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Max Rockbin

Don't know what all the fuss is about?
I bet most 4 year olds could tell you.
CF:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WhuikFY1Pg

It's called context. There's nothing wrong with revitalizing a neighborhood. But plopping an isolated alien structure right down in the middle - where people live and have their own sense of identity and their own sense of place - is a big architectural fuck you. It says "I'm rich. I don't give a rats ass about you or your homes. In fact they're ugly and I know better."

I'm sure it would be very nice in East Hampton. Or in a more eclectic/wealthier location in Portland like the West Hills.
To put in in a working class neighborhood like this? It is completely solipsistic.

Brian Libby

Max,

I love the fact that you posted a YouTube clip of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street sorting things. Funny stuff!

However, I strongly disagree that the North House is a contextual "Fuck you" to the neighborhood.

Context is about more than having a pitched roof or mimicking historic forms. Context is about scale and materials as much as historical vernaculars. And in that respect, the North House fits well enough into its context.

Moreover, you're not being fair when it comes to articulating some kind of wealth-versus-working-class divide. These are rental properties, and the rent, while not cheap, is within a range of many middle class people.

Cities are not simply about aggregating all housing types and styles together into uniformity. Cities are about diversity. I can appreciate the importance of visual and formal context, but it's just not the black-and-white, David and Goliath story you make it out to be.

Of course, I'd never try to insult your intelligence by suggesting you're in need of a Sesame Street refresher course. But I enjoyed the video nonetheless.

Mike G

I agree with you. It may make me a bad preservationist but I think the North House is a relatively sympathetic addition to a densifying (invented word!)and urbanizing neighborhood. The top floor could stand to be a scosh smaller but it generally doesn't overwhelm the hood around it.

I understand the neighbor's concern though. The houses around it are certainly modest but modest is not the same as worthless. I think an analogy wherein the neighborhood is a collection of rusty sheds and the North House is a case study is a little unfair.

PS I am in the beginning stages of doing some work with an oddball CSH. Hoping to right a NR nom or etcetera if i can get the owners to play along. CHS's = <3

Cora Potter

Contrasting elements in the built environment add a layer of context that is worth having. If every roof is a pitched roof - if every house is a craftsman, then there really is no context - there's just homogeneity. You have to have a rhythm of complementary and contrasting architecture to really have any sort of real context.

I think it's tastefully done and the setbacks and elevations work well for the setting. I would welcome a building by Mr. Kaven, or Ben Kaiser or any other similarly thoughtful developer in my neighborhood (Lents) and especially as my neighbor (just don't block my working class view of the West Hills and Mt Tabor). It sure as hell beats the $500 cookie-cutter faux craftsmans we get and also look really out of place among the turn of the century farmhouse and post-war bungalow houses that make up most of our neighborhood.


Cora Potter

(The $500 refers to the cost of the building plans).

truth

I find the lack of respect for the neighbor's concerns or feelings in this article rather appalling.
You try to make Kaven sound like a genius that should be trusted by all...but when it comes down to it, it's simply opinion, and she had every right to fight what she thought was wrong. In fact probably spent the money she would have sunk into her roof repairs. And although I may not agree with her argument, I will respect her right to appeal.
I also find the place rather ugly and not too original. And I feel the heaviness of the plaster planes contradict your argument of scale.

Mike G

Cora- "It sure as hell beats the $500 cookie-cutter faux craftsmans we get and also look really out of place among the turn of the century farmhouse and post-war bungalow houses that make up most of our neighborhood."

Every time I see one of those I think "wouldn't something sympathetic but contemporary be so much better?"

Rehashing a weak penumbra of history never looks good.

Alex Stange

Ms. Hall is right, and it's unfortunate that someone who has lived in the neighborhood for so long can be dismissed out-of-hand.

Unfortunately Portland attracts people with its charm and liveability, and those same people ignore the charm and help drive home prices out of reach for middle class residents. Hopefully a blog titled "Portland Architecture" would treat someone who has lived in Portland so long more fairly.

Lets remember that the residents of the city are the people who give it character. Longtime residents are responsible for such important choices as defeat of the Mt. Hood Highway and the revitalization of downtown in the 70's. Their wisdom is no less valuable than some hipster transplant architect's.

Brian Libby

Truth,

I really appreciate your long series of comments on the blog here. I think your use of the word "appalling" is quite, quite hyperbolic, but we can agree to disagree.

Perhaps you're right that I was too hard on the appealing party. The fact that she took it all the way to the Court of Appeals on no real grounds is what got me upset.

However, I absolutely concede that we should indeed respect the appeals process when it functions properly.

Charlie Burr

I live a few blocks away from this place and really like it. I didn't know about the controversy before this post, but I very much appreciate the architects sticking up and fighting for their design. Great job. I hope you guys do more work around the neighborhood.

I ride my bike by this place everyday and think the new structure works a lot better than just another ye-oldenly bungalow developer special. The roof line to me is one of its strengths: it does a nice job of breaking up the scale of the building.

Kathleen

What a gorgeous project. It would be great to see more such homes providing density with beautiful aesthetics on those many Portland residential streets in need of revitalization and appeal.

Brian Libby

Alex,

Thanks for your heartfelt comment.

I apologize if I treated Ms. Hall unfairly or if it appears that way. I would be very happy to incorporate her thoughts on this if she returns my call.

What's more, I share your appreciation for Portland's strong tradition of citizen activism. Just because I disagree with Hall doesn't mean I am questioning the city's neighborhood involvement.

That said, how is it that simply building a contemporary project is ignoring the neighborhood's "charm", as you call it? What is so magical about a pitched roof that the occasional project can't divert from it?

What's more, you are insulting the architect as a "transplant hipster" in a way that is woefully unfair. The two architects running William Kaven Architecture are precisely the kind of creative entrepreneurs most cities would kill to have. Just because they weren't protesting the Mt. Hood Freeway a few decades ago doesn't mean they aren't authentic Portlanders. How can you call me dismissive of the Portland spirit when you're doing the same thing?

Brian Libby

Readers, I have removed the name of the homeowner from this post after at least one reader found it too exposing to include her name specifically. However, it's listed in the Oregonian story I link to.

I'm also sorry if this post seemed too harsh against the protesting homeowner. I don't want to start a fight with anyone.

Beside the North House itself, this is really a conversation about context and style in existing neighborhoods - and that has always been a polarized debate.

If my rhetoric scared off any of the people who agree with me - people who appreciate modern architecture and believe it can fit in the context of old, pitched-roof homes - I'm sorry.

