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Too colonial? Not if you ask Herb.
In 1992, Herb and his wife (now deceased) chose to build their home in a particular style, the Georgian style. They had traveled extensively along the East Coast, developed a strong affinity for colonial architecture, and knew they wanted architectural authenticity. They also didn't want to build their Georgian house in a conventional subdivision to have it surrounded by houses of the Tudor, French provincial, Italianate, Prairie, modern or just plain old "McMansion" styles.
They believed then, as Herb believes even more strongly now, that all those styles would fight each other.
Having walked the streets of quite a few new traditional neighborhoods around the country, one of the distinct feelings Herb has experienced is one of "too-many-styles." It is as though the developers and builders are trying to appeal to all tastes out of fear of losing any sales. Fewer, more coherent architectural styles, he found, create a better neighborhood.
That does not mean architectural boredom or bland-sameness at all. Herb's intention is that the architectural styles in this new traditional neighborhood shall be of a focused yet broad range of styles that include the true colonial, Georgian, Federal, Adam, Greek Revival and neo-classical, Charleston single-house, Colonial Revival, Cape Cod, and southern national styles. This, he believes, will help create a feeling of place that conventional subdivisions with their architectural-chaos lack.
The principles of creating a great Traditional Neighborhood go from greater scale to finer scale and therefore involve not only the entire site and the green ways and the streets and the blocks and the lots but also and to a very great extent the houses and the architectural details of the houses. It is said of our Most Loved Places that "God is in the details." When the houses and the great detailing that makes a house architecturally wonderful do not fight, the details and the houses combine synergistically to create a "Best Loved Place."
This is not a question at all about right or wrong. One architectural style is not intrinsically "better" than another. It is just a strong personal feeling - shared by many - that too many divergent styles all in one place tend to fight each other and detract from the totality of the place.
Creating the Commons
One of the key components of the emerging plan for developer Herb Freeman's 160 acres is the conversion of his homestead, the hilltop Georgian mansion that is currently the only structure on the developer's property. Herb's house not only serves as inspiration for his new neighborhood's architecture, it anchors the design for a community commons.
"The house will be transformed into a community center," says architect Victor Deupi, on the PlaceMakers planning team. The grounds around it will "contain a variety of social functions, including game rooms, public gardens, fountains, picnic grounds, and fireplaces."
Victor's final designs will be presented Saturday night in a public meeting (click here for schedule). But there are already three elements of the plan that are popular with Herb, the team, and visitors to the charrette studio: An observation tower with fireplaces embedded in the base, a broad green suitable for croquet and informal games, and a colonnaded building which opens onto a plaza and provides space for weddings, festivals, and other community gatherings.
Watch this space on Sunday for more detailed illustrations of the commons plan.
"This Old House" Without the Old Part.
People are drawn to the detailing and charm of historic homes. Any examination of property values in well-preserved historic neighborhoods confirms this. But life in these homes tends to involve some concessions. They have high maintenance demands, limited closet space and floor plans that seem alien to modern lifestyles.
But imagine if this weren't the case.
That's exactly what the architects at work in the design studio are working towards. Currently under development are a host of designs featuring the classic Georgian exteriors expected for the project, but with all the interior amenities (and more) of contemporary homes.
These include open floor plans, master baths with both shower and tub, large walk-in closets, tall ceilings, pantries or clever cupboard spaces and, in some cases, primary living (including master suite) on one floor.
It's all about living smarter rather than living bigger, applying a better use of space to eliminate excessive waste in construction and occupancy.
Rolling With the Land.
One key differentiation between this project and a conventional development is Herb's desire to preserve the rolling topography of his land. Conventional developers typically prefer scraping and filling to create level lots. "I didn't want to see my house demolished" in order to achieve level ground, says Herb. "I wanted to save the natural topography. I think it makes for a more interesting neighborhood."
It turns out that the architecture Herb loves may accommodate the topography better than most alternatives. Colonial styles work on the shallower lots forced by the hilly terrain; and they're appealing for the variety of single-family and multifamily structures traditional neighborhood design prefers. Architect Greg Huddy spent much of Thursday sketching houses that make the most of lots that are sited on hilly topography. "You can create opportunities to enter on one floor from the alley and another floor from the street," says Greg. Well-sited houses deliver a range of garage, parking and living arrangements that make topography an advantage rather than a liability.
Flexspace and Grandmas - A Perfect Match.
Day five and the design team continues to hammer out architectural ideas to accommodate a wide variety of lifestyles and create unique opportunities for homeowners.
Homes typically have predefined living space which requires homeowners to fit their current lifestyles into the design. But, life circumstances change and sometimes forces us to move. Our families grow, parents age, and job situations fluctuate.
Successful communities provide homes designed to accommodate evolving lifestyles and offers well designed ancillary structures or non-programmed living space for multiple use so families are not forced to move when life changes. This approach is often referred to as "flexspace" and is top of mind for Greg Huddy, one of the architects working on design features for the Freeman property. "My approach is to provide enough flexibility in the design to allow a homeowner with lots of use options. If they want to use the lower level of their home or build a room over a garage for grandparents to live independently or rent the space out for extra income, we make sure the initial design is flexible enough to accommodate that. Our approach to design is all about lifespan options."
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