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Friday, March 5, 2010

Alderman Antonio French Gauging Interest in Bold New Infill

On his 21st Ward website, Alderman Antonio French is asking whether or not the ecologically-friendly home shown below would be welcome in his ward.

Here is the picture of the home he referenced, which is located in Philadelphia:

What do you think?

I believe several things need editing with this particular design. There needs to be some sort of semi-public space--like the stoop on the neighboring historic home. Landscaping would definitely soften what is certainly a very harsh industrial look. I'd like a different door, no utilities showing, etc.

But I am completely in support of new design ideas for St. Louis architecture. As I contributed on French's website, St. Louis needs to be having the discussion of what identity we wish to project as a city with our 21st  Century construction. Do we want to be producing a second rate version of our storied history and heritage or trying to author something new entirely? Yes, this example is pulled from another city, but, with tweaking, it could be made "ours".

I support the effort to bring bold architecture to St. Louis and also laud Alderman French for publicly airing these ideas and attempting to engage his constituents on urban design.

Thanks go out to Joe D. for sending this link to me.


Chris said...

I like the idea, but I don't like the execution. Why couldn't have they respected the historic setback of the other house? Is the house really that much more quiet by being another five feet from the sidewalk? I doubt it.

STLgasm said...

As far as the quality of historic residential architecture, St. Louis has few competitors. However, in terms of contemporary residential design, STL is definitely at the bottom. Even old manufacturing cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland have embraced modern architecture and blow us out of the water. Once again, Antonio is proving to be a trailblazer.

David W said...

I like the concept, but don't particularly like the example. As Chris mentioned, leaving its neighbor's wall exposed in a way that it wasn't intended to be exposed seems unacceptable. And the meter on the front facade just seems ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Modern/contemporary homes can be a wonderful addition as infill, though this home looks like it will not age well.

Daron said...

There's a certain insanity to Japanese cities. Stuff like this is everywhere. One building is different from a whole neighborhood. Buildings like this lend an alien feel to the street.

It doesn't have to blend with the neighborhood, but it should somehow fit the local context.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for this kind of thinking. Striving for perfection is good, but settling for nothing less is ridiculous.

samizdat said...

I like it. The proportions are just about right. The setback doesn't bother me. In fact, it may serve to break up what could be a rather monotonous alignment. It prevents the possibility of a monochromatic face, should this design be deployed on a larger scale. I'm just disappointed, judging at least from the images provided at the sponsoring site, that it doesn't seem to incorporate many Passivhaus features. Two somewhat major quibbles: It sits right at grade level, and as others have pointed out, the front door doesn't provide a very welcoming face to the street. In fact, with this particular door, it could be the hardened entrance to a warehouse in a high-crime area. Raise the house by about three-four ft., and give it a nicer door, with glass. Slightly less secure, but a wiser aesthetic choice. I do like the ingenious use of low-cost materials to construct the staircase. I'll give it a B+, 85-90 score. Yep, some fairly minor tweeks, and I would welcome this structure right here in Dutchtown. One more concern: I would hope that it is built of hardy materiel, since urban living can be hard on a house these days.

john w. said...

Don't change much of anything. The stark contrast is what gives this home its striking appearance in context, though a small gesture toward the street and sidewalk with an entry component wouldn't have diminished its minimalist austerity much at all. For all that have remarked about the 'setback', I'll like to point out that there are actually two semi-detached houses there, not one detached house. The unit most adjacent to the historic house is set back from the street, and I can assure you that quietness was not the aim, but rather to create an entry court for one home, that is reciprocated with a rear patio inset for the house that remains aligned with the historic home along the sidewalk. The two bars slide past one another in plan to allow for each of these private instances, and this is quintessentially urban, where structures share party walls. These little variagations create the sort of visual interest that even the most elegant brownstone-lined streets can't offer. The cast shadows provide a depth of the modulating street wall, and that's really the sort of history that St. Louis residential streets has displayed while evolving over many, many decades. Don't blame the infill for the ugly cement parging that covers the exposed area of brick on the side of the historic home- that was most likely already there.

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