Ben Waterhouse

It's a nice building overall, but I still hate that slit window facing the street.

Audrey Alverson

Hmmm. "Context" is certainly a term that is, at best, subjective. While I don't believe a building needs to be or should, at all, be homogeneous with surrounding structures in order to be considered contextually relevant, I have to say that this building says "cookie cutter" to me in some ways. To be fair, I have not seen it in real life so I fully concede that my opinions are based on this post and the photos. I appreciate its attention to urban density, and placement within a Portland neighborhood that is NOT the West Hills. There are many aspects of its urban context that are relevant, in my mind. But can we not admit that it looks pretty much like every other building that has graced the covers of Dwell and the like? If we're going to dog on "cookie cutter," let's share the wealth and call it like it is.

Having said that, I'm tempted to say that to me, it's not very contextually relevant to its surroundings. But, again, I should see it in the flesh before I say that.

Oops, too late.

Brian Libby

There are roughly as many commercial buildings along this street as single-family homes. We can not pretend that the old Craftsmans and other historic homes are the only context in the busy, retail-lined Williams-Vancouver corridor. Audrey, you comment is appreciated, but I'd encourage you to keep that aspect of context in mind as well.

Jonathan

"But plopping an isolated alien structure right down in the middle - where people live and have their own sense of identity and their own sense of place - is a big architectural fuck you."

Hmmm...isn't that what happened when all those charming Victorian, Georgian, Tudor and Craftsmen "charmers" started dotting the Willamette Valley's verdant green forests so long ago?

Maybe a pitched roof is really a reference to Native American tepees.

Audrey Alverson

Fair enough, Brian. I think in its utility, the North House is certainly in context with the neighborhood. I was more trying to point out the fact that I'm bored, aesthetically, with structures like this. To me, it is no different than a set of repetitive Craftsman homes. It's just the new version. Maybe I'm just easily bored. Quite possible...perhaps, likely!

I don't have any problems with aesthetic variety; I rather appreciate it. I just have a different idea of what 'variety' means, I guess.

Walter

I have been tracking this house since the 11x design tour. It looks great. Well done William Kraven! I hope they can make some money on it.

I am glad that someone has taken on the NIMBYism so rampant in this town (and alot of others for that matter). Just becuase someone somewhere doesn't like it, does not mean that everything should grind to a halt. North Vancouver St. is not Seaside, FL (or Ladd's Addition for that matter)-- everything is not perfect and in its place and it could use a little expermentation as seen in this triplex (and as seen in other nearby works like the Z-Haus). This triplex adds vitality to this already eclectic part of town and should be embraced. I am sure that I am not the only one more interested in this area now that this construction has completed. It would be nice if the economy could get going again so this neighborhood can absorb even more investment.

Brian: I understand your urge to "take down" the neighbor by calling her house "trash filled", etc. I really don't think that your going to get her side of the story now. Granted her mind is probably beyond changing right now, but maybe she'll come around when she sees that her property values (relative to what they would be in this cycle) are up becuase of her new neighbor.

Josiah

I have always found the argument that a house needs to be built in the same style as its' neighbors incredibly strange. Do we not thrive off of variety, character and well expressed individuality? Innovation and progress seem to be cornerstones of our society, as they should be in our architecture, and we can surely admire and respect history in better ways than shallow mimicry. This house is part of a new generation of Architecture, and looks to be very thoughtfully designed, certainly considerably better designed than the developer designed neighboring 1910 tract homes (like it or not, very little thought went into these). It is in scale with the neighborhood while still adding density, and it speaks to a contemporary language while still maintaining warmth and detail. I say very well done to the young designers, and Portland needs more projects like this.

dennis

I think it turned out really good, plus there has been a number of this form of architecture as well as other forms of contemporary architecture that has popped up in North Portland in recent years.

The roof lines match the neighboring houses, the set back is basically the same, the only difference is that this is a multi unit building...but then again, that is the same as dividing up one of the big houses sitting next to it.

MAC

Looks really similar to their other residential project on north skidmore ct, but both are Looking rad nonetheless. Nice work WKA!

Mickey

when you consider the 10's of thousands they
have lost on this project. i.e., the project will appraise for less than the total development costs.

We are very fortunate to have architect developers like the Kavens. We are in a deflationary period (lower rents and high unemployment) which means neighborhoods will be lucky to be an object of investment.

The smug city of Portland which treats developers poorly from the lack of support to the high fees to the inspectors who forget who pays their PERS contributions so they can retire at 55, are in for in for a rude awakening when they lose their jobs. Oh, but that has already begun.

Just watch. Even a few of the good architecture firms will be closing their doors by the end of this year.

Scott Tice

Change. That's what it's all about. The neighborhood is changing and bringing people kicking and screaming along with it. I own a business on N. Vancouver and I like change. I also like seeing restoration being done to older structures along Vancouver and Williams. Developing ANYTHING in this economy takes big brass balls, and I applaud the project. Bravo!

blargh

It is too bad the neighbor will not return your call, Brian. I've heard her side of the story first hand, and there is more to it than just the aesthetics involved. Her concerns, which she says were met by the designer with pomposity and disrespect, were that the introduction of this type of project would lead to gentrification of the neighborhood, that the design was insensitive to the livability of adjacent properties and that the original house on that property was being destroyed without regard for the history of the neighborhood.

According to this neighbor, she offered to purchase the existing house on the site and move it next door to the vacant property she owns, but he declined her offer and had the house demolished instead. She ended up purchasing a house from elsewhere in North Portland and had it relocated to her vacant property directly to the south of Kaven's project. Pretty much her own little F.U. in response to his.

I am very much a fan of current/modern/contemporary design working itself amongst traditional neighborhoods. Big "however" here...this design fails in how it functions contextually. It would be much better off on a corner or next to a park or on a double wide lot allowing the site to the south to forever be wide open. The so called trombe walls on the south side of the units cannot do their jobs as thermal collectors when blocked by a 2 1/2 story house to the south.

Not to mention that they are stud walls covered in 3/4" plaster or whatever. Not so trombey.

In talking with the neighbor, it seems that, had Kaven approached the project with a bit more compassion and delicacy of attitude, he would have caught more flies with honey than poop. Clearly they did not get along personality wise, which may have played a part in inspiring the neighbor to take the appeal as far as she did.

Anyway, I'm always up for defending modern design and modern designers for that matter, as long as they're worth defending. In this case, ehhh, not so much.


Alan

I been watching this project from the beginning and as a neighbor I think it turned out well. From the street, it looks great and blends in fine with the mixed construction along the corridor. I've seen some of the inside details and I love the concrete floors/counters and the idea of a roof deck.

