For many mature cities expanding in size and economies, the pressures of a growing population will spawn changes in land use, increased density and property redevelopment. What were once an urban centre’s suburbs serving the working and middle classes a few generations earlier can become highly desirable ‘downtown’ neighbourhoods serving a growing affluent professional elite willing to pay a premium for convenience. Areas formerly home to modest residences will see their detached bungalows and two-storey residences razed and redeveloped into monolithic bastions of questionable taste and scale. The end result? Behold the garish monster home disproportionately oversized, towering fortress-like over their original neighbour, creating a streetscape of disharmony in scale and class structure. Such may be par for the course for most urban centres, but it pains me every time I see such disregard for design integrity, architectural continuity and neighbourly respect. Sigh.
And then I see a property redevelopment which gives me hope.
This Bethesda, Maryland house designed by architect Robert Gurney is a new build in an established neighbourhood that presents its decidedly contemporary urban aesthetic without disrespecting the scale and harmony of the existing neighbourhood fabric. In fact, at 2200 square feet, it actually has a footprint one third the size than the house it replaced, creating an opportunity for abundant natural light, improved site lines, and environmental consciousness.
While not everyone is going to find this cube of charcoal grey bricks, glass cutouts and wood accents to their liking, readers of my blog will know I adore when traditional natural materials are used in ways that push aesthetic boundaries. I like the architectural tension this house must infuse within its older neighbourhood, knowing that as time passes and the landscape matures it will end up blending in and appear surprisingly complimentary to its original brethen compared to the ‘monster pseudo-colonials on steroids’ currently blockbusting this neighbourhood. If I had a choice, I would much rather see this arriving than an oversized box of pretense-laden design-contrived architectural fakery. But perhaps that’s just me.
You can see more (smart interior!) by clicking Contemporist.com.
* Bethesda Property photographed by http://www.maxwellmackenzie.com/