Monday, July 27, 2009

L.Architecture: Behind the Levee

There aren’t many examples of contemporary residential architecture in Grand Forks, ND. I was up there recently touring the Red River Greenway, a more than 2000-acre open space implemented after the great floods of 1997. Mostly, the region is a sea of quaint neighborhoods with quaint 1920s – 1950s bungalows, ranches, and the like surrounded by treeless subdivisions of new millennium vinyl and faux stone mini-mansions.

But I found a couple of notables. Strangely, they seem attracted to the Greenway.

That’s a house in the Elmwood neighborhood, just south of downtown Grand Forks. Melanie Parvey, who was the City of Grand Forks’ Greenway coordinator through much of the design’s implementation (and who was bicycling with me on that sunny, cool day in June) said that this house was built, of course, after the new floodwall. When this particular access point was proposed, the neighborhood was vehemently against it. But a bird-lover with an open mind centered her front door smack-dab on this little landscape window.

Debate the merits of the building all you want, but it was deliberately designed – in its angular layout and entrance location -- to take advantage of the new landscape across the street. Closer to downtown, there’s an even bolder (when compared to its surroundings) home.

And yes, it sits immediately adjacent to another opening in the floodwall (on the left side of the photo below).

So why are these green space accesses attracting contemporary architecture? Are the kind of people that see the benefit of a massive, multi-state, river-centered park also those who see the benefit of a uniquely-designed home? Are the people who can afford land near these accesses the same ones that can afford to hire architects? Either way, there is some kind of interface happening here between the Greenway and the home.

Unfortunately, design credits can be hard to track down, do I don’t know who designed these. If you do (especially if it’s you), post it here. (The Greenway itself, incidentally, was planned by North Carolina-based Greenways, Inc. and detailed by Damon Farber Associates.)

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