Kind of Blue

Sterile rather than soulful, this is the all-business blue that fills your screen when you boot up windows; a blue that looks as if it was color-matched to the utilitarian blue of the generic blue tarp you can see in the bottom left of the photo. (Not that you asked…)

At 19th and Yesler, this is the latest by gProjects and b9 Architects. When built out, it will consist of five live-work homes and six townhouses. The same team developed the recently completed 7-unit “Urban Canyon” project at 19th and Pine (photo below). These two firms do great work and are starting to get more recognition for it (e.g. here, here, and here).

Urban Canyon achieved a 5-star Built Green rating, see this case study for details. The homes are expected to perform “32 to 45 percent better than International Energy Code,” though it’s not clear which features are most responsible for those savings. Given the high up-front cost of photovoltaics, it’s impressive to see them included. The total 7 kW of PV would produce roughly 7000 kWh per year, our about half the annual energy use of one typical townhouse.

Urban Canyon also stands out for it’s site design.  Shared common space invites neighborly interaction.  There are no garages, so entrances sit at street level, forming a stronger connection to the public realm.  The unusual roof lines are a matter of taste, but if nothing else they give the project a unique and fun identity.

The work of the gProjects/b9 team is living proof that townhouse-scale development doesn’t have to be heinous. It simply takes thoughtful design. So why is it that thoughtful design is in such short supply?