As a design though, I think it failed on to counts.

One is cost. I realize this is a tough market, but they wanted like $460k or something for these which is outrageous for what you'd get. I'm not arguing that they're greedy, I just think they designed it with no no attention to their budget. I think they're basically conceding this point when they don't even try that hard to sell them at the price they needed and just gave up and rented them.

The second bigger problem is that the design has no relationship at all to the site. Brian, you said there are huge amounts of natural light, which means you clearly never set foot in the front or middle units, where the house next door is distracting to say the least. The trombe walls are ridiculous in this context. When they started construction there was an open lot next door so they made the entire southern face of the building glass. What did they think was going to happen?? Obviously someone was going to but a house there. The fact that it's a dump is definitely a shame but I have a hard time feeling bad for them.

Hopefully everyone can learn from the good and bad parts of the project. I'm definitely glad to see more modern architecture in the neighborhood. I hope WKA gets a chance to try again, I'd look forward to seeing what they're capable of.

suze

Oh how I wish something similar had been built on NE Fremont & 29th, instead of the piece of really crappy, skinny, in-fill house that is there now.

Alan

so, so true

matthew

With all due respect, I must disagree with you. First of all, of course the problem with this project isn't the scale, which is where you tend to focus your defense. [Even if it was something that the neighbor was concerned about, it's obviously not a valid issue.] There's certainly nothing wrong with a project of this size going on a lot like that in pretty much any neighborhood.

The problem with this project - aside from, but related to, Audrey's point that it's totally derivative - is that it makes absolutely zero effort to creatively work itself into the neighborhood. Kaven utterly ignored the site's greatest challenge - the neighboring buildings. These guys might have noticed that the lot they scored for their project was surrounded by, well, extremely modest places with very little visual appeal. These houses have never been masterpieces and they never will be. Does that mean that they can't build a masterpiece of their own on that lot? Of course not (not that that's what they did, no matter how many "sumptuous materials" were used). But in virtually any context, a masterpiece is so not merely on the basis of how it stands alone, but also because of how it gracefully and sensibly interacts with its surroundings. Kaven should have made at least some creative effort to build a modern structure for compact urban living that avoided making its neighbors feel so glaringly passe. I mean, really, this project might as well incorporate signs with arrows pointing at the neighbors that read "To be condemned." This, to me, is not sustainable design. I can't imagine any amount of upgrading of the existing neighboring structures that will make them look as if they belong mere feet away from this project. That is a huge failure on the part of these designers. One could be all for this particular building if they want to be - it's perfectly fine in the abstract - but I don't see how anyone could say that it lives in any harmony with its immediate surroundings, nor that it attempts to.

Last point: $2000 for a small two bedroom in North Portland? And that's not a mortgage? And there's no garden? And the neighbors hate you? What "middle class" might you be speaking of?

dennis

Matthew, I am confused with your second point, while it is very detailed, I am only getting from it that you feel the architects should of down played the design to blend in with its surroundings better, surroundings that you consider to be "extremely modest places with very little visual appeal?"

So what they should of designed was something dull that drew no attention to it? I may be reading your point wrong, but that is how it read to me and I am guessing to others as well.

I do however agree that they really should of gone in a direction with design that produced a building that would of been more in line with the costs of North Portland, mortgages or rentals. That was clearly a mistake on their part going into such a down economy...buildings like this would of been sold out before they finished 3 years ago, but today developers and architects need to removed the inflated costs of Portland's housing market if they wish to actually sell homes.

PMC

I live in the neighborhood, if these people have this much time on their hands they should spend it cleaning up the neighborhood not having problems that helps improve it. If they have been there 50 years they should enjoy the progression.

On the same street is a brick house painted pink, it is hideous, maybe they should go after them or better yet move to a neighborhood that has HOA's so then they can dictate what is around them.

The things people could do with their spare time is amazing.

Finally, i drive by this place every day and love it, it adds diversity, interest, and if anything I think most people moving into the neighborhood would find a structure/home/etc such as this in the neighborhood increases the value as it represents a progression away from cookie cutter neighborhoods. Great article. Thanks

Audrey Alverson

Matthew has articulated in more detail many of the thoughts I have about this project. Progress in a neighborhood that may be considered 'blighted' takes a hell of a lot more than injecting a new, upscale, modern structure. And perhaps the way this building shouts within its surroundings: "hey, look at me!!" rather than more gently integrates itself, is a good measuring stick for its contextual relationship. Also good points are the rental rates and what those signify. If this neighborhood is to become full of places such as the North House, well...anyone recall the Pearl District? Is that the intention? Drive away the people who can no longer afford to live in this neighborhood, and let it become gentrified like so many others? I may be over-reacting to the significance of a single structure, but concepts such as this lead me to believe this project has not been designed with sensitivity to its surroundings.

To be clear, this is NOT to say that a well-designed, multifamily, modern structure placed in this neighborhood could not embody all of these characteristics I see lacking here. It could.

Stephen

I have to admit that I was surprised by the project when I drove past it the other day. It certainly stands out in the crowd.
I am not for replicating old styles and do not have a problem with the modern lines.
I do, however have an issue with the way the first unti addresses the street. I think that there could have been a front porch of some kind to reference the typical neighborhood context. To me, the project is turning its face away a bit from the neighborhood, which is a little off-putting.
With that said, I do think Portland home owners and designers need to push the envelope more to help grow our already great neighborhoods.

Bo

Blur your eyes a little bit and this house from the street is just a Prairie foursquare in a Dwell skin. It is sympathetic in scale and setback, and as the materials age it will stick out less. "Neighborly" issues aside, I'd say it meets my personal criteria - as a preservation advocate - for respect for context.

I'd like to see this conversation - and a post from you Brian - focused on the monstrosity that has now marred E Burnside between 30th and 39th in Laurelhurst. The hubris and egregious flaunting of context here makes the Vancouver project a total red herring.

I have no idea what the backstory is on this project. That being said, the complete disrespect for scale, setback, street rhythm and historical context - not to mention the ill-proportioned and ill-advised subdivision of a lot in order to create it - leave me so angry that I don't even drive down E Burnside now.

E Burnside between 30th and 39th has context - a remarkably intact parade of elegant and stylistically varied early-20th-century homes with, arguably, nary a note of discord to interupt the unique story the street has to tell about Laurelhurst's growth and development.

