Our many considerations for successful community streetscape outcomes include density, privacy, landscaping, sustainability and color trends
By Donna Aldrich
Bette Davis once said, “to be given a chance to create is the meat and potatoes of life; the money is the gravy.” I’ve often thought our great fortune in the building industry is the ability to follow our passion for design in our work. The creation of economically feasible developments that provide residents with timelessly appealing, lifestyle enhancing neighborhoods is our lasting legacy.
We all know, from concept to construction, the factors affecting the outcomes of our creations are myriad. Among our many considerations for successful community streetscape outcomes, those that are top-of-mind today include density, privacy, landscaping, sustainability and color trends.
With the increase in density for many of our new communities, whether urban infill or suburban affordable, comes a greater challenge to balance the streetscape’s visual diversity and harmony. Narrower streets and taller, larger buildings compound this challenge. With too little variation in massing, architectural detail, materials and color, the risk is bland monotony. Swinging the pendulum far opposite can result in too much variation, an overstimulating visual onslaught of diverse forms, materials and colors. Especially for multi-family projects, the creation of a community theme can facilitate “just right”, the achievement of balance between diversity and harmony.
Bringing the calm of the natural world inside improves our wellbeing.”
Walking hand-in-hand with density is the issue of privacy. Most of us want it both ways – the chance for privacy when needed and community interaction when desired. The most successful developments provide for both. The longing for front porch socializing, especially within more compact attached communities, has waned but not current homebuyers desire to live in vibrant, connected neighborhoods. Master developers have responded with a variety of intriguing options for social engagement including imaginatively themed parks for play, bark parks, pocket parks and parks for just hanging out. Camp sites, community farms, gardens, outdoor offices and open-air gathering spaces – a new COVID-19 era necessity, are additional concepts with broad appeal. The best-selling master planned communities provide many of these lifestyle enhancing offerings.
Weaving nature in and out of homes and throughout the community not only responds to homebuyers’ desire for more outdoor living connections but also helps establish a sense of place for new developments. Legacy trees, whether existing, relocated or new, set an established tone from the very first phase of construction. Preservation of natural resources and their interplay with the community, including scenic ravines, rock outcroppings, hiking trails and water features can lead to iconic status over time. With the often-extensive view windows and panoramic doors found in many new homes, it’s important to strategically place plants and furniture, indoors and out, to avoid obstructing vistas. Bringing the calm of the natural world inside improves our wellbeing.
With today’s homebuyers more focused than ever on human health and the health of our planet, adding more sustainable design features to new homes makes good marketing sense. In addition to their earth and earthling appeal, sustainable exterior building materials can contribute to lasting legacies with low maintenance and more durable performance over longer time spans. Roofing materials with lifetime warranties, factory finishes for gutters/downspouts, garage doors and front doors along with natural unpainted clay brick and painted versus stained wood keep neighborhoods looking their best well into the future.
Color palettes too have an important role to play in the long-term success of developments. To withstand the test-of-time, color schemes require sensitivity to the natural topography, the adjacent built environment and the architectural style of the project. Here too, balancing diversity and harmony is a key component. The still current, seemingly endless, mass popularity of white, black and gray for a majority of homes presents concerns. This trailing trend turned fad can prevent communities from achieving a timeless aesthetic when basic principles are not employed. As we keep a watchful eye on developing color trends, we see warmer palettes emerging, informed by nature leaning towards autumnal tones, the use of white in lieu of gray signifying new beginnings and the use of soft blues that are cleansing and reflective like water.
As we carefully craft new communities, cognizant of the gravy along with the meat and potatoes, our goals are united whether developer, builder or designer. Seeing residents’ pride of ownership as they enjoy their lives interacting with their neighbors long after the final build-out is a lasting legacy for us all.
Donna Aldrich, CID, LEED AP ID+C is a Principal, Architectural Color Design at WHA Architectures. Read more of her stories at www.whablog.com.