The above house near the Parkdale market got an award of merit for urban design in the City’s recent competition. Frankly, I was surprised, and bit annoyed too.
The upper deck, which doesn’t relate to the street so much as soar above it, does have a neat angled sun roof. The exterior materials are well handled, and the design is neat. But only neat in an architectural way. I don’t think it is good urban design.
First, the entire front yard of these two houses is gravel. Is it really a xeriscape garden? Fess up, it’s two car parking spaces taking up 100% of the frontage. Front yard parking is justifiably frowned upon by the City and its residents for a variety of reasons: it looks bad. It cheapens the look of a street. It removes useful on-street public parking in favour of private parking. It eliminates green space. Can this front yard ever support a tree? Cars have to cross the sidewalk, which has become just a lengthy dip for the w-i-d-e driveway. And those sono-tubed columns of concrete below the steel posts grate on my eyes.
It is, however, convenient for the householder; and increases the selling price of the house.
The City’s prize went to a pair of semi-detached infill houses. Rather than side by side, as tradition has wont, this house follows the new trend of putting one house forward on the lot, and the other behind it, facing the yard. Provided the back unit has a front door facing the street, presto, it’s a side-by-side. Many times this works out really well.
I took these pic on a weekday. All the City’s pic for the awards ceremony also showed the houses this way. Car-free. Nary a shot with two cars parked there. I suspect that this house, or any similar, would look rather different with a bright yellow Hummer and a gray Astrovan twinset.
The City just went through a lengthy public consultation and drafted new infill rules. These are chock full of measures designed to discourage or ban the front-of-house-disguised-as-a-garage look. And its full of measures to keep front yards green. Reducing front yard parking for new infills was a key factor in the process. And to encourage living space at street level rather than one floor up. And yet … this whole house front at the sidewalk level, or the pedestrian view from the sidewalk on either side of the street, is of an open carport, or a side-wall-free garage.
I realize the new rules are yet to come into effect. And this house was legit when built. And no doubt there were compromises to get it built at all.
Am I the only person who thinks it a tad … odd … for the City to grant an award of urban merit to an infill that runs contrary to the spirit of their contemporary thinking?
And no, it is not a cantilevered house. It’s a carport. And it is not urban-friendly enough for a prize. We can and must do better.