In my opinion, this context - historically and architecturally - was distinctive and worth conserving. What an FU that project is, regardless of the merit it no doubt possesses as modern, contempory, Dwell-worthy design.

Do catfights, class warfare and legal controversy determine what gets our attention? If we're going to learn anything from each other arguing about context, I suggest there is better battlefield on E Burnside.

Matt J

Stephen,

I couldn’t agree with you more. As much as I appreciate the overall look and direction of the project’s design, it reminds me of many of the ‘modern’ single family homes I went to see in Chicago (many by Studio Dwell). Handsome and ‘sexy’ to an extent, but when I read about contextualizing to the existing, I have to raise my eyebrows and wonder “where is that happening”? Where is the social connection between this project and its neighbors? Most importantly what is its, and the occupants, relationship to the sidewalk and the pedestrian realm? Granted, I have not had the chance to actually see this project in person, but from the photos I have seen there are simply overall scalar, material (how many materials are there?), massing (how is it that all three units appear the same but deal with different site issues – sidewalk, centered, and back units), and ordering issues that I don’t think anyone, once you get past the ‘this is a cool looking modern piece of architecture in a city that doesn’t have an overwhelming number of such’, can ignore.
And, I fear the continued public’s backlash against advancing modern thinking architecture in Portland when there is a clear “we are architects, we know best” mentality that continues to occur. I would suggest that an embracing of the public process, and engaging in conversations and two-sided dialogue with diverse thinking neighbors, neighborhood groups, and other public entities would only help to foster a stronger respect and willingness to accept these kinds of projects in the future.

Mickey

What's on e burnside between 30th and 39th?

Seems not very interesting or notable like most of the housing inspired by the sears catalogue 1910 to 19330.

michele

The question we should all ask is, is this project site specific? Does it take its surroundings into account and create spaces that are better, acknowledging the context in a positive way?

There are new modern buildings, even is this neighborhood, that do, where the designers have worked directly with the fact that a project is very close to another building by creating spaces that use the other building as a part of the space.

There is a fine line with forms, when the relationship between them becomes too contentious and it cannot be resolved with the language of design being employed.

This is a beautiful building for sure but if you look at the photos in the immediate context it loses what is good about it. When you look at the photos where there is not context around there is a serene beauty. If it were in a more open site it would be incredible. On this site it is forced. I think the designer must know this.

Reading through the comments that have been made reinforces this. The houses next door have been criticized, the new building has been criticized.

It is possible to design modern buildings that do not invoke the same response. Great designers can satisfy all the criteria we have been imposing on this project...

Charlie Burr

I went by there again this morning--as I do pretty much everyday going to work--and was really struck by how the different the conversation is here from my original impression. One of the the things I really like about the project isn't just that it's whizbang modern, but that it fits pretty well with the diverse housing and building types along N. Williams and Vancouver. It looks great by bike, for what it's worth.

The place has struck me for months as being a really good example of how modern can complement, not detract from, other existing houses. The Kaven place joins others in the immediate area--Felt Hat's building, Lincoln restaurant, Path Architecture's buildings a little north-- that are creating some of the most interesting infill around.

I'd also note that many of the same firms mentioned above are also actively working to increase the amount of affordable and workforce housing in the area. Deca not only did a great job with Lincoln, their Shaver Green building on MLK does a very nice job in a tough location and a modest per square foot budget.

Kyle

Bo - I have wondered about that dwell mcmansion on e.burnside as well. it is like a cute little modern house that was scaled in all directions to fit the bank account of the owner. it has the same folded plate move, splash of wood, and i can't say i remember much more about it, but that seems to be a worthy conversation to have about contextualism and modern design.

Linder

Unless I missed something, the design was not changed at all as a compromise with the neighbor. So, this seems to be largely an article complaining about how lengthy and expensive the public review process was, so how much did the review and challenge cost and how long was the delay due to the “needlessly drawn out” review?

I am glad there is a process for neighbors to air issues with new development and resolve conflicts. As a city, I think we err on the side of increased in-fill. I hate look of the traditional infill in my neighborhood; I wish it were more like the Kraven work. Could this Design Review process be used to push for more modern or contemporary architecture if that is what the neighbors’ desire?

The contrast between this triplex and the neighbors is dramatic and I can understand how it is too much for some. I think it looks shoehorned in.

Rob

Max Rockbin! That has to be the best link I've ever seen.

Personally, I think this house is awful simply because of the wall of concrete with its gun turret facing the street. There is no reason why they couldn't have given this triplex an appropriate if not welcoming street view. There's simply no excuse for greeting the neighborhood street and sidewalk with an intimidating wall of concrete and a gun turret.

The roof doesn't fit in, but...
The windows don't fit in, but...
The design doesn't fit in, but...

...but the real issue is how it interacts with the sidewalk and the street. It looks like the triplex is saying "I don't fit in, and I don't want to. I wouldn't want you people dropping by anyway."

It's insulting, and there's no excuse. No matter how slick the rest of the design may be, there's still no excuse.

Personally, I love modern design. Change the wall of concrete/gun turret welcome mat and I'd be thrilled to live in a building like this.

...not that it fits into the neighborhood at all.

Brian Libby

The best cities are collections of different pieces.

That's already the case on Vancouver Avenue, a place where you'll find commercial buildings, industrial buildings, and old single family homes right next to each other.

If one looks at only the North House and the single-family homes on either side, I can see how it might not look like it fits. But if you look at the North House in the context of this multi-block stretch of Vancouver Avenue, it seems to fit very well.

Certainly there is room to be critical of the North House in individual ways. I do concur with what a lot of people have said about the project probably not being quite street-oriented enough. But something as minor as a larger window opening in front might have taken care of that. To say that this project needs to be radically different doesn't make much sense to me.

Like some commenters have said, there are cheap cookie-cutter projects all around this area that could much more validly incur stern criticism.

And while the so-called Dwell aesthetic may not be for everyone, I also have been surprised by the amount of hostility and oversimplification about what the magazine and, more broadly, contemporary residential architecture, seems to represent. When I read Dwell, I find a wide variety of modern designs. But if I were to judge by the attitudes I'm reading here, I'd expect Dwell was the problem when in reality I find it the antidote in vastly more cases.

Sebastien

Very nice as a remote neighbor. However I would hate to be the direct neighbor and have this 2-story with huge side windows + terrace just 10 feet away looking directly into my house + backyard.

