While working on a sketch recently, I thought about the process I use while designing a building. Like most designers, I begin with an evaluation of the site and how the uses I have planned will relate to it.
I disdain large “superblock” developments, and greatly prefer working with smaller parcels which allow for greater vibrancy on the street. In this case, it is a continuation of my Allston Union Square redevelopment proposal, concentrating on Site 3.
I combined together four underdeveloped properties, and extended adjacent Everett Street through the site; allowing for additional street fronting retail space. This area of Allston already sports many unique bars, restaurants and retail, this project allows for additional density at a critical intersection. Everett Place was purposely given a gentle curve to allow for the building to meander along, as curved buildings tend to have a certain mystique about them, especially on a relatively narrow street.
Next I began searching through my collection of images for inspiration. I’ve always loved the massive awning of the former Castle Square hotel, and as such determined a similar feature would be the dominating visual element of my building. This would have the added benefit of shading space for outdoor sidewalk seating, a feature that with only one exception is entirely absent in the area.
While constructing a quick massing model, I saw a photo of the Leon de Juda project going up in the south end and was struck by the windows along the right side of the building.
With this inspiration, I began allowing the site to guide me in shaping the building. I broke the curve into seven flat sections, with the center allotted as the main focal point. I have had a particular affinity for art deco for many years, and although while massing the building there was no conscious effort on my part to have it be deco (my inspiration in particular being far from it), the form naturally evolved that way. Once this became apparent I did embrace it, and used a few tricks such as recessing the corners on the upper half, as well as the dominating central entrance: a massive vertical element typically being the hallmark of deco buildings.
Windows make or break a building. I feel that recessing them to give the exterior cladding a sense of depth and shadow lines is critical, as well as allowing them to have personality. Nothing is worse then a beautiful building with single pane, soulless windows. This is a particular sin in renovation, but it is frequently overlooked in new construction as well, with detrimental effects. In the case of my building, I kept the basic form of the windows in the Leon de Juda, while switching it up with four pane casements for the upper half.
The center section was originally a plane sheet of vertical glazing as in my inspiration, however I began playing with the form of the bottom half and soon settled on a much more dramatic entrance. The spire at the top also naturally evolved by pulling the vertical mullions out at an angle, making the building appear to be leaning forward, as well as allowing for dramatic shadows and a central focal point.
I tend to shade my buildings with color early in the process to help imagine textures and see how different materials can relate to one another. To further accentuate the awning, I made the supports massive, reaching up two floors. Unlike classic art deco, my version tends to express itself with raw form and massing. I dislike “applied ornamentation”, and use it only carefully, such as the crenelation along the top of the building, as well as a conspicuous address plaque above the residential entry.
Finally for fun, some renders:
That’s all for now. For the next post I’m hoping to have the whole block together. I’m also going to try to get out and take actual pictures of the site instead of relying on google images for location photos.