former director of planning for Vancouver, B.C.; Gil Kelley, a Harvard Loeb fellow and former director of the Portland Planning Bureau; and Kevin Cavenaugh, former Loeb fellow and a Portland designer and developer.
Representing the public point of view are Kent Kammerer of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition; longtime real-estate professional Bob Melvey of Windermere Real Estate; and Knute Berger, a writer for Crosscut, editor-at-large for Seattle magazine and author of "Pugetopolis — A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps and the Myth of Seattle Nice."
The discussion will be moderated by Steve Scher, host of KUOW-FM's "Weekday." Admission is $12, $5 for students and seniors. For more information go to www.aiaseattle.org/futureshack.
To find out what area candidates for mayor, city council, county council and county executive think about the future of our built environment go to www.aiaseattle.org/node/3076.
GET OUT THE calendar. There's a new celebration in town with the birth of Future Shack: Housing the 21st Century.
Future Shack is all about city living done well. The American Institute of Architects Seattle event takes a hard look at new models for progressive urban living. Two juries — one professional, the other public — earlier this summer considered dozens of residential housing projects and selected 11 to highlight as innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions to increasing both urban density and the quality of our lives. Those chosen are revealed here today.
Solutions cross a range of building styles, budgets, constraints and social agendas. Only projects completed after June 2004 were eligible.
Jurors were most interested in projects that tested common wisdom about how housing should be developed. They also looked for ones that offered the opportunity for people to relate to each other and their surroundings: pathways connecting neighbors, shared gardens, common courtyards. Many of the projects chosen expand the definition of mixed use simply as residential over retail by including office and industrial space, and places to live and work.
But what of the single-family house? The jurors selected three as models for the future, looking for creative single-family solutions that provide economic and familial flexibility, and encouraged front-porch culture.
From the quaint cottages of Kirkland's Danielson's Grove to the condos of the born-again downtown Seattle Cobb Building, the Future Shack winners help us see the value in a variety of uses and densities.
And while some of these "shacks" might be small or high in the sky, each feels like home, that most intimate, important space in our lives.
Like Dorothy says, there's no place like it.
PROJECTS SELECTED BY BOTH THE PROFESSIONAL & PUBLIC JURIES
5th & Madison
Address: 909 Fifth Ave., Seattle
Architect: Ev Ruffcorn; ruffcorn mott hinthorne stine
Landscape architect: Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg
Intent: A radical transformation of a 40-year-old full-block development. The project, offering a healthy urban lifestyle, occupies the site of a former branch-bank drive-through, reusing the below-grade parking and establishing a public green space.
Judges' comments: 5th & Madison takes full advantage of its central downtown location to create living opportunities in the city while remaining sensitive to its context. The project is a good neighbor, a wonderful civic gesture in conversation with its surrounding buildings. By preserving empty space around its tall, narrow residential tower, 5th & Madison protects air and light for the adjacent Central Library and provides attractive public open space. Buildings like this are, by nature, highly sustainable, maximizing the number of units on a small footprint.
Address: 5305 Shilshole Ave. N.W., Seattle
Architect: Scott Wolf, Ron Rochon, Kiki Gram, Grace Leong; the Miller/Hull Partnership
Intent: An 800-square-foot caretaker's unit, perched atop a 62,000-square-foot warehouse roof at Stimson Marina. It utilizes the "forgotten landscape" of unused existing warehouse roof space to provide a home with water and mountain views.
Judges' comments: Miles of rooftops define an unseen landscape in Seattle's industrial and big-box retail zones. Sky Ranch answers the question, "How can we put those rooftops to good use?" While limited in its industrial application, this idea of a "small box on top of a big box" could have transformative implications with other compatible uses, such as schools and malls. Not just a big idea, Sky Ranch is also a sublime design solution and a beautiful place to live. As one juror put it, "This is the biggest 800-square-foot idea I've ever seen."
The Cobb Building
Address: 1301 Fourth Ave., Seattle
Architect: Michael Wishkoski; GGLO
Intent: Built in 1910, the 11-story concrete building was one of the first commercial buildings in the U.S. to exclusively offer medical and dental offices. Its Beaux Arts character, narrow floor plate, tall ceilings and operable windows suited the conversion to apartments. Renovation included preserving the historic character, seismic and safety upgrades, and sustainable design strategies.