Josiah

Amen Brian, and I must say I am very surprised by some of the comments I am seeing about this article. This project is thoughtfully designed in massing and scale, detail and material, composition and form, light and view. It is clearly apparent looking at it that thought went into all these areas, it is a nice project, and obviously something that these young men put their heart and soul into and went out on a limb to develop. Is this project a perfect masterpiece? Of course not, this is a young firm and a difficult project/site/budget. Does it deserve a bunch of nitpicking criticisms from people on this site? No. In a town like Portland, where no one is building anything, building something this thoughtful and design oriented is quite an accomplishment. So please save the more mean spirited of your criticisms for projects that deserve it, (which in Portland are too numerous to mention), most of which are done by Architecture firms that have considerably more experience than Kaven. People are complaining about the so called "Dwell" look, what the hell, is there some incredible number of contemporary homes out there that I'm not aware of? These homes that you are talking about get published in Dwell because they are actually thoughtfully designed and likely the only place you have really seen too many of them or homes of there quality is in magazines. I'm not saying that everything I see in that magazine is great, but most of it is better than 95% of the crap I see walking down the street on any given day. Don't like this style of design? Then present your own style to the world that you think, in the words of one incredibly arrogant commenter, is less "derivative". What are you looking for, something more sculptural, more minimal, more decorative, what? What do you dislike about this project so much? The only valid critique I have seen is that it doesn't have a front patio. A bunch of other people seem to be just raging about change happening, well get over it, that's life, things change, including architectural styles. I submit that this particular home is a interesting addition to, and development of, a type of architecture that speaks to current times, and has a modest budget while maintaining high design aspirations. Really good job William Kaven Architecture, and don't listen to the all the negativity please, keep working hard and doing your thing, many of the builders/ developers/ architects in Portland could learn a thing or two from you guys.

Mo

Tract housing. Not track housing.

Based on the architect's website there is a porch in front of the slot kitchen window. Wait until people move in and see which homes have the most active fronts. I bet you get more "eyes on the street" and interaction here than in most houses covered up with curtains. I'm not wild about the chunky massing, but somehow equating aesthetics to class warfare as some commenters seem to insinuate is really unfortunate for the future of our community. We should embrace things that are different, that's what makes life interesting and worthwhile.

I wish people focused their NIMBY hate on cheaply built crap. Unfortunately most people don't know the difference until it's too late.

Audrey Alverson

Josiah, I think you are WAY oversimplifying many of the criticisms of this project. First I'll address the Dwell issue, because I believe I may have been the first to mention Dwell. Though, not surprisingly, my comment about Dwell has been twisted into the likes of "some don't like the Dwell aesthetic" or "doesn't like modern design" which is far from the truth, and (only speaking for myself here) far from what I said. On the issue of aesthetics, it is not a matter of liking or disliking a particular style of architecture. If I were to say I didn't like the aesthetics of the North House, that does not in any way indicate that I don't like modern design. To be honest, I don't know what the heck is in Dwell anymore because I quit reading it two or three years ago. But I found, in many cases, a lack of imaginative design. A flat roof and a few materials that are typically described as "contemporary" i.e. concrete, stucco, etc., along with certain types of massing does not automatically make for good modern/contemporary design. Nor does it make for interesting design.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that much of the lack of imagination I see in designs that fall within this genre is due to technology. Take from that what you will, and I'm fully expecting to be blasted for it. While I don't know enough about this project in particular to make any kind of assumption on this topic, I will say that in general, designing with software vs the good old fashioned way is what leads to a lot of this "derivative" architecture that the commenter you called "arrogant" referred to.

It's my belief that it is much more arrogant to insinuate that criticisms of a work of architecture are not relevant. Many of the people who have commented here have made very thoughtful and well articulated points about this house, and more notably about its attention to site and urban context. Truly evaluating any design requires actual analysis and critical thinking, not to mention a holistic view of its place in the world. It is not about whether a designer put his or her "heart and soul" into it. One could put heart and soul into any project and it could still come out poorly. That is life.

I don't think any one of us should get to determine which projects in Portland or elsewhere are worthy of criticism, because truthfully *every* work of architecture or other design for that matter is worthy of criticism. Criticism is not about tearing something apart. It is about critical thinking, true analysis, and evaluation. We don't just get to say "I think it's pretty" or "I think it's ugly" and have that statement hold any weight.

As I stated in a previous comment, issues of urbanity and neighborhood redevelopment certainly warrant this kind of discussion. To insinuate that it is irrelevant is quite short-sighted, in my humble opinion.

I agree 100% with Brian's statement that the best cities are collections of different pieces. However, that does not mean the throwing a bunch of mismatched pieces together--that don't offer a somewhat harmonious push/pull relationship with one another--works.

And though I've said this a few times, I feel like I need to say it again: this is NOT about disliking what's "different." Quite on the contrary, actually.

Doug Klotz

The response to the context here is minimal at best. Yes it's about the same height and setback (dictated by zoning?). But beyond ignoring adjacent roof types, the building has little relationship to the street. There's no visible "front door". Most older triplexes would have made an attempt to present a "front" to the street. This building presents a concrete-looking first floor with bunker-style slit windows (inspired by gun emplacements?), and a too-tall concrete retaining wall at the sidewalk, just to reinforce the blockhouse effect. The photo of the architects seems to fit the mood perfectly.

matthew

Fine. Call me arrogant. I'll take it. I've been in a horrible mood and wouldn't be surprised if I laid it on a little thick. In fact, if I were both a male chauvinist pig and a woman, I would accuse myself of being on my period right now.

I still say it's derivative! I think if you look at the space, inside and out, it doesn't look like the designers looked at the lot, the block, the neighborhood and mix of people already there and thought "How do we make a space that expresses our design aesthetic while actually working on a fundamental level for people who will have to live here now? Who are these people? How much rent can they really pay and will that amount make them contextually bizarre? Who are the neighbors they will hopefully be interacting with? Do they need (as the photos on the apartment's craigslist ad seems to show) a mote of stones surrounding their staircase?" You know, those sorts of questions. The sorts of questions that would have forced them toward creative site-specific solutions.

Instead, it seems like they said "Awesome! We got a cheapish lot so let's go to town and do our own kick-ass version of fancy modern that won't break too many modern rules!" And that was pretty much the end of it. You know, it suddenly occurs to me that while the word 'arrogant' is being thrown around, well, gosh, this approach seems pretty arrogant. And whether your particular gripe with the structure is with its relation to the street or else with the neighbors or else with the scale, or just with its lack of breaking any new ground in modern design, these are all symptomatic of the general lack of concern for the context of the project.

