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Walnut House – Modern: Historic District

Submitted by greg on August 20, 2010 – 3:36 pm21 Comments

We have started moving forward with our new home design for Jacksonville’s historic neighborhood of Springfield. We will continue posting not only images but we are going to attempt to start doing video interviews with some of the people involved. We plan on interviewing the clients as well and the builder, engineer, and various sub-contractors. Our overall goal for these posts is to help people not only understand the process of building a new home from design to completion, but also to understand the process of getting new home construction approved in a designated historic district.

Our clients are extremely excited and we have met all of their requirements and needs in the design process. We have designed this project with SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) and many of the decisions were made to make this home as green and sustainable as possible. We will definitely have this home certified by the FGBC (Florida Green Building Coalition) and later we will decide if we should go for LEED for Homes certification. While designing this home, we also had to follow the guidelines for building new construction in a historic district. Springfield has it’s own guidelines, but like most historic districts in the U.S., they are based on The National Guidelines For Historic Preservation as set forth and manged my The Office of the Interior’s, National Parks Service. Here is a link to the Springfield Guidelines. If you decide that you are interested in reading through these guidelines, pay special attention to the New Construction section.

We have just started the design review process and our first step in the process is to apply for a COA (Certificate of Appropriateness). If you would like to follow along, here is a link that explains the process. Our goal is to have our application completed and turned into the Historic Preservation Staff by September 1st, 2010. We have completed a preliminary meeting with Staff to see if there are any items that stand out as possible deal breakers. There were a few minor items that we will tweak before submitting our application. In the mean time, we have contacted the SPAR Council to do the same review with them. Once “Staff” gets our application for COA, they will do a full written report determining if historic preservation guidelines for new construction are met. Each member of the Historic Commission as well as SPAR will get a copy to review before we present to the commission on September 22nd, 2010.

We welcome your comments. We know that it is rare to make everyone happy and we know that there are going to be a lot of “I love it” or “I hate it” comments. We hope that because this project includes written guidelines and suggestions, that some of you will take the time to read them and comment based on your interpretation of those guidelines. Thanks for reading and we sincerely hope that you enjoy this series. Once the home is complete, we will invite everyone out to tour the home and enjoy delicious beer provided by Intuition Ale Works (Thanks Ben).

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21 Comments »

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by content design group, JA Castillo. JA Castillo said: Jacksonville lacks much to carry it boldly into the future, especially modern #architecture http://bit.ly/dnWFG6 [good luck, @contentdg] [...]

  • This is a nice modern interpretation of the Prairie School style. It would be great to see more around town.

  • jbm32206 says:

    It’s a cool looking building, but does not belong in a historic district.

  • jtb5656 says:

    an important quality of architecture is not just the quality of the design, which in this case is exceptional, but its relationship to the surrounding environment. this home belongs in jacksonville, but definitely NOT in springfield. regardless of how beautiful the building, sticking out like a sore thumb is rarely a positive quality, especially when trying to create an area with such a distinct character as is being done in springfield.

  • Gloria says:

    I like it …with the exception of the random brick retaining wall.

    Springfield could use some new designs (especially ones which tip a hat to the old).

    nice.

  • Joe M says:

    I like the design and I support the concept that new infill should be set apart form the original fabric of the historic districts. This design also gives a huge nod to Kutho and this house resembles the Kutho house on 9th street in some ways so it does blend with the original fabric while being different. I think many do not realize how modern some of the higher end designs from the teens and twenties actually were.

    What I do not like is the empty space on one side of the house. I believe that is what separates it from the surrounding structures more so that the actual design of the house. The house would appear to integrate into the block better if there was not this large open space to the side. A porte cheire (SP!) on the side (often done on the higher end houses) or repositioning of the house on the lot would do it.

    Also, when driving around the Springfield community, there are several old and a few new in-fill houses that stand out from just bad design so this house, even as is, would be far better than some of the others.

  • Jeremiah says:

    Joe has it right, “many do not realize how modern some of the higher end designs from the teens and twenties actually were.” The only thing that makes this neighborhood “historic” is it’s age. The architecture being constructed in Jacksonville just before and after the Great Fire was very progressive for it’s day, even “modern”. So, in keeping with the spirit of Architects like Klutho, this building not only fits with it’s surrounding architecture it BELONGS with it’s surrounding architecture.
    Some of you need to look up the word “preservation” in the dictionary and take a lesson. Preservation does not mean forcing all new development to look “historic”, preservation means TO PRESERVE what is already here. What is new should LOOK new and be an EXPRESSION of our time, not a time LONG gone.

  • Shaan says:

    preserve what we have left and embrace the new. After all, we are supposed to be a diverse urban neighborhood that accepts all walks of life, correct?

    If this gets build – I have my lot already picked out!

  • Jim in the 'ville says:

    Just finished watching World’s Greenest Homes on Planet Green and there was a very successful Modern home in a historic neighborhood right down the road from Wrigley Field. All you need for the ‘curb appeal’ is scale, proportion, and material. This house has it!