Judges' comments: The Cobb Building preserves a piece of Seattle history and gives it a fresh use, one that contributes to the life of our city by encouraging downtown living. Preserving and reusing existing buildings is, by nature, the most sustainable thing we can do, and the Cobb is an outstanding example of respectful preservation and inventive reuse. The conversion keeps the wonderful persona of the original building, but enlivens it with rooftop courtyards, colorful artwork and engaging public spaces.
PROJECTS SELECTED BY THE PROFESSIONAL JURY
Address: 224 W. Galer St., Seattle
Architect: Geoff Prentiss, Susan Tillack, Dan Wickline, Brandon Woodward, Johanna Schorr, Eric Nebel; Prentiss Architects
Intent: An old structure others planned to tear down was revitalized. The 1910 mixed-use structure was integrated with the new mixed-use structure. An apartment above office space provides density. Large windows on the south side invite light into the office and apartment. Also, there is a roof deck for the apartments and office, and a public courtyard was provided by building back from the street.
Judges' comments: Mambo Palazzo was a triple winner, scoring for its social contribution to its community, the economy inherent in its efficient mix of uses, and the great aesthetic package that unites it. The project saves and departs from its prior uses, fitting into its context without being forced, but also operating at a fresh scale. This "rich little project," according to the jurors, incorporates a host of good urban-design principles: its courtyard transition between public and private, its daring mix of uses, and its fresh but friendly style.
Address: 1818 E. Yesler Way, Seattle
Architect: Bradley Khouri; b9 Architects
Intent: On the corner of East Yesler Way and 19th Avenue are 11 homes and a "woonerf," a common space to be shared by pedestrians and cars. It provides a treed place for owners to gather and access for cars. Decks at multiple floors look into the courtyard and woonerf. Sustainable technologies were used. Five live-work townhomes allow business owners to live and work in the same place. The homes range from 1,235 square feet to 1,607 square feet. The live-work spaces are 2,016 square feet to 2,496 square feet on four floors.
Judges' comments: Town houses have a bad rap in Seattle, and for good reason. Most are poorly designed and devote the majority of their exterior space to the car, as mandated by multifamily code. Urban Trees puts people, not cars, at the center. Dual-use central courtyard space reflects the sense of community interwoven into this project. In contrast to the car-centric, anonymous six-pack town-home development, one juror noted, "I feel like I could borrow a cup of sugar here." Another stated, "You would have to go out of your way to avoid your neighbors."
Address: 1500 25th Ave. S., Seattle
Architect: Steven Bull, Christiane Pein, Dan Rusler, James Steel; Workshop Architecture Design
Intent: This is a 3,800-square-foot, owner-occupied, three-unit apartment building built on a 40-by-100-foot inner-city lot that slopes 8 feet from west to east. Design considered an economy of space within strict land-use limitations; variations in individual dwelling configuration and program; direct access to landscape and exterior space; an exploration of the exterior cladding screen.
Judges' comments: Adding residential capacity to Seattle's neighborhoods while keeping their character intact is a hot topic. Enter the Colman Triplex, three tidy units (including one family-sized) tucked into the skin of a single-family home. Thoroughly modern and warmly contextual, the triplex offers a great model for denser, more flexible housing options in a changing suburban landscape. The smaller units provide rental income or flexibility for extended family. All are friendly to the street, plugging into a 100-year culture of the front porch.
Address: 3643 Albion Place N., Seattle
Architect: Peter Bohlin, Robert Miller, Daniel Ralls; Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Landscape architect: Swift Company
Intent: This is an urban infill project in a seemingly forgotten residential neighborhood. A zoning change to allow multifamily housing left an aging bungalow on the site dwarfed by larger development. The owners wanted to replace the bungalow with a flexible multifamily structure that challenged the architectural character of the neighborhood.
Judges' comments: Envelope House is a beautiful design solution to the urban problem of narrow lots zoned for multifamily. While increasing residential capacity on the former site of a single-family home, the project retains its human scale, fitting neatly within its neighborhood context. The lot's substantial grade change, normally a design challenge, actually helps the Envelope House operate at different scales on different sides. The friendly, respectful treatment of street frontage is backed up by architecture that is complex but comprehensible and interesting.
