There are aspects of the building shown above that are more consequential than the orange wall, though that bad boy is a piece of work, to be sure. Pb Elemental‘s designers, not known for subtle gestures, continue to be the local masters of ignoring context — not that that is necessarily a bad thing, particularly when there is very little in the way of valuable context to ignore. (But if you look closely at the fresh graffiti on the building it reads “your orange wall sucks cause it’s way out of context with Parnell’s Mini-mart!”)

Behind that orange wall is soon to be Pb Elemental’s first completed stand-alone “work-loft” unit, located at 23rd Ave and Dearborn in the Central District. Also under construction on the same development site are a pair of 2-story loft homes.

This is an unconventional project. First, the location would seem to be an unlikely one, for residential as well as commercial. Second, the mix of uses on a single infill site is innovative. And third, the stand-alone, small footprint, 2-story loft layout is unusual for a commercial space. Oh yeah, and it’s bold and boxy and gray and has a big orange wall. And one more thing about that orange wall — it is likely to contribute to the success of the commercial space because it creates such a strong sense of identity.

Pb Elemental has four other work-unit projects listed on their website. And I think they’re onto something good. These small units should help encourage micro-retail and support small, independent businesses. And best of all, since the├é┬ácommercial spaces are so small, they don’t require on-site parking — Pb’s Union and Leary projects have none. We ought to have a sustainability award that goes to every developer who has the audacity to put up a new building with no on-site parking.