  • CrisWise says:

    While I agree with the comments about wanting to embrace creativity and not simply replicate past architectural styles, I don’t think it is a good idea to simply neglect the past designs of the neighborhood all together. What is good about urban design is that it encourages an active streetscape. One thing that springfield has going for it is its large front porches. Not only are these fun to have parties and drink cocktails on but they encourage a more lively neighborhood and promote neighborly interactions. This can also be an added benefit for a redeveloping neighborhood because the architecture encourages more eyes on the street. I believe there is no better deterrent to crime than this. I also think that the large blank wall is somewhat inappropriate for the neighborhood for the reasons mentioned above.

    As far as the green design. I would think the cooling bill would be a lot higher for a house that has a large amount of glazing on the east and west ends of the house.(walnut is a north south street right?)This is why there were originally large overhangs on the houses in the neighborhood. Light shelves might work for this design because they can be sized to shade, given your latitude, but provide passive natural lighting.

    I like where this design is headed though. It is nice to see new ideas coming to Jacksonville. Keep up the good work.

  • JoAnn Tredennick says:

    The concept of using modern designs for infill housing is OK as long as the mass of the structure and materials used fit the existing built landscape. The structure also needs to physically relate to those around it. You may want to visit http://www.zetacommunities.com to view “zero-energy” pre-fab urban infill housing in the San Francisco Bay area.

    This particular house has a few shortcomings. It’s missing porches and SPR is a “front porch community”. It needs porches and roof overhangs…there is a reason SPR houses were built as they are. The window openings and porches are oriented to the prevailing breezes. Porches and wide roof overhangs provide cooling shade. Porches connect the house and it’s occupants to their neighbors and to community.

    The walls and solid fencing are especially bad. They are way too “suburban”…preventing connection with community and walling the structure off from the streetscape. In addition, walls and solid fencing are at odds with CPTED concepts of maximizing
    security by having a property visible and well lit.

    Lastly, the view of the house with a few small windows near the top is eerily similar to the jail downtown.

  • Jeremiah says:

    What I find interesting about comments from people like Cris and JoAnn above is they suggest what could be done to make the design “better” in their eyes without realizing one very important thing about Architects and Designers in the Residential market – WE WORK FOR CLIENTS! Those clients tell us “I want X, Y and Z in my house” and we say “ok”. Obviously if a client comes up with a particularly BAD design idea, it is our job to nudge the client in the proper direction, but mostly we work for the client to accomplish the clients’ needs.
    So, while I agree that more windows on the side facades, some generous overhangs or sun shades and a nice big front porch would make the building “fit” better (i.e. make it look exactly like it’s neighbors which is obviously not the goal here), no one has stopped to think that perhaps the client asked for these design considerations for, oh perhaps, privacy or even a sense of permanence and solidity in their home. Who knows, it’s not terribly important.
    When we start to dissect residential design and suggest critiques what we’re really saying is “if this were my house I’d have done this or that”. What we don’t realize is THIS ISN’T OUR HOUSE. So we have to take certain things at face value because we don’t know what the overriding motivation for something may have been. While certainly there is room for improvement on any architectural project, for this project I think the design is extremely successful in fitting a truly modern home into a historical urban fabric. The scale, proportion, color and material are all indicative of it’s surroundings and it will make an amazing addition to a neighborhood that sorely needs some fresh blood.

  • greg says:

    First we would like to thank everyone who has posted a comment thus far. As we said before, there are those who will like the design and those who will not. What we hope people will do is read the Guidelines for Historic Preservation (New Construction) for Springfield. Go down the list of “Suggested” guidelines and make a judgment not based on personal taste or opinion, but based on the guidelines.

    There are a few things that have been mentioned that we think we should address. Yes, this is a modern interpretation of the Prairie School style, specifically Henry Klutho’s personal residence. If you think the home does not belong in Springfield, please state why based on the Historic Guidelines. It is tough to fill up a 69” wide lot with one house and keep the proportions relating to the surround homes. New images will show a landscape buffer that will be enjoyed not only by our clients but also by the surrounding neighborhood. Landscaping was not shown because landscaping is not one of the new construction in a historic area guidelines. This house, as we said before, is built with SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panel) with double pane, low E glass that is argon filled. The AC units will be very efficient and have a higher than required SEER rating. This house has a front porch with an awning and large overhangs facing east and west with 2 foot overhangs around the rest of the perimeter. The wall on the porch is the same height as many front porches in Springfield especially Henry Klutho’s home. This home will have one of the smallest utility bills in Springfield, if not the smallest. Every time it rains 1 inch, this house will collect 868 gallons of water that will not be going down the storm sewer. This water will be used to water the indigenous plants on the site. Having a front porch, even though this house does, is not a criteria for building a new home in The Springfield Historic District. The walls and fencing are pushed 47 feet back from the sidewalk and will have landscaping in front of them. And finally, windows that look like the downtown jail? We weren’t really going to comment on the prison windows statement mainly because we felt like this might be a joke. If this person is serious, we must assume said person is not a huge fan of the much used element of ribbon style windows used in Prairie Style architecture. You can see this style of windows in a pretty good copy of Prairie Style architecture at the corner of 4th Street and Laura Street. Even though we really like this building, this business owner has covered the windows on an entire side of the building with signage. Because of this you may not even recognize these as windows. Covering them is a slap in the face to the ideas prevalent in the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design)concept which is a good thing for communities in general, but is not a criteria for new construction in the Springfield Historic District. Please, keep posting and chatting. If anyone has any particular questions, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at, info@contentdg.com.

  • David says:

    I know I’ll offend half the residents of Springfield by saying this, however it’s an honest opinion and while I cringe at the people who offer design advice to an educated professional based on one’s personal taste and reasons as to why they live in a specific part of town, I feel they should be able to handle the same type of feedback to help Springfield become an honest asset to Jacksonville. One that does not need special glasses or a secret handshake to see its true value.

    Springfield is a neglected historic district. While I know there are lots of people living here who are passionate about the area and I respect that, one just has to drive through the neighborhood to see that abandoned homes and overgrown grass lots are as much it’s fabric as the beautiful homes that have been restored. Attempts to turn this area into a vibrant community have been going on for years and while lots of positive things have changed, it is still unable to turn the corner into a vibrant urban district that the current residents claim they have.

    In my opinion Jacksonville is just far too small of a city to be able to restore this area to any real asset by betting on the people that want to fix up an old home or live in a new “Old” looking home. Also, the idea that one developer can turn this area around is ludicrous. There is not and will never be, enough people wanting to live in Jacksonville, who appreciate this type of lifestyle. With that being said, The city, SPAR, historic preservationists and all of the residents who want to live in this 1908 type environment, in my opinion are the ones who are really stopping this district realizing it’s true potential.

    Urban, Modern and City type dwellings that feature a variety of styles and designs that cater to all walks of life broadens the potential for new residents looking for a more sustainable lifestyle. There are lots of these people, even in Jacksonville! While we should never forget it’s historic charm and should always work to keep, promote and restore Springfield’s historic qualities as a neighborhood, We should really be creating a diverse, forward thinking urban neighborhood that attracts people who want to live a more walk able, urban, modern area. One that Springfield should be.

    This home is a baby step in the right direction. I hope that it happens and engages conversation about Springfield’s real potential because while the current path is cute, it’s just not realistic in this day and age.

  • [...] are pushing an EXCITING project through the proper channels here in Jacksonville – a true modern residence in a historic district (Springfield).  This is an amazing first step for Architects and Designers [...]

  • [...] A few of the revisions are: lowered the solid railing around the front porch 8” to better match existing railing heights in the area, placed the vertical board wood fence along the sides and rear of the property only while re-using the wrought iron fence for areas facing the street, added three windows towards the front of the house on the side of the home facing south on the second floor, and we now show the rain catchment system where the blank wall was previously shown in the earlier design. [...]

  • Johnny Simmons says:

    This is what I have been waiting for to happen in Jacksonville my whole life!! We are such an “un-progressive” city and losing out on my generation so badly because our ways of thinking are a little too sterile and uncreative. Finally, an empty lot in my favority neighborhood in Jacksonville *might* be home to one of the coolest contemporary homes in the city. And finally we are playing that ballgame called being “ahead of the curve.” This house is going for LEED certification, which is the icing on the cake for me!

    Unfortunately, I am worried that SPAR (and maybe the city) will kill this deal. To them, an empty overgrown lot with the possibility that SRG or someone will build another replica of an historic home is better than a lot that is surrounded by history, but offers a quick and awesome breather with this masterpiece that harks back to H.J. Klutho. I sincerely hope all parties approve of the overall plan and that this gets built. We have a ton of history, but we are sorely lacking in anything modern or new-age. Finally, SPAR is the same organization that also allows the tearing down of many of the historic houses (all while not permitting modern houses to be built, hypocritical?). Please SPAR, approve!

  • [...] something in the works that will take advantage of QR codes when construction is completed on the Walnut House, that will also incorporate live music, as we described here in an earlier [...]

  • [...] Retro Builder Sees Improved Market | firstcoastnews.com Heck, even design one yourself: Walnut House But whatever you do…..get to know the neighborhood first: http://www.myspringfield.org. First Friday is [...]

  • John F says:

    Wow.

    I was not expecting to see something like this out of Jax proper, and am pleasantly surprised. I’ll agree with the critique of the sides, but what a refreshing aesthetic that complements the surrounding architecture without copying it or giving it the middle finger. Few things make me want to poke the back of my throat more than garage in front McMansions, or entirely soul-less cookie cutter developments.

    If there were more designs like this out in Jax, I’d be much more enthusiastic about buying property here.

  • [...] Did this ever get built? walnut house – modern: historic district [...]

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