In small groups, conversation is spontaneous — it’s what humans do. We are hardwired for sociability. We love to chat, tell stories, reminisce, debate and laugh. In large groups, communication must be organized; but in small groups, it just happens. The problem is that most development does not take this scale of sociability into account, so people can feel isolated in a large commercial project or a sea of houses.
Pacific Northwest architects Ross Chapin and Kevin Cavenaugh translate these lessons into the design of their developments, where they mix relatively small private spaces with shared common space to foster community in pocket neighborhoods, shared office pods, and micro-restaurants. Working at a fine-grained scale of development that allows them to nestle projects within existing neighborhoods, our presenters use custom artwork and beautiful landscaping to create small, cozy and exuberant spaces. Ross and Kevin will share stories and images from completed projects, and perspectives on their dual roles of architect and developer.
Moderated by Eli Spevak
Ross Chapin, FAIA, is an architect and author based on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, WA. His early career focused on design and crafting of custom small houses. He expanded on this to become a passionate advocate for ‘pocket neighborhoods‘ — small groupings of homes around a shared commons — that are building blocks for vibrant and resilient communities. Over the last 15 years, Ross has designed and partnered in developing 6 pocket neighborhoods in the Puget Sound region and has designed dozens of communities for other developers across the US, Canada and the UK. Many of these pioneering developments have received international media coverage, professional peer review and national design awards. Ross’s built projects and innovative ideas are shifting the way homebuyers, neighborhood activists, planners, architects and developers think about housing and community.
Ross’s book, Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World (Taunton Press), has garnered wide acclaim, including a full-page review in USA Today, listing on Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten House & Home Books and one of Planetizen’s Top Ten Planning & Design Books of 2012. Ross’s work has been featured in the New York Times, AARP Bulletin, Toronto Globe & Mail, Forbes, Architectural Record, Builder Magazine, Planning Magazine, and more than 35 books, including Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House series, The Good Green Home, The New Cottage Home, Blueprint Small, Housing for Niche Markets, and Solving Sprawl.
Kevin Cavenaugh, Loeb Fellow ’08 and owner of Guerrilla Development, is a designer and developer from Portland, Oregon. He has created a practice based on the principle of wearing as many hats as possible in the construction of a building. He typically serves as developer, designer, long-term owner and property manager. He has most recently completed three buildings in Portland neighborhoods that use unconventional materials, exhibit strong environmental sensitivity, and bring lively uses to the street. By serving as his own developer, he can decide which risks he wants to take. By owning the buildings after they are complete, he brings the discipline of reasonable operating costs to the design process. And by serving as the property manager, he generates feedback for his future development/design projects. “Changing Portland 3,000 square feet at a time,” Kevin continues to launch innovative developments with designs as creative as the names are fun. Past projects include the “Burnside Rocket,” “Dr. Jim’s”, “Ode to Rose’s,” “The Box & One,” and “The Ocean.” Current ones include “The Fair-Haired Dumbbell,” “The Zipper,” and “Two/Thirds.” His buildings includes such innovations as a well that brings water from 300 below ground (thus requiring less energy to heat it and cool it), an edible green roof that serves as a food source for a fourth floor restaurant, and sliding window-shading panels designed by 26 different artists.
Eli Spevak, Loeb Fellow ’14, founded a development and general contracting company, Orange Splot LLC, to playfully pioneer new models of community-oriented, affordable, green housing in Portland, OR. Orange Splot communities feature clusters of small homes nestled within existing neighborhoods, original local artwork, and shared interior and exterior common spaces. Before striking out on his own, Spevak had worked for over a decade in the non-profit sector managing the finance and construction of over 250 units of affordable housing.
Orange Splot communities respond to growing demand for smaller homes arranged around common spaces, making it easy (and fun) to share resources. Completed projects feature a blend of accessory dwelling units, renovated single family homes, detached bedrooms, refurbished apartments, and new multi-family construction. Most recently, Orange Splot co-developed and built Cully Grove, an intergenerational 16-home pocket community on 2 acres with a farm-in-the-city theme. Before that, Spevak partnered with Proud Ground, a community land trust, to create a permanently affordable community adjacent to an elementary school. On the side, Spevak engages in policy and advocacy work to remove regulatory & financing barriers to space-efficient housing. He also spreads the word about accessory dwelling units through bike tours of tiny homes and www.accessorydwellings.org
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