Monday, October 27, 2008

Best Little Rowhouses in Philly

There are times when your eyes start to glaze over at the sight of yet another pseudo-historic, boxy brick rowhouse going up on the streets of Philadelphia. But the latest offering from the Onion Flats collective guarantees the reverse effect. Your eyes should pop when you get a look of its new eight-unit Thin Flats on Laurel Street in Northern Liberties.

I reviewed the project in my column on Friday, and took the liberty of calling it the best new rowhouse project in the city. The way that architect Tim McDonald creates a sense of movement in the facade of Thin Flats struck me as an updated version of the strategy that Baroque church architects once employed. That undulating, textured facade "dances with the exuberant boogie-woogie rhythms of a Mondrian painting," I wrote.

But this isn't just another pretty, edgy face for Northern Liberties. Thin Flats is on track to receive the highest rating (platinum) from the U.S. Green Building Council for its package of energy saving materials and low carbon footprint.
In the photo below, you can glimpse the roof deck, with its water-draining plantings. You can't see them here, but there is also an array of solar thermal panels which McDonald says are capable of providing all the heat for hot water and the underfloor radiant heating system.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was skeptical after viewing the NY Arch League presentation of this project. However, there does appear to be some real architecture here, not just pie in the sky, green fantasy land housing slight of hand.

Thanks for posting the additional photos.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are marvelous! The latest in making Northern Liberties the most interesting neighborhood in the city. Don't get me wrong - I love traditional homebuilding when it's really good, but these are a delight.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, nitpicky, but ummmm ... these "flats" are not very flat, are they?

2:45 PM  
Blogger Brian Hsu said...

I really enjoyed last week's column on Thin Flats. It's really rare to hear of projects so perfectly executed all around. This is exactly the sort of development the city needs more of!

7:59 PM  
Blogger Act. Research said...

Row houses. Born in one. I fully know that a row house is a row house is a row house no matter the facade

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad they build all of these in NoLibs and Fishtown...if they stretched a little and put them in places like Brewerytown or Pennsport, it might inspire builders in those other changing areas to think beyond the HomeDepot junk they have been putting up there.

12:39 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

Lovely photos of some very interesting and sustainable houses. The traditional rowhouse is very efficient, but these designs are clearly a lot more so.

Aesthetically, I'm a little concerned about how these will look in a few years, assuming they are well-maintained. Just asking. I like them now, so probably I would like them when they've been on site for longer.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should get a job with Dwell where critics give credit to all sorts of mediocre projects. I will admit these buildings are better than most, but they do not have the sophisticated architecture of a few other developer-driven townhouses I have seen in Northern Liberties. A project on north 3rd street is a much finer example of a really sophisticated blend of art and architecture. I don't know the author of those and I will admit that I am fatigued with the PR machine of Tim MacDonald so my judgment may be clouded. His interiors seem especially clumsy and much of the exterior has a "wow" factor that wouldn't fly in most discerning architectural circles. I rarely see this Marmol Radziner style of design outside of the U.S., but a few local firms like QB3 and the folks who did the 3rd street project are head and shoulders above the flats folks.

9:02 PM  

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