Brand-new suburban developments often lack the soul of established neighborhoods, which is why these older communities are perfect locations for architects to insert new projects. Many are doing just that, but instead of imposing their egos, architects are exploring context to inform their decisions.
Boston-based Eck MacNeely Architects' 99 Winchester, for example, is a five-unit condo project that includes the renovation of an 1890 Queen Anne house and the addition of a similarly appropriate new building in a tree-lined neighborhood of Brookline, Mass. Principal Jeremiah Eck, FAIA, moved the existing house closer to the street and wedged behind it a multifamily building with three units. He converted the historic house into a duplex with a top unit that straddles both buildings. The developer could have chosen to build a high-rise, Eck says, “but we tried to make the project blend in with the neighborhood, so we kept the same scale.”
Carsten Stinn, LEED AP, took a similarly considerate approach for Lakeview Lofts in the desirable and rapidly changing neighborhood of Eastlake in Seattle. The area is zoned for multifamily use, but many of the long lots are being used for single-family residences. Combining two parcels, Stinn organized three buildings around a common green space and provided parking spaces for each unit. “The neighbors aren't that happy that older homes are going away,” Stinn says, “but our development is less obtrusive than what the zoning codes allow us to do, and the community appreciates that.” Plus, he says, neighbors can take solace in the fact that “the massing and spacing of the buildings are in keeping with what's there.”
Desirable areas aren't the only ones getting the royal treatment. Alex S. Kosich Jr., AIA, believes transitional neighborhoods deserve thoughtful consideration too. His Mill Street Cottages (see image gallery), a senior housing project of 11 Craftsman houses in Tehachapi, Calif., improves and respects the history of the place. “The homes are in line with the architectural character and small lot sizes” of the area, Kosich says, “but they are an updated version that appeals to seniors.”