For buildings to add up to urban neighborhood, "lose the wiggle", keep facades simple

From the PlaceMakers blog, PlaceShakers: "The townhouse, or rowhouse, is a traditional urban approach to density that, somewhat ironically, has been embraced by suburban builders.  Over time, this once simple and elegant species has evolved (some might say devolved) to reflect its newfound environment, with little bits and pieces protruding — wiggling — in the oddest of ways. "The form’s contemporary suburban architectural expression has (d)evolved from historically restrained, community-minded massing to the highly articulated, erratic, look-at-me forms we know today.  Like their single-family brethren, the over-articulated McMansion, suburban townhouses reflect the need for the building to compensate for a lack of beauty and interest in the streetscape.  In contrast, in more urban areas that have rowhouses, the continuity of the fabric of the street is embraced as important to the success of the public realm as a whole.

"In newer traditional neighborhoods, suburban retrofits, and infill sites, it’s critical that builders rediscover the idea of streets, rather than single structures, as the amenity.  In these strained economic times, it’s more than just a question of style, as builders can find great savings in simpler forms, foundations, and trusses.  Lose the wiggle.  Here’s five tips on townhouse restraint:

  • Keep the façade flat. This saves on cost and frees budget for improved windows and materials.
  • Resist non-rational articulation. Use simple solutions like porches, stoops, balconies or bay windows to provide interest while you develop faith in the attraction of the street itself."  Full post here.