Josiah, I fully hear your points on encouraging more young designers to take risks in this economy. However, it seems like your argument, and even the argument of the designers themselves, is that we either give designers who can afford to take these risks carte-blanche or we have no right to be annoyed when the old-style of infill gets built. That's just silly! This isn't a zero sum game where its either absolutist uncompromising modern or same-old same-old snoozeville. I fully concede your point that these guys should be encouraged, but I sincerely hope that someone less arrogant than I nudges them into seeing that maybe, just maybe, they could try next time to make their project work a little more, even if on only an aesthetic level, with its surroundings. I guarantee their work will be better for it, and so will the community that welcomes it.

dennis

So it sounds like those that are so avidly against this building wish it looked like the neighboring houses? Talk about asking our architects not to think...just design to match the random houses around it, chipping paint and all.

Good thing for Portland is that they actually managed to get this built...granted the cost is a bit too much, but they still did it anyway. Do I expect this one little firm to be able to reinvent the entire neighborhood? No, nor should they, they are simply doing a small project on a small lot, which this is much better than having a cheaply built three unit building crammed in the lot with each front door facing the street, but with a second floor walk up because each unit had to have a parking garage...would people be complaining the same then? because we do have townhouse units in Portland all over that do look like that...maybe you guys should start going after projects like that instead, it would seem to be more productive for new designs of residential units.

matthew

Ok, I know I should move on with my life but I find this discussion fascinating. Dennis, you're proving my point: The "defenders" of this project think that the "attackers" of the project must either want 1) the project to somehow mimic the neighboring structures or 2) the project to look like the kind of infill that is typical, complete with garages. While my tone and the tone of a few others might have suggested otherwise (I'll work on it), no one is attacking modern, creative, forward-thinking infill per se. Not one person has done that! As Audrey so ably and civilly argues, we are simply critiquing the manner in which it was executed on this particular site, and finding that there are ways in which it comes up short. Others have said that critique should be spared for the typical landfill, but again, that's just silly. I don't think it makes any sense to exempt certain types of development from critique because it is "modern" (or whatever), nor do I think any architect enters the business thinking that they should be exempt from critique (at least I hope not).

But there's another strain in your argument, Dennis, that is prevalent in many other "defender" posts. You say, "Do we expect the one little firm to be able to reinvent the entire neighborhood?" You go on to say that they shouldn't be able to, but why do you even posit that the entire neighborhood needs reinventing? Greater investment, sure, and in that sense, hats off to Kaven and others. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater - there is plenty, and I mean plenty, in North Portland that works now and has worked for years. We can learn from it.

Others have mentioned that the "attackers" are afraid of or opposed to "change." The suggestion here is that the arrival of disjunctive features in the neighborhood is merely inevitable and we should just clam up about it. Here's what I would see as change that fit that definition: The arrival of hordes of people clamoring to pay upwards of two grand on smallish, boldly modern apartments in North Portland, and developers swooping in to meet that demand. That would be change that would be hard to argue with. I could be wrong - perhaps that demand exists - but I'm pretty sure this is an example of the cart being put in front of the horse. This isn't change, it's opportunism that I suspect is misguided or at least premature, but time will tell. Perhaps the audience for this place does in fact exist now.

Finally, as fascinating as I find this discussion, the divide between "attackers" and "defenders" is stale and is actually the element in all of this that does not bode well for our community (unlike, as another suggested, seeing a link between aesthetics and class warfare - dude, of course there's a link between aesthetics and class warfare, though I had hoped, and failed, to avoid such hyperbole - as somehow not boding well for the future of our community.) In fact, I think it's a shame that there isn't a role for courts in this. Maybe not the courts, maybe some sort of community board, or city board, or something (elected? Not elected?). Actually, maybe the city itself should take a preemptive step in advance of this kind of wrangling. Set up a website, or a real site in public libraries, cataloging ways in which you might be seeing change in the near future in your neighborhood (ie: "Flat roofs - get used to them"), ways you can inform that change, and ways that this change might impact you as a long-term resident or as someone of modest means (I think this does exist to an extent, but most people I'm sure do not feel a part of it). This is full-on pie in the sky kind of stuff, granted, but at least it would take some of the onus off of individual developers and projects. It would also give the developers some sense of community orientation before diving into a project. Anyway, let's try to find the "Well, we can at least all agree on..." thing in this debate. It's in here, I'm sure. And it is probably the place where energy would be best focused.

Audrey Alverson

Regarding this from Dennis:
"So it sounds like those that are so avidly against this building wish it looked like the neighboring houses? Talk about asking our architects not to think...just design to match the random houses around it, chipping paint and all."

I don't know why I'm even posting again. How many times and in how many different ways can one say the same thing? The comments about this building's contextual relationship to its surroundings (at least for the most part) are NOT - may I repeat, NOT - insinuating the building needs to mirror its neighbors. Context, vernacular respect, urban infill, progress, change: These are all complex situations within the field of architecture. They all require careful consideration. It is not a matter of "different" or "same." Architecture is as much, if not more, a social profession as an artistic one. At least if it's done well it is. A building is not just a structure. It is not just an abstract hunk of materials to be admired or loathed from afar. A building is a place where people will live, work, be. And its effects on the world around it are not to be ignored.

I think those who are critiquing the building's attention to context are asking the designers to do exactly the opposite of what Dennis is saying: We're suggesting maybe they could have thought MORE about the surroundings. Again, it's complex and should be treated as such.

These comments are not meant to indicate that this building is horrible. Certainly it is worthy of some merit. But, from my perspective, that is exactly the point. It's worth talking about both: where it succeeded, where it could have done better. What's so wrong with that? Should we just blindly accept something as "good" - or blindly cast something off as "bad?" Or should we dig below the surface of the concrete and flat roof and actually think about its social impact? Obviously, I'm for the latter.

billb

Nice Modern Work !
Infill is hard and necessary. The COP and it's silly 'design standards' make it slow going , which in my experience drives developers away. Way to go COP.
BTW , if I were you I would get a professional photog to shoot the interiors , with some furniture.

Eric Cantona

i've been following this looong discussion for the last few days and feel compelled to add a couple of my thoughts.

1. i happen to like the design itself. it certainly is derivative, but then not every project needs to create a new paradigm.

but...

2. this is NOT the place for this building. i would venture that if this was on a corner lot, with the front doors opening into the public realm, that this conversation would be much, much shorter.

the architect should be called to task for this, in my opinion. there are basic urban design principles that are completely ignored by this project. a thoughtful relationship with the street being the primary offense.

dennis

Audrey and Matthew, my point with my post was simply to point out that people like Brian are not going to do a blog post about every piece of crap suburban looking infill project, this lot could of easily been a house with vinyl siding and could of fit into any suburban subdevelopment and we wouldnt of had 50+ comments on it because no one would of cared to comment about it...there are plenty of these types of buildings in North Portland already.

