Friday, November 19, 2010

urban | design.banter :: Respecting Historical Guidelines Means Designing for the Pedestrian

The Historic Friday Harbor website ( is currently being updated to show more of the recent new construction in downtown that follows the
Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) Guidelines. This recent construction includes our Churchill Corner Building, completed in 2008.

 View of Churchill Corner from the approaching ferry.

Our Churchill Corner Project, perched atop the ferry parking lot in downtown Friday Harbor, was completed two years ago. Though not required for its exact location, the owner chose to be mandated by the HPRB Guidelines, in order to gain certain siting advantages, like fewer parking spaces. This is a personal bone of contention with me--cities talk about wanting to be more pedestrian friendly, they want businesses to flourish, they want their downtown centers to be alive and vibrant--but then they require insane amounts of parking, which either destroys the downtown village feel they are trying to create if it's on the surface, or is prohibitively expensive.

In the case of Churchill Corner, we did provide an underground parking garage with spaces for the homeowners which is essential, in addition to spots for each commercial space. But less spaces were required because of the historic district. To me, this makes sense for the remaining eight commercial spaces, since two hour free parking abounds, and time-limit-free free parking is also in abundance in the adjacent residential neighborhoods.

A goal of fitting into any historic guidelines is to do justice to the historic character of a town without looking too themed, like Main Street in Disneyland. One of the ways this can be accomplished is to look at the design intent, not just copy the look of a facade. Turn of the century buildings were designed for the pedestrian experience, not the car (window shopping as opposed to the biggest signs competing for the driver's attention, while a large parking lot separates said building from the street).

One of the most important design and historic preservation aspects of the Churchill Corner Building is the deference to the pedestrian, demonstrated in the interior pedestrian street, providing access to commercial spaces from two levels, the zero lot lines, and the unobtrusive underground parking.

The importance of keeping a human scale is also demonstrated in the variable massing of the 26,000 square foot building. The facade is broken up into manageable lengths, with recessed entries, varied materials, and abundant storefront windows, so that a passerby may feel like they are experiencing different buildings.

 Pedestrians may feel like they are passing multiple buildings as they stroll past the various storefronts. Signage for the commercial spaces also has to meet HPRB guidelines.

The gabled roofs and yellow siding of the residences at the top pay tribute to the original Churchill House, which was preserved and relocated to another site in town. Roof deck and flat roof areas feature a distinct, continuous cornice. The five residences on top of the two floors of commercial spaces reflect the historic tradition of apartments above storefronts in downtown areas.

 The gable roof lines and yellow siding pay tribute to the Churchill House, relocated to another site intact.

The Preservation Guidelines has great illustrations, maps, and references for new construction.

1 comment:

  1. Great article you wrote here. Thoroughly enjoyed it! You had me from the start - keep it up, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your article was very interesting. Great write up! Need more like it! Wish to hear more like this!