Page D1.3. 04 April 2012                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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New Northwest Architecture

Bud Clark Commons, Portland, OregonVancouver Community Library, Vancouver, WashingtonTandem Townhouses, Portland, OregonWood Block Residence, Mercer Island, WashingtonEarly Childhood Center, Gresham, OregonAnd More...

 
Tandem Townhouses • Portland, Oregon
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The two-unit Tandem Townhouses project was designed by Works Partnership Architecture for a corner lot in southeast Portland.
Photo: Bruce Wolf Extra Large Image

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When the Portland firm Works Partnership Architecture was hired to design two luxury townhouses in the city's historic East Burnside neighborhood, the challenge was to provide maximum square footage without letting interior spaces fall into an incoherent jumble. The Tandem Townhouses reflect the architects' uncommon take on the traditional split-level home.

At 5,380 square feet (500 square meters), the project comprises two contemporary homes, each with three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a two-car garage, along with an outdoor dining terrace. Each townhouse makes its second floor the main living space. Above are rooftop gardens where the occupants can enjoy Oregon's mild climate.

A signature inside each of the two townhouses is a central stairway slotted between the stacked floors and spaces. With perforated steel treads and exposed structural wood slats providing a permeable screen between adjacent spaces, the stairway feels like a low-tech act of sophistication and epiphany: intimate yet open.

Works Partnership sought to adapt the traditional American midcentury suburban home to an urban infill lot. Other residential infill projects in Portland often seem to consist of skinny, tall (often three- or four-story) houses that, despite their pitched roofs and neo-historic styling, look out of proportion among one- and two-story historic homes. The boxy, modern, weathered-steel-clad Tandem duplex may not resemble nearby Craftsman bungalows or Tudor cottages, but it's at a more compatible scale.

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A central feature of each Tandem unit is the main stair. The stair runs are composed of continuous perforated folded-steel sheets, while the sides of the stair are finished with vertical wood slats.
Photo: Bruce Wolf Extra Large Image

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The split-level configuration of the Tandem units results in a living, dining, and kitchen space that is raised one-half story above the adjacent street level, and is served by a modest north-facing balcony.
Photo: Bruce Wolf Extra Large Image

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Tandem Townhouses floor plan drawings.
Image: Works Partnership Architects Extra Large Image

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Tandem Townhouses longitudinal section drawing looking north.
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Wood Block Residence • Mercer Island, Washington
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On a sloping site in Mercer Island, Washington, chadbourne + doss architects designed an extensive renovation of a 1962 home designed by Fred Bassetti.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Many of the best-known projects by acclaimed Seattle architect Fred Bassetti are large public buildings and office towers, such as Seattle Municipal Tower. But Bassetti, who contributed to the development of the Northwest regional modernist style starting in the 1940s and is now retired, also designed a number of houses.

Seattle's chadbourne + doss architects recently designed an extensive overhaul and reimagination of a 1962 Bassetti-designed home on nearby Mercer Island, in Lake Washington, for a couple with a young son. The home had previously been renovated multiple times over the years. Although the clients appreciated its classic modern structure, they sought a simpler floor plan and updated finishes.

The house was gutted down to its studs, and portions of the existing house structure, decks, and site work were removed. Taking a cue from the clients, the architects reorganized the space based on the concept of children's blocks, hence the name the Wood Block Residence. Clad in materials such as steel, Milestone plaster, and white lacquer, these new blocklike forms contain and separate programmatic functions, while the rest of the space is more open.

A new metal-clad roof is paired with a cedar ceiling that continues down the walls to wrap occupants in visual warmth. Because the 3,000-square-foot (280-square-meter) house fronts a busy street, the clients sought greater privacy. To this end, trees and boulders were added in front, while the entry was redesigned with a cantilevered concrete landing and a glass door. Indoor and outdoor spaces are better connected now, and the revamped home includes an outdoor room for Taiko drumming.

Bassetti has visited the renovated home and is reported to feel that it respects the original design intent.   >>>

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Wood Block Residence ground-floor plan drawing.
Image: chadbourne + doss architects Extra Large Image

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Inside the remodeled Wood Block Residence, new fixtures and finishes compliment the home's original modernist design.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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New glazing and a simplified floor plan were also part of the Wood Block Residence renovation.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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A skylight illuminates part of the spacious master bathroom at the Wood Block Residence.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider Extra Large Image

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