Eric, I would disagree with your number two comment because of the fact that there are already lots that do not have their front door opening to the street within that neighborhood. I have a friend who use to live at a place down the road from here that you had to walk down the side of the building to get to the back units that she lived in. How many large homes in Portland have been converted into multi units that have multiple entrances? I know I live in one of them and my front door does not walk out onto the street, but the main door of the house does...is there really a difference?

Also again, I do agree that the cost of this whether to buy or rent is way too high for that area and it would of been in the architect's best interest to take that into consideration when looking at their budget for this building. But I do not know everything that went into the cost of these units, so I can only comment from an outside perspective.

I personally think the neighborhood doesnt need to be "reinvented," but technically it will change, there is plenty of land in North Portland that is sitting bare waiting for urban infill projects and as those projects happen, the overall look and feel of North Portland will change, that is a given.

Eric Cantona

Dennis - just because it has happened before (completely disregarding whether the other instances are good urban design or not) does not mean that it is right in this instance. not even close.

dennis

Nor does it mean its wrong Eric...well of course unless there are design rules that the neighborhood has in place that says we cannot do that. Would it of made you happy if the unit facing the street had a front door facing the road while the other two units had their doors to the side of the house. If it was done that way, you probably wouldnt of even noticed it was a multi-unit building and would of probably figured it to be another large house.

Just because you dont like it, doesnt make it wrong, personally I like it, so does that make it right? No, that is just subjective points of view, something in architecture every architect has to learn the differences of.

Josiah

Matthew, I truly apologize for calling you arrogant, I actually really appreciated your well articulated first post and didn't realize that was part of your comment, just remember reading it somewhere and it bugging me. Also just because this is an online forum it's no excuse for bad manners on my part, so I'm sorry. I am certainly not arguing that there shouldn't be intelligent dialogue, critique and criticism, if you'll notice my complaint was against the "mean spirited" comments. But if that's how my post came off, my bad, that was not the intent. I enjoy, and as a passionate designer myself, fully realize the importance of critique and constructive criticism, and have gotten and given my fair share of it. My defense was against the shrill tone that I saw in some of the posts that read as only trying to tear the project down, instead of contributing to an ongoing civil and intelligently conducted debate. Now, I also need to move on with my life, and I'll see you all at the next interesting topic.

AaronF

Blargh said:

"It is too bad the neighbor will not return your call, Brian. I've heard her side of the story first hand, and there is more to it than just the aesthetics involved. Her concerns, which she says were met by the designer with pomposity and disrespect, were that the introduction of this type of project would lead to gentrification of the neighborhood, that the design was insensitive to the livability of adjacent properties and that the original house on that property was being destroyed without regard for the history of the neighborhood."

Since the neighbor hasn't chimed in yet I'll go out on a limb and assume that this characterization of her stance is accurate...

So as much as y'all are going back and forth about design, the neighbor is mad because she thinks it should still be the peeling paint look-alike that was there before, which wouldn't ever spur any gentrification... which basically amounts to an argument against any investment in the neighborhood, as it pushes out the poor folk. That, and she doesn't like the architects.

Maybe they will play a little nicer with the locals next time! They sure look like swell guys in that picture.

Doug Klotz

Dennis:
Yes it does make a difference to how the building feels from the street, how pedestrian-friendly it is, if there's at least one door that faces the street. It gives you a connection, makes it more human. There may not be someone home all the time when you knock on the door, but it gives you hope that there might be, and could give a potential criminal pause: someone might appear out of that door any minute, so maybe I should find another place to commit my anti-social act. (As they would say in the CPTED guidelines).

robert

I don't mind the aesthetics and massing...
But the relationship of this house to the street is little better than a suburban snout house with it's door tucked around the garage.
The slit window even seems to mimic the slit windows in a garage door.

dennis

Doug, I think you might be reading too much into what it means for a house to be pedestrian friendly to the street, yet still provide for a sense of privacy for the dweller. But that is a personal taste and I wont argue that because there is nothing wrong with having that opinion about a house, but I will say, this building isnt a house, so I wonder, why does it need to act like one? It does respect the setbacks and the horizontal lines of the other houses along the block, it also respects the zoning ordinances, which are the important things for this building to respect. Everything else is more just personal tastes, which is probably the reason why this thread now has 60+ posts.

Jeff Joslin, Strategic Design and Development Services

There's an assumption here that the "smug City of Portland" (as one characteristically anonymous writer put it), was the problem here. Bullshit.

The COMMUNITY created the then-unique two-track system of design review in 1993, not a bunch of micro-managing bureaucrats. It was thoughtful, and inventive. It developed a system of standards for more generically compatible infill (no, I'm not a fan of standards: they're always gonna get mixed results), and allowed projects that couldn't meet the standards to go through a design review path: if you want to do something qualitatively differentiable, it must be done well.

In this case, the project was not pushed and pulled on by the City. I know: I was managing the process at the time (now one year recovered). The project was literally a pitched roof away from the standards, but it was absolutely agreed such a roof on such a composition would've been absurd. The project was supported and defended by the City.

When the appeal came before Design Commission, both the project and the appellant were treated with respect. The Commission did its articulate best to educate the supporters of the appeal as to why this was a fitting, inevitable, and ongoing manifestation of modern infill.

After the project was supported by the Commission, City staff again attempted to work with the appellant, describing the unlikelihood of prevailing at the next level. That did not succeed: the case was appealed to the next level. The City defended the decision, again successfully, at LUBA. And again at the Court level. During the time of these post-City decision appeals, the project was allowed to move forward fully at its own risk, and the City assumed all costs and responsibility for defending its decison.

The ONLY inconvenience to the project was the time it took take it to Design Commission on appeal, which any project should build into its worse-case timeline and basis.

This was not a case of the City bullying a project, arcane regulation, mismanagement of relationships. This is a case of how we build and manifest community and change. Mr. Kaven unfortunately, still uses this story as a platform to talk about the City and citizens holding a project hostage. That's unfortunate. These communities have a real stake in how they're evolving, and all are not always going to agree, even (and sometimes, particularly) in the face of strong design.

There are two ways in which city's are made well: either by dictate, or social contract. I suspect the designers would argue we operate by the former. I strongly disagree, and believe this to be a case where a project tested the notion of compatiblity on a particular site, the community tested that approach, a clear, highly supported and well articulate basis was established, and that will help inform future such projects.

