Creative Architecture Acknowledged at The Nationals

Interesting and compelling architecture provides the creative structure for what is ultimately
a three-dimensional work of art

By Patrick S. Duffy

“Life is architecture and architecture is the mirror of life.”—I.M. Pei. If there’s one thing that came through in the Gold Award winners of this year’s Nationals in Las Vegas, it was architecture. Like a screenplay for a hit movie, interesting and compelling architecture provides the creative structure for what is ultimately a three-dimensional work of art. At a time when builders and developers need to continuously move the bar forward in order to compete with resale products they delivered just a year ago, architecture is becoming more important than ever in order to capture the attention of all generations.

In the case of Dorn Homes’ Astoria in Prescott, Arizona—winner of the architecture award for single-family homes under $350,000—the challenge was how to provide buyers with a new, single-story, low-maintenance home with modern touches that appealed to retirees while also acknowledging the unique character of the historic homes in the local area. That wasn’t all. The building sites were also just 45 feet in width while still needing to offer both a two-car, front-loading garage and an entry that would stand out. In the case of The Charlotte Plan, architects Felten Group came up with a modern farmhouse elevation featuring a steep, pitched roof, rustic wood posts, second-story windows which suggest a usable attic, and a barn-style garage door. The elevation is also carried into the home, with more traditional cap and board siding instead of the usual drywall.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Colorado, builder Infinity Home Collection hired Woodley Group to introduce a thoroughly modern twist to its thin but tall, three-level homes on small lots with views of the downtown skyline. By using large windows throughout, natural light accentuates the volume while also providing view corridors. To connect the three levels, the designers also introduced a minimalist stairway to lock them together in a more seamless way. With the main living areas on the first two floors, the third floor is reserved for a penthouse with an adjacent roof terrace. The result is the Alto Plan at Midtown—winner of the architecture award for single-family homes priced from $500,000 to $750,000—a decidedly modern, urban home which is instead served in a suburban setting.

In San Diego, builder CalAtlantic homes had both lot and height restrictions to work around for its Apex at Civita project, with its Plan 1 winner of the architecture award for single-family homes priced from $750,000 to $1 million. Deciding to also go for a modern aesthetic featuring flat roofs, lots of glass and industrial-like materials, Woodley Group came up with plans that would take advantage of the city’s balmy climate with dual outdoor entertainment spaces. To maximize usable space, