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Friday, November 9, 2007

Re: A Matter of Taste

posted by on November 9 at 16:14 PM

Jonah asks what good townhome design looks like. Of course, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. But I enjoy looking at these units going up in the Central District—whether I’m trashed or not.


The jagged and varied roof lines are magnificent. They reflect the classic craftsman homes that dominate the neighborhood, yet have a distinctly modern edge. The buildings are less than half finished—the second row behind these buildings is skeletal—however, the southwest corner is almost completed.


I wonder how much more it costs developers to build interesting roof lines and unique top floors in row townhouses. (In this development, there are actually a few separate buildings with multiple units in each, so it’s less townhomey than others.) It seems that interesting designs like these could be applied to a slew of the low-income developments being constructed around town for only slightly more dough. But if previous thoughtful buildings are an indication, these units will cost a fortune—not necessarily because they cost so much more to build—but because they look like something you’d actually want to live in.

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Wouldn't want to live there in a rainstorm.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 9, 2007 4:21 PM

those are acceptable.

the ghetto behind jackinthebox @ 85th & Aurora is not.

Posted by max solomon | November 9, 2007 4:24 PM

yeah I like the building shape a lot...but, why are the windows so few and so tiny? I guess that's where they're saving the money?

Posted by :: shawn :: | November 9, 2007 4:32 PM

Those look great and fit in with the neighborhood. More than that, they are distinct, modern, and have a feeling of quality about them.

Most townhome projects I've been seeing try to inject some fallacious sense of luxury, using faux marble facade and other tacky tricks. Sometimes I wonder if the architech has ever stepped foot in the neighborhood. These, however, look wonderful.

I also like the new building being finished downtown, near the library (5th & Madison, maybe?). The one with the multi-color bricks and glittery black foundation. Lovely, in my opinion.

Posted by tabletop_joe | November 9, 2007 4:40 PM

ew. god no. what the fuck is up w/ seattle architects and developers. that project is banal as fuck, the only thing it has going is that it's not as bad as all the lame ass recycled projects going up all over ballard, fremont and phinney.

for better examples, check out:

boulders @ greenlake, 7440 latona
condos @ 42nd & aurora
Nicholas Court @ 1413 15th Ave

Posted by holz | November 9, 2007 4:40 PM

This category was left out of the earlier post, which moves between modernist and historicist styles. This fits into "Contemporary" as understood by, say, the Kimpton's hotel chain. It lacks rigor, reason, and last of all taste. The other term for it is "I Guess the Mayor of What-the-Fuck Was in Town."

Posted by Eric F | November 9, 2007 5:33 PM

I love how people think this is some gaggle of lazy seattle architect people causing all this. The cookie cutter designs are probably bought off the shelf at rock bottom prices, by people straight out of school. its up to the builder to decide they want to spend more on a original design and pay the additional labor for a market that values based on # of rooms and price per sqft. There is ZERO incentive to make places different unless the buyers demand it, and people are still buying up the shit boxes in droves.

Posted by meanie | November 9, 2007 5:37 PM

The question of where people would "actually want to live" will be determined by whether or not they pay the price the developer wants for them or not. The price of housing has nothing to do with how much it costs to build it, but how much people are willing to pay for it.

Posted by Fnarf | November 9, 2007 5:52 PM

That wood siding is gorgeous.

Posted by Anonymous | November 9, 2007 6:00 PM

Who is the architect for this project?

Posted by la | November 9, 2007 7:36 PM

City of Seattle building permits can be looked up by address online at or through a map at . One can use these resources to look up the architect, contractor and owner of the property.

IMHO as a carpenter most of these buildings are polished turds. They may have great looking granite countertops but they siding will be leaking and the building will be rotting in a few years. Buyers should not neglect a building inspection just because it is new construction.

Posted by carpenter | November 9, 2007 7:51 PM

My URL's didn't get posted in #11.

Search Permits by Address

Search Permits with a Map

Posted by carpenter | November 9, 2007 7:54 PM

Yecch. It looks like one of the classicly ugly plywood palace rental buildings of the 80s and 90s. Putting an Imperial 400 roof on it makes it no less ugly.

Posted by TLjr | November 9, 2007 10:31 PM

If I may speak frankly that shit is fucking awful. It's as if a multicolored tumor-house grew in different colored stages from a dead log. Perhaps it might be worthwhile if the whole thing were that stained wood paneling, in a shape that does not induce vomiting. I would suggest some symmetry- somewhere- anywhere. Those itsy bitsy windows can only be used to fire burning arrows out of, in the event of a siege, like the slits in castle walls. In short, it should be burned to the ground.

Posted by Robert Hopt | November 9, 2007 10:55 PM

The roof lines are as contorted as my roof lines. They are interesting architecturally, but yeah, if there is an extremely heavy rain (very unlikely, although it does happen rarely)they will get some water inside. The townhouses, themselves, would fit nicely in my 1920's era neighborhood. As a new build, nice job.

Posted by lawrence clark | November 9, 2007 11:19 PM

These do, indeed, look like interesting buildings. The rooflines, along with the so-current varied sidings, add a nice flair to the things.

But I'm not sure what this line means: "It seems that interesting designs like these could be applied to a slew of the low-income developments being constructed around town for only slightly more dough."

I guess I haven't seen many townhouse-style in-fill developments that are done as low-income units, but I have noticed that several mid-sized apartment buildings done as subsidized housing show better design than some of their market-rate cousins.

A few examples: The apartment building over McDonald's on 3rd downtown; the one over Walgreens on Capitol Hill; and the senior-housing apartment at Madison & Boren on First Hill.

All three buildings could be criticized for being too slavishly retro, but they each fit well into their neighborhoods. With a few years' worth of dirt-patina, they'll look like they've been on their corners for decades.

All three buildings use detailing that's both appropriate to their neighborhoods and that gives them more appeal than the cheap siding used on too many market-rate developments of similar size.

The real problem with ugly buildings seems to lie in that "market-rate" niche between low-income subsidised housing and high-end condos.

Posted by Robinev | November 10, 2007 4:15 PM

Americans have been so brutalized by the architectural horrors of the last 40 years that even aesthetes jump around in glee at the mere hint of whimsy in a new building. These buildings? They remind me a lot of Minnie Mouse's house in Disneyworld. My daughter liked it, I liked the fact that she liked it, I wouldn't want to live in it.

Posted by croydonfacelift | November 10, 2007 8:17 PM

God, what crap. White vinyl nail-on windows are a signature feature of conventionally shitty Seattle townhouses and condo buildings. The randomized rooflines are so effortful, such an obvious attempt to be creative, that they're an embarrassment. Truly cringe-worthy.

Posted by tell me another one | November 11, 2007 9:48 PM

I have to agree with the tumor analogy @14. The jagged roofline and oddly placed irregular windows and materials remind me of a teratoma - those "monstrous tumors" that grow hair and teeth and bone. All the elements are there, but nothing functions.

Posted by davidLBC | November 12, 2007 12:13 PM

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