If there's a moral here: its a modest one about the Price of the Pioneer. It's not a story about a broken system run amok. The system worked well, as does the project.

Melinda

has anyone noticed the teal on teal paint job on the adjacent house? ick. but i adore the fact that portland has such individuality.

you choose teal, i choose contemporary design. live & let live.

Bryan D.

Brian ~ you seem to have allowed a very well-considered discussion of the notion of both context and style. While style is almost always subjective to the viewer, contextualization can be looked at through both micro- and macro- filters. I would respectfully suggest the latter is a more interesting discussion for a city like Portland that is trying to thoughtfully grow. Does North House 'match' the immediate surroundings or even try to engage in an effective architectural dialogue with them? Of course not. But to examine it only in that petri dish is missing the much larger point. New architecture by the likes of messrs Kaven & Lewis is about viewing the broader circumscribed urban topography and creating exciting structure and form using architectural hyperbole. North House not only symbolizes the new creative energy in North Portland but also hearkens to the industrial area and metropolitan core for both source and inspiration. Its valency should be judged on that scale; not muddled in arguments about mere juxtaposition and personal grievances. "Inflection Points" in the course of architectural narrative are good. It forces thought vs sliding into a comfortable satisfaction with the mundane. I, for one, stand for letting considered controversy and creative thought about context reign.

“Brass balls” aside, to be fair and provide complete disclosure, I am not just opining from the margin. WKA is building a new home for me mere blocks from the North House that will be done in a few weeks. It is a modern house in a modest neighborhood that is built and defined by the principles and logic I have noted above. Will everyone love it? We live in Portland, not Utopia. Your blog suggests a certain controversy will arise. But the many, many neighbors I have met throughout the building process could not be more complimentary of the design, the architects or the builders. So again I say, let controversy and free thought reign. And let WKA keep building structures and containers for living that engage our minds with their transformative power…

Doug Klotz

Dennis;
Designing a city which is safe and pedestrian-friendly does not include affording privacy at the front door of the house, multi-family or commercial building. Privacy is what you get at your back door or back yard. In order to have a livable city, a requirement of good citizenship is people who keep an eye on the street, and buildings where passersby can sometimes see people inside buildings as well. This Jane Jacobs concept has been institutionalized in the CPTED guidelines as well as Portland's Zoning Code. It's not just personal taste.

The benefits of a front door that is visible and accessible from the street are important on multifamily housing as well as single family, and commercial buildings are also required in the code to have a visible and reachable Main Entrance. As I said, on multifamily it is not necessary that every unit have a door that faces the street, but the one closest to the street is, I believe, required to, in section 33.120.231 C, if it's in a multi-family zone. I don't know how this project complied with that, except by an (ill-advised?) adjustment through Design Review.

Charles

Bryan D
Thanks for your perspective. While I have reservations about very modern designs that can seem iconic to a fault (see SE 29th project surrounded by a very consistent and traditional/colonial design aesthetic), I really appreciate the meta conversattion about how we think about and talk with each other about integrating the new and the old design aesthetics in our city. I come down a bit more on the side of micro context, since that is the level of 'street' bioregion that most will experience and engage (or not) with. I like that you point out other contextual references in North Portland and it's creative and industrial identities. This helps me appreciate the 'context' of this project more. I do think the designers could have paid a little more respect to immediate context in their designs without compromising their aesthetic, it just would have taken a bit more creative thoughtand flexibility in designing. A fine line I realize. But it also allows the transformative power of a project to be not only from the designers original vision but in the enhancements that can come from well considered discussion during the project process.

dennis

Doug, I know the point you are trying to make and I see the weight in it, but I am just questioning the overall thought in it. Jane Jacobs definitely had an amazing point of view on how our neighborhoods should be built, but I am questioning the need of the front door facing the street...just having the door face the street does not do all that you are suggesting it does...it is a good idea though, I will say that.

My point being, how many bad neighborhoods in this country have neighborhoods that have front doors facing the street? Therefore it would lead me to believe that it is not the key factor to a better neighborhood, just a helpful factor.

Also, with windows that face the street, how often do you find that window with a curtain closing it off or the window leading to a lesser used formal room that has seem to go the way of the tape deck?

People today do expect more privacy and they expect it to start at the front door.

Of course I am not saying that we should throw away all the good ideas that have come from people like Jane Jacobs, I am just saying that it is okay to accept small projects that dont totally meet every single point people like her were making.

In the case of this project, the kitchen overlooks the street and in Portland, the kitchen is often times the most used room in the house and would serve better for having eyes on the street than an unused formal living room would.


Also, as a side note about this firm, looking on their website at other projects, their use of wood in their projects is just fantastic and I would dare say, they truly represent Portland and the northwest in their architecture.

Alex Stange

Brian,

You're right, it was unfair and rude of me to label the architects as hipster transplants, and also to suggest that this invalidates their taste or perspective. I apologize to the architects for that.

By the way, I do like the building, just not combined with the rest of the houses on that street.

Alex

Natesch2

Neighborhoods need to focus more on quality and scale. This project is a jewel box and is definitely a positive addition to the neighborhood.
As an Architect and someone who has dealt with housing issues both in Portland and around the State I am always amazed when projects like the North House are used as the whipping boy and so manh absolutely horrible (cheap, poorly constructed, poorly designed, etc.) projects get built. Too often the really horrific projects a so unremarkable that they fly under the radar.
For every great infill project like the above, I can show you 10 examples of something "traditional" that is far more hideous.

Fred Leeson

Lost in this discussion is the negative impact of the city's 5-foot side-yard setbacks. When Kaven started, the adjacant lot to the south had a tiny little building set back well from the street, so his south-facing windows had a view of some sort. But adding the larger house on the south lot -- well within the owner's rights -- makes the Kaven units much less attractive as living units. The artfully-taken photos ignore this issue. Builders need to take this into account when they want to maximize floor-space.

Shawn Jaimes (siding contractor houston tx)

"A family's half-century legacy of living in a neighborhood is not something to treat flippantly. Longtime residents of a place deserve to be heard and respected."

Yes I agree, however from what I saw in the picture about the units, it looks good. Though it strays from the total look of the community isn't it nice to add variety in the look of the homes there.

Who knows, it could be a start of some positive change in the houses in that community.

Thanks!

micheal verns

Its a simple way of placing a beautiful swan in a pen full of chickens...its way out of the league...modern is not always what should be done...sometimes simple and old stuff are better. [Editor's note: spam link removed.]

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