Occupying one full city block along a busy residential street, the site required Waechter Architecture to devise a unified design strategy that could remain simple for construction and budgetary reasons while creating a distinct and coherent architectural presence. As an urban gesture, Origami struck a balance between a client’s ambition for a unique design while respecting the scale and character of the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Understanding the dilemmas of the site, we wanted to avoid a strategy of either fragmented individual buildings or a monolithic block. Our design takes inspiration from the process of origami, in which a single sheet of paper can be manipulated through folding to produce more complex figures in its form and play of light and shadows.
The massing of the wood framed, concrete slab is broken down by articulating each individual unit while maintaining the sculptural impact of the whole. With “the fold” being the formal driver, the project’s roofscape connects the facades of each unit, linking their gables, while playing with the overall perception of scale. Working within the project’s modest budget, Waechter utilized cost effective materials of Hardie siding and asphalt shingles to bring together the exterior walls and roof surface. Like a piece of paper, these materials lack inherent shadow relief and texture, pushing the formal concept even further to animate the facade. Origami’s constantly evolving character elevates its humble materiality and activates the street across all seasons and times of day.
The folded facades of the townhouses are complemented by more streamlined geometry on the inside. Large rectangular volumes consolidating service areas, such as bathrooms, closets,and mechanical spaces, are strategically located on each floor to define different living areas. Working together with the exterior wall surfaces, each unit gains an individual character, while maintaining efficiencies and regularities in planning and construction. On the top floor of each townhome, vaulted ceilings bring the formal language of the development into contact with the interior, creating distinct, voluminous bedrooms with views out onto the city.
Holding the street edge along three of its sides, the project’s footprint frames a shared internal court at the back, where each townhome has private space for gardens, entertaining and parking.
Rather than overwhelm the neighbors with a singular form or fragment the building through hyperarticulation, Origami instead represents a more novel approach. Through its sculptural form, the project gains a subtly iconic identity, in which the folds simultaneously break down the mass, providing opportunities for both individual ownership and expression.