Getting in Early

We've recently been working on a project at the early stages of development over the past couple of weeks so, given its primordial status as a project, it seems fitting to bestow it the title of "very first blog post."

Every so often, you find yourself getting involved in a project early.  By early, I mean prior to what architects like to call "Basic Services" which include schematic design, design development, construction documents, and construction administration.  For anyone who's gone through the process, you know that there's actually quite a bit of homework that has to be done before you and your architect can really start designing.  For smaller projects, there's typically a programming phase.  For larger projects there's programming and master planning.  For more speculative type projects, feasibility studies will typically be developed to test the viability of a project.  All these studies are typically highly conceptual, abstract, and heavy in raw, beautiful data.

We LOVE these phases in projects.  Yes, there's nothing better than seeing an idea turn into something real and tangible when construction is complete.  In our line of work, this is extremely gratifying.  On the flip side though, conjuring something highly abstract and conceptual out of the ether is really, really cool.

We think the linchpin to successful "pre-design" phases lies in the ability to effectively collaborate with our clients.  In order to do so, our job is to find clear graphic representations of data and abstract ideas.

Pre-design services don't seem to happen often with developers of smaller projects so we were pretty happy when this one came along.  The following are some of the graphic tools we developed to help our client make decisions about the mass, bulk, and stacking strategies for a multi-family development in Philadelphia.


^ The existing zoning for this site is outdated, has not bee remapped, and is such that there's no way out of a variance.  Our task was to study the viable iterations within a reasonable zoning variance request.  This first set of diagrams establish a "baseline" case.  It proposes the minimum, most "digestible" bulk and density for the site.

^ The existing zoning for this site is outdated, has not bee remapped, and is such that there's no way out of a variance.  Our task was to study the viable iterations within a reasonable zoning variance request.  This first set of diagrams establish a "baseline" case.  It proposes the minimum, most "digestible" bulk and density for the site.


^ The client (a developer) is interested in "duplex" apartments (i.e., apartments with two internal levels).  This iteration proposes this as an idea as well as increasing the overall building lot coverage.

^ The client (a developer) is interested in "duplex" apartments (i.e., apartments with two internal levels).  This iteration proposes this as an idea as well as increasing the overall building lot coverage.


^ This iteration maximizes the number of units.  As a trade-off for the extra height, it minimizes the overall building lot coverage.

This iteration maximizes the number of units.  As a trade-off for the extra height, it minimizes the overall building lot coverage.


^ This iteration utilizes a stacking approach that creates three "duplex" apartments while minimizing the overall building lot coverage.  Note that 78% lot coverage is the "actual" coverage by code definition, but the ground floor step backs actually increase the amount of useable open area.  This iteration also minimizes the common circulation (common stairs) by staggering the upper apartments vertically.

This iteration utilizes a stacking approach that creates three "duplex" apartments while minimizing the overall building lot coverage.  Note that 78% lot coverage is the "actual" coverage by code definition, but the ground floor step backs actually increase the amount of useable open area.  This iteration also minimizes the common circulation (common stairs) by staggering the upper apartments vertically.