Rethinking Urban Housing


In many Seattle neighborhoods we are once again seeing small homes on larger lots being scraped, developed or subdivided to provide new homes and more housing options in city. A typical reaction is to cringe at this type of development, but is there a way to achieve density without feeling like your neighbor’s house is getting turned into a box apartment building?

Small-scale solutions.

In last weekend’s Seattle Times there was a great article about small-scale solutions to Seattle’s housing needs.  Here are a few key points from this article:

“The more interesting ideas in a densifying Seattle are happening at the small-scale level, such as where architects are figuring out how to squeeze two or three town houses onto a lot that a generation ago would have seemed barely adequate for one unit. They report that it’s been a struggle, but recent changes in the building code are finally enabling more innovation.”

“We found this tiny little lot five years ago, purchased it and sat on it through the recession,” says architect Tiffany Bowie of Malboeuf Bowie Architecture. “Finally the city changed the zoning to allow three units, and that’s when we began to think, hey, this might be feasible.”

A little repetition is good, a lot is terrible. Repeating a pattern of forms in four units, as architect Foster did in the Denny Rowhouses, sets up a pleasing visual rhythm. Now imagine 10, 20 or 50 identical units (or take an excursion to the ’burbs, where you won’t have to imagine). At that scale, repetition is numbing. The magic threshold is about six. Beyond that, don’t repeat.”

Visit the Seattle Times to read the full article Small-scale solutions to Seattle’s huge urban-housing needs