AIA Seattle's FutureShack showcases projects by local architects, creative responses to our fast-morphing urban lifestyles, across a wide range of building types, budgets, constraints and social agendas. It is part public debate, part recognition of innovative architecture.

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WHEN IT COMES to banking on our property to finance the next move, are we cautiously optimistic? Worried but hopeful? Filled with dread?

Depends on which polls, surveys and listings you read. For the most part, home sales around here are up a bit, but median prices are down. Unemployment stuck in the mud around 9 percent. With scholarly conversations concerning the economy and the horizon comes the phrase “diminished expectations.”

We all continue to hold our collective breath. Waiting. Still, we’ve got to live somewhere. Somehow. And despite all odds in this whiplash of a recession, nearly nine in 10 Americans still say that owning a home is an important part of the American dream. This according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. This even though many of them doubt their home is a good investment.

So, maybe the future is the better place to dwell right now. Dream a little, live a little.

Just in time, then, comes the third annual FutureShack event Tuesday at Seattle Center. And this year it is part of something larger, Seattle Design Festival, a new, 10-day celebration of all things design.

AIA Seattle’s FutureShack showcases projects by local architects, creative responses to our fast-morphing urban lifestyles, across a wide range of building types, budgets, constraints and social agendas. It is part public debate about how we want to live and, with the selection of this year’s five highlighted projects, part professional recognition of innovative architecture. It is an opportunity for the public and the professionals to talk. How can residential architecture improve not only the quality of one family’s life, but also its neighborhood, its city?

This year’s winners continue a focus on density that nourishes soul, work life and community. Flexibility is even more vital now, when flexibility might also mean income level.

And so, before revealing this year’s chosen projects, take a moment to consider for yourself: In a perfect, but fiscally responsible and reasonable, world, how do you want to live?

Here is how three young couples, peering into their own futures, answered that question. For two of them, the home of their dreams seems a long way off. For the other, the future is here.

Brain rich, bank-account poor

David, 27, and Carmen Lasby, 26, have been married two years. They grew up here and see their future here. But it is a future on the other side of a mountain of debt — hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans and credit-card debt.

David finished his first year teaching at Newport High School. In June he earned a master’s in teaching for the pay bump, about $5,000. He also taught summer school for the extra income. Carmen is studying for a doctorate in psychology at Northwest University in Kirkland and won’t finish until 2015. Her goal is to counsel those usually unable to afford it.

“I applied for 15 jobs and got one interview,” David says of his relief in getting a full-time job to support them both.

The Lasbys moved to student housing at Northwest, in a tidy beige apartment complex, because they couldn’t afford the rent on their Totem Lake apartment. They live in 900 square feet with two bedrooms and two baths. Comfortable, clean and cozy; they have made it a home.

With about $250,000 in debt, says David, it’s almost like having a mortgage already. “A house and a baby seem very far away. Neither of us come from wealthy families, and we want to be able to provide for ourselves.

“Our dream house would be large but not for the reasons you might think. We want to be able to open our home to people in a kind of a street outreach. People are very important to us in our career choices, and we want our home to reflect that.

“I love to garden. So we’d like to have some land, but close to the city to interact. We’re pretty strongly tied to Seattle. We love it a lot.”

They envision being financially clear in about eight years.

And their future shack is a yesteryear shack. “I like older-style homes,” Carmen says. “I don’t really like contemporary. I like some character. I like those big, old Seattle houses. I would like to have a big porch.”

A modern neighborhood in one building

Josiah Johnson is a modern-design junkie. Can’t get enough.

“I follow all the design blogs,” he says, iPad on the dining-room table. “I’m on 360 Modern every Saturday when they post the new houses.”

In 2008, Johnson, 35, and his wife, Chase O’Connor, 34, were the first to buy into Park Modern, a building of 12 contemporary condos in the Ravenna/north university neighborhood. They like clean lines, bright open spaces and minimalist living: Their one-bedroom home is 850 square feet, with 400 square feet of private deck beyond the sliding doors. They paid $425,000 for it.

“I’m grilling all year ’round; putting our beers in the snow,” Johnson says.

“I’ve always been very design conscious, very minimalist. I always want to live in a fairly modern space, livable and warm, but still very clean and simple.”

This is their first home. And they love their live-in neighborhood.

“Modern Melrose Place is what I call this,” Johnson says. “We lived in a large apartment complex on Lower Queen Anne before this. We’d been looking for nine months for a contemporary condo. Our real estate agent didn’t show us this because he thought we wouldn’t like the neighborhood. But we wanted a small footprint and a smaller building. The appeal here was to get to know your neighbors, and that certainly has been true.”

Johnson is on his second Internet startup venture, Pentad Solutions and Pentad Analytics, after selling the first. O’Connor is compensation and benefits manager at Virginia Mason Hospital & Medical Center. The economy hasn’t hurt them much. But they also don’t want more living space than they need.

