The Challenge of Multi-Family Housing
December 5, 2007, 1:25 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Urban Architecture

Creating multi-family housing involves a great many architectural challenges naturally, but more often we’re noticing that it is the political, planning, and social organizations that obstruct great ideas from becoming great projects. It seems many cities, like the City of Seattle, have developed a planning process which consistently stands in the way of good design. And whether this process is intentional or not, getting through the red-tape, bureaucratics and general people pleasing depends just as much on persistence and determination as doing good architecture. We believe this is producing, or at least necessitating, a new kind of architect/builder/developer. A hybrid professional who can not only wear a number of different caps, but who can also push a project through as if the quality of our physical environment depends on it.

In light of this idea, we want to revisit some positive beautiful developments in multi-family, or in some cases, denser, more sustainable housing. We have tried one model with our project at Park Modern, and continue to be struck by the efforts of other designers, builders and developers who have managed to make it through all of the stops and get a project done.

A committed peer of ours, Eric at eye-candy has compiled a list of inspired housing on a recent post that is worth the tour (November 21st post). Another buddy of ours, John Paulsen, has tipped us off to a project recently completed by UNI-A from Cambridge, MA. As John puts it, “Props to them for being DIY developers – successfully subdividing two lots and remodeling 2 existing houses and adding two more.” And maybe that’s the point, overcome whatever obstacles it takes and get the sweet work built. You can see the clip of their recent HGTV program or visit their website.

UNI-A xs

The team at Pb Elemental, reviewed on our November 5th post, is another great example of perseverance and wearing every imaginable hat to get a project built.

The work and approach of Jonathan Segal is paramount to this discussion. He has put together a long list of beautiful and affordable modern projects in the San Diego area highlighted below.

K Lofts




The Titan 22 lofts with two-story living spaces directly adjacent to the San Diego Freeway.


The State 2 housing prototypes in San Diego’s urban core


The Waterfront 37 loft apartments and 4 commercial spaces in San Diego’s little Italy neighborhood.


Kettner Row 16 live /work rowhouses in San Diego’s Little Italy Neighborhood.

Kettner Row

7 on Kettner 7 Rowhouses on a triangular shaped lot.

7 on Kettner

The Brickyard 18 live/work units, commercial space and retail space (cafe).


The Angove


Moto Villas 36 loft apartments in downtown San Diego

Moto Villas

As always, let us know of any other multi-family projects we should know about…


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Nichols Court by Gordon Walker comes to mind as does Eric Cobb’s new multi-unit development in W. Seattle – Bon V.I’d also include the work of onionflats in Philadelphia []

Comment by John

John – good additions. Gordon Walker has a long track record of nice multi-family work in town and it’s nice to see Cobb getting in the multi-family game. The recently built project by Onion Flats is gorgeous – it looks like they’ve got a few more hotties in the works.

Comment by buildllc

Architect/builder/developer… hybrid professionals are the wave of future! (I must need a new board because I can’t seam to catch that wave.)

You guys have been busy bloggers. Very nice content – keep up the good work.

(Small world Mr. John Paulsen)

Comment by eric

Ever heard of Sebastian Mariscal? I must admit I am biased as I work for him, but the “apprentice” of jonathan segal has, in my mind, surpassed him in every way. He does some of the nicest/cleanest multi-family (and single family) structures in the San Diego Area.

Comment by Nick Williams

also, check out ted smith (the godfather of architecture/development) and Lloyd Russell (his partner for many years)

Comment by Nick Williams

Nick – We’ve seen Mariscal’s work before but hadn’t put the work together with the name and the projects by Ted Smith and Lloyd Russell are entirely new to us. All high-caliber stuff – thanks for pointing us in the right direction, we’ll get a blog entry up on this phenomenal work in the very near future.

Comment by buildllc

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