Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

17x30 Single Family High End Residential Project

17x30 Single Family High End Residential Project

For the first 30x30 project of 2018, I’ve decided to design a single family high end residential project in Buffalo, New York as project 17x30. This is different from my previous projects which have been either very large in scale or an exhibition piece. To start this project off, I’ve already located a site and generated some basic design ideas that will evolve in the upcoming weeks. Here’s how I found a project site and some initial design ideas.

Project Site

Determining the location for this project was simple because I decided at the onset that it would be in Buffalo, NY which is where I currently reside. The next parameter was that the site would need to be in a growing neighborhood where there might be some hesitation to purchase property, but there’s definitely lots of development happening. Lastly, the site had to be close enough to a variety of architectural forms and typologies so that the context could inform the design of the single family house.

These parameters immediately narrowed the search to four different regions in Buffalo, NY; the west side, Black rock, Medical Campus, and Old First Ward. The west side of the City of Buffalo has been expanding at an exponential rate where lots of millennials and startup developers are purchasing empty lots or old homes and flipping them. There’s always a renovation project or new build being worked on in the west side.

In Black rock, there’s less growth in terms of people and developments, however that will soon change with all of the new businesses and historic renovations. There are lots of fantastic buildings that could be renovated to bring new businesses and startups to the area. This can potentially bring the economy of the neighborhood up and create opportunities for exponential growth like the west side.

At the Medical Campus, there’s been so much development happening that all of the properties in the neighborhood have been sold for a very high price. These properties are old and deteriorated, but they will soon be worth a lot when staff, patients, students, and international people come to the finished campus.

Finally, the last neighborhood is the Old First Ward, which is on a steady rise. Being located close to the revitalized Buffalo River and Canalside where lots of free public events are hosted has quickly made this neighborhood’s property values increase. In fact, Ohio Street which is the main street has been renovated and a public path has been created along the water front. New developments are being constructed and the historic buildings that were once vacant are now being restored and used in new ways.

With this in mind, I’ve decided that the single family high end residential project will be located in the Old First Ward on a uniquely shaped parcel along Ohio Street. The site is 86 Louisiana Street, which is a triangular parcel that comes to a point at an awkward 4 way intersection. This parcel is in close proximity to the Buffalo River where there is a public boat launch for a small vessel and has unobstructed views of the historic grain elevators.

Initial Design Ideas

Once I found the project site, I put brainstormed a list of factors that could influence the project’s design. With regard to context, all of the houses in the area are traditional homes that were once a part of the Sears and Co. catalogue where families purchased a blueprint, its accompanying building materials, and constructed these houses according to the plans. Think Lego architecture but in real life using 2x4’s and nails. Therefore, the existing housing stock won’t have an immediate effect on the aesthetic of the project.

Beyond the existing housing fabric of the site, there are all of the grain elevators which are constructed of thick concrete and massive in scale. The grain elevators stand between 80 to 100 feet tall with even taller towers, a mobile grain scooper, and workhouses on top. Down the road from the site is the Ohio Street Bridge, which is constructed of traditional steel trusses and has a mechanical lift so that taller boats can travel beneath it. These two types of structures can inform the project in two ways; material and mobility.

Across the street from the site are the pedestrian pathway, Buffalo River, and a nearby launch for small boats. There are also newly planted trees between the sidewalk and streets, which adds to the natural aesthetic of the site. This can inform the design of the project through the building form, finishes, and systems. The house should relate to nature through its finishes and form while consuming little energy and providing spaces to store things to take advantage of the nearby activities.

Conclusion

With all of my projects, it’s important to develop a strong design idea that will allow the project to start taking form and be refined over time. Having the project site in mind and some initial design ideas will allow me to start brainstorming potential forms and materiality. Moving forward, I’ll be sketching and coming up with some more design ideas that will eventually be brought into Revit and refined. Stay tuned for more!

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