“We have one car, so my wife jumps on the bus to go to work,” Johnson says. “I go to Sounders games, I jump on the bus. We go downtown, we jump on the bus. Herkimer Coffee is right here. I keep telling them they need to put in a dumb waiter so I can be even lazier.”

Johnson’s dream is what they have now, but with room for kids.

“I’d like to build Park Modern II; be close to grocery stores, parks, shops. I like opening the door, forcing the family to go out and to the park, to explore the neighborhood. Like Europe, where you go to the butcher shop and the cheese shop.”

This would not be the way Johnson grew up in Everett. His grandparents, however, lived in a West Seattle Midcentury modern. It left an impression.

“The house I grew up in had seven different little lawns, and we had a push mower,” Johnson says. “So now I hate lawns.”

Business before residence

Jenny and Anson Klock bought their Greenwood starter house nine years ago. A 1939 bungalow with a 1980s remodel when they found it in 2002 for $330,000. Two bedrooms, an office, big deck with mountain views. The Klocks made it theirs with upgrades and color.

Now in their late 30s, they are surprised to find themselves still there.

“We never thought we’d be here this long,” Jenny says. “But maybe we’ll sit tight now; get a little pad in Whistler when we can.

“We vacillate between sticking with this and watching this neighborhood become what we hope it to be, styling this out the way we’d like it to be — and moving.”

Their dilemma is twofold. First, the chef couple started their own business in September 2008, just as the economy was taking a nose dive.

Picnic is their combination deli, wine shop, catering, cafe on Phinney Ridge. It was designed and built by Build llc. in fresh contemporary style. Over the past three years the business has been all-consuming: taking their time and resources.

And second, “when you get into a beautiful work space you go home and think ‘ugh.’ So we also think about finding a lot and having Kevin (Eckert) and Andrew (van Leeuwen of Build) make us a new house.”

She’s envisioning warm contemporary or an updated Midcentury modern with a mix of materials, lots of glass, environmentally sound.

In those nine years, though, they have become fans of their neighborhood. Maybe this starter house will do just fine. “We love North Seattle for sure,” Anson says. No sidewalks, but large lots. Theirs is 8,000 square feet.

“And we love that Olympic view,” Jenny says. “There’s something about a sunset we relish.

“Our plans shifted with the business. But since all of that happened we learned that we need less. We’re happy with what we have.”

2026 East Madison (unbuilt)

Firm Name: Weinstein A|U

Credits: Design team: Ed Weinstein, Lesley Bain, Kevin Tabari, Daniel Goddard. Client: JC Mueller Llc. Structural engineer: Yu & Trochalakis PLLC. Landscape architect: Hewitt (Kris Snider)

Project type: Mixed use. Multifamily residential and commercial

Size: 222 apartments over 40,180 square feet, six stories; 9,100 square feet for street-level retail and underground parking

Location: 2026 E. Madison St., Seattle

Firm’s description: 2026 East Madison is designed to promote a revitalized urban identity for the Madison-Miller neighborhood, between Seattle’s Capitol Hill and Madison Valley. 2026 East Madison addresses the challenges of connecting an auto-oriented commercial strip and a residential neighborhood along a major arterial; encouraging public activity while maintaining privacy; and sensitively managing a disparate building scale within an existing fabric.

Pass-throughs at street level carry residents from public into the shared central courtyard. The interplay of unit types establishes an intermediate building scale, responds to the differing character of the surrounding streets and imparts a refined grain to the larger building. Situational responses along the street edges generate a fine grain scale at the pedestrian level while also expanding upon the ambitions of an adjacent development to create an urban center.

Jury’s comments: Fantastic forward-thinking statement for Seattle that we can build densely, but also humanistically . . . Nice on the street, good neighbor offers amenities to both public and private. The public space serves the neighborhood and the residents, and the separation between public and private has been nicely handled. The project addresses the landscape on a busy commercial street. The modulation on the façade is great, not formulaic.

FutureFlex: Admiral Live-Work

Firm Name: zimmerraystudios

Credits: Design team: Robert Zimmer, Doug Drape, Kevin Robinson. Structural engineer: Jay Taylor, Magnusson Klemencic Associates. Client: Lara Swimmer, Robert Zimmer

Project Type: A single-family residence and accessory dwelling unit (ADU)

Size: Two units; 4,756 square feet (includes two-car garage)

Location: 2514 41st Ave. S.W., Seattle

Firm’s description: The residence and the ADU expand and contract to accommodate the occupants and their needs. The ADU fronts a commercial zone and serves as a barrier to a private courtyard. Vertically stacked storage rooms become a future elevator. A public space in the residence morphs from conference room by day to home theater at night.

Expandable, income-generating potential improves a building’s economic viability and is a creative approach to project financing. An ADU is a potential income generator. With minor modifications, two residential units can grow to three and, just as easily, could become one to three commercial units. Surrounded by multifamily on two sides and commercial on another, the structure is designed to adapt to zoning changes.