PROJECTS SELECTED BY THE PUBLIC JURY
Address: 803 E. Denny Way, Seattle
Architect: Michael Romine, Ronald Hopper, Dean Kralios; SMR Architects
Landscape Architecture: Thomas Rengstorf & Associates
Intent: The project combines a rehabilitated 1907 landmark residence and a new, five-story apartment building in an urban-center neighborhood. It serves those transitioning out of homelessness, people living with HIV/AIDS and families. Residents earn between 30 and 50 percent of area median income. The design features multiple gathering spaces and public art to encourage tenant interaction. Ten public and private financing sources funded development. Ninety-two percent of construction waste was recycled.
Judges' comments: Can new urban development coexist with Seattle's rich legacy of historic homes? If it's Pantages Apartments, it can. This large-scale residence for low-income residents embraces the early-1900s home that originally occupied the property. Unprotected by historic status, the home could easily have been torn down. Instead, the developer and design team preserved and framed it, making it an architectural centerpiece.
Address: 5511 First Ave. N.E., Seattle
Architect: Richard Mohler; Adams Mohler Ghillino Architects
Intent: The single-family residence with an attached accessory dwelling unit departs from the norm of a single-family dwelling centered on its lot. This building provides two flip-flopped dwellings that define outdoor spaces. The design responds to its corner site with diagonally opposing entrances, gardens, parking and corner windows. In response to code, which requires the units to share a common wall, the two dwellings overlap by 24 feet at a thickened wall of fireplaces, closets and casework.
Judges' comments: Attached accessory dwelling units are allowed across Seattle's single-family neighborhoods, but few have been built, partly because it's hard to design them with privacy of the residents in mind. Flip-Flop House offers a neat solution, taking advantage of its corner lot to provide attractive private yards to the main residence and the second unit. Add to this a welcoming presentation to the street and a design that respects its neighbors, and you have a wonderful solution for neighborhood multifamily living.
Boulders at Green Lake
Address: 311 N.E. 75th St., Seattle
Architect: Ray Johnston, Mary Johnston, Alison Walker Brems; Johnston Architects
Landscape architect: Page Crutcher, Barker Landscape Architects
Intent: Sitting on the north end of the Green Lake neighborhood, the multifamily complex fits nine homes on a site where there had been two. It offers a sense of community with a common courtyard and privacy. It is anchored by a stately pine tree that was saved and protected during construction. The cedar siding and gabled roofs climb upward of four stories, for city, mountain and water views. A 125-foot, man-made creek runs through the site, diminishing traffic noise and adding a pleasing component to life there. Details are sustainable wherever possible.
Judges' comments: How do you increase density in historically single-family neighborhoods while creating comfortable, inspiring places for the people who live in them? The Boulders offers one solution. Anchored around an ancient central tree, this distinctively Northwest cluster of homes carves out space for sociability and community. Balancing the private courtyard with a friendly street presence, the Boulders makes what was formerly a non-place feel like home.
Address: 10500 128th N.E., Kirkland
Architect: Ross Chapin, Karen DeLucas; Ross Chapin Architects
Developer: Jim Soules, Linda Pruitt; The Cottage Company
Landscape design: Todd Paul, City Garden Services
Intent: The project was developed to demonstrate the market for detached housing alternatives for small households. The 2.2-acre site was originally destined to have 10 typical 2,600-square-foot houses with two- and three-car garages facing the street. But Danielson Grove was developed with 16 size-limited (1,500 square feet) single-family homes oriented around two connected garden courtyards. Garages and parking, off to the side, are clustered. Residents share a commons building — a place for potlucks, family gatherings and meetings. It was built to meet the four-star rating of the Master Builders Association Built Green program. Storm water is directed to bio-swale rain gardens.
Judges' comments: Standard single-family neighborhoods miss out on opportunities for sociability and offer little flexibility to residents as we age. Danielson Grove, an excellent example of cottage housing, offers a great solution for those of us who crave community but want the best parts of a suburban lifestyle. The cluster includes residences of modest size around shared open space, offering an attractive living option that doesn't chew up so much land. Embracing front porches and keeping cars to one side produces a place where neighbors can easily borrow a cup of sugar or get help when they need it.
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine.
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