Those Damn Residents, If They Would Only Listen

A new condo building went up in the neighborhood recently. Here it is:

I like this building’s reinterpretation of a two apartment wide block of flats with bays. I think its interest lies in its tweaking of the massing, angled center section with bays rising to the top, rather than contained within, the main box of  the building, as well as the use of materials- steel and concrete in particular. It’s received a fair amount of adulation in the press, which surprised me a bit, since despite my comments above, the building really doesn’t break any significant new ground. What it does do impeccably, is reflect the current fashion of the day, namely checkerboard window and textural patterns , oriented vertically if at all possible, something poor XIP Cleaners next door doesn’t have going for it.

This building is a crisply detailed modern building, and as such, one of its key features is the floor to ceiling glass. This glass does 2 things, it lets a large amount of light (and heat) into these south-facing rooms, but it also lets the passerby glimpse in, perhaps, at the hoped for exquisitely furnished modern digs. And herein lies the classic problem for the modernist, controlling the interior. For in the condo, building, once its  sold and you turn over the keys to a buyer, they likely have their own ideas. So architects hurry to get the interior photos shot before someone moves in. So how has this turned out here:

Looking at the lower right unit, the owner has resorted to one of those awful shoji screens , to shield the sun, and perhaps prying eyes, as  the seafoam translucent glass doesn’t do much for sun or privacy. Exterior awnings would have at least helped to shield the bay, but they aren’t present here. Meanwhile, above and to the left, the bay has been identified as a place to park the mountain bike. These small bays can be hard to use,  uncomfortable to sit in at times, certainly can’t put a desk in the space, it would be blinding. So, in what are no doubt compact units, they become a place for the odd item , i.e, the bike.  To the right, a single lonely chair sits, soaking up the sun, hoping someone will sit on its roasting hot metal non-padded surface. Me thinks not. And finally, my favorite, upstairs and to the right, one of those shag carpeted cat towers (not there’s anything wrong with that).

I’ve been there. A number of years ago, I designed a loft building in an old warehouse that included new decks with open rails hung off the exterior of the building. And of course, they instantly were filled with bikes, grills, and plastic chairs. The lesson here is certainly that opaque surfaces the first couple of feet up go a long way towards mitigating this issue on the exterior. But even after all of this, we designers can’t help ourselves. I just designed a prototype apartment block and couldn’t resist glazing the corner from top to bottom. And why not I thought, because as a prototype, I’ll never have to deal with that pesky real world!