The contemporary design, with an envelope of structural insulated panels, is honestly expressed throughout: wood-and-steel columns, exposed joists and engineered-lumber beams.

Jury comments: Effective negotiation between different zoning areas: commercial, multifamily and residential. The courtyard is a nice outdoor room that acts as extension of the inside. The structure responds in scale nicely to the cottages around it. Innovative approach to adaptable design.

This project meets the very definition of the program by providing the flexible housing/workplace option, which addresses the generational and societal shift we’ll see over the next decade in our cities.

Pike Station Live/Work Lofts (unbuilt)

Firm Name: atelierjones llc.

Credits: Design team: Susan Jones, Brian Gerich, Greg Bishop

Project Type: Ground-floor commercial, upper two floors residential

Size: 7,057 square feet. Seven units, each with 500+ square feet storefront retail space

Location: 34th Avenue and East Pike Street, Seattle

Firm’s description: Situated on a corner in the commercial core of Madrona, Pike Station is a sustainable community for residents and the neighborhood. Each live/work unit has a retail space opening to the sidewalk. The units have private rooftop decks for urban agriculture and two-bedroom/two-bathroom living spaces. A community courtyard allows south light into each unit and nurtures a living wall. The property owner, an artist, seeks to create a community of artists, environmental activists and architects.

There is groundwater recharge with permeable paving, cisterns and a living wall for graywater reuse. Rainwater will be stored in underground cisterns to service rooftop irrigation, toilets and laundry appliances. Photovoltaic arrays provide power for community lighting. Each unit is designed to accommodate photovoltaics and incorporates energy-efficient assemblies to reduce heating/cooling loads.

Jury comments: Promotes sustainability and demonstrates how it can be done within small-scale infill. The idea of live/work combined with sustainability is commendable; reinforces the idea of sustainability with life/work balance. Many live/work units are just lofts, so this could be more flexible. It fits in with the neighborhood despite different style. There is value in keeping artists in the city, not pushing them out.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Patient House

Firm Name: Weinstein A|U

Project Type: 80 rooms for out-of-town oncology patients and caregivers during cancer treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Credits: Design team: Ed Weinstein, Scot Carr, Cory Harris, Danielle Rawson. Landscape: Karen Kiest Landscape Architects. Acoustical engineer: Cormac Deavy, Arup, also structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing. Envelope consultant: Jim Freeling, Bee Consulting

Size: 84,000 square feet, each room 275 to 550 square feet

Location: 207 Pontius Ave. N., Seattle

Firm’s description: The project presents a unique urban building type that responds to the specific needs of its community while incorporating sustainable building technology and contributing to the city and neighborhood. The intent is to provide a home away from home; an affordable, convenient, safe, noninstitutional housing option for patients and caregivers. The building strives to create space that will have a healing influence by reducing stress and facilitating interaction.

The building is seeking LEED gold certification. Through a high-performance heating and cooling system with heat recovery, extensive daylighting, energy-efficient lighting, a high-performance thermal envelope and energy-efficient components, the building has been designed to meet the Architecture 2030 Challenge. Low VOC adhesives, sealants, paints, carpets and composite wood items further contribute to a healthful interior.

Jury comments: Good program serving a need. Avoids typical medical clichés associated with this kind of facility. Responds to urban context wonderfully; elegant building facility for healing. Intent to meet the 2030 Challenge is impressive. Children’s play room occupies premium spot. High-quality finishes — important for people under stress. Striking architecture, amazing use. Very respectful.


Firm Name: HKP architects

Credits: Architect: David Hall. Client: David and Catherine Hall. Contractor: The Robbins Co. Structural engineer: West Coast Engineers

Project Type: Studio/Guesthouse

Size: 448 square feet

Location: Edison, Skagit County

Firm’s description: A studio/guesthouse in a rural village in the Samish River flood plain. South-facing, floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors open onto backyard gardens and pastoral views. The butterfly roof and southern exposure allow the concrete floor to capture passive solar heat, while the steeper portion of the roof is canted 30 degrees to maximize electrical production from nine photovoltaic panels. An exterior sunshade protects the studio from overheating; also, the narrow floor plan allows for even daylighting and natural ventilation. The studio is elevated on salvaged cedar posts and a minimal concrete foundation, leaving the underside open to potential floodwater.

The simplicity of the footprint and the passive solar approach could easily be adapted to a city lot or vacation parcel. Additional uses include a detached dwelling unit, vacation cabin or small house. Prefabrication possibilities as well.

Jury comments: Interesting dialogue about climate; design could adapt to many situations without fancy finishes. It could be emergency housing in an era of climate change and rising sea levels. Responds well to solar orientation, sun-shading devices, roof form that integrates solar collector. Inventive use of materials. Economic, no extraneous moves. Lightness and playfulness without a bunch of extras. It opens up to connect the occupants with the landscape. Beyond rural location, this project could be discussed as disaster-relief housing or as an urban ADU. Small is beautiful!

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.