When the Seattle office of Pyatok Architects began designing a community of transitional housing for mentally ill residents, it knew it might face a neighborhood outcry against the project. So it pre-empted complaints with a contextually sensitive design. The L-shaped building's short arm faces the street, so passers-by can't tell how large the project really is. And its Craftsman detailing, rendered in wood trim and fiber-cement paneling, fits right into the primarily residential West Seattle streetscape. According to firm principal Michael Pyatok, FAIA, the strategy worked. “There was no opposition from the neighbors there,” he says.

He and project manager Tom Eanes, AIA, nestled the project into a hillside site, with parking, offices for the nonprofit developer, and a multipurpose room taking up the ground floor. The upper two stories contain fifteen 300- to- 400-square-foot studios, almost all of which open onto a continuous rear porch. Many of the building's residents are smokers, and the porch offers them a convenient way to go outside for a cigarette. It also supplies the opportunity for social interaction that's crucial to most special-needs housing. And it faces an amenity that luxury homeowners would covet: a certified organic vegetable garden. The vegetables are tended and harvested by the residents, who have ready-made customers among Seattle's high-end restaurants.


Avalon Mutual Housing, Seattle, Wash.


Pyatok Architects, Seattle


Transitional Resources, Seattle

general contractor:

Rafn Co., Bellevue, Wash.

project size:

10,000 square feet

site size:

0.2 acre

number of units:


construction cost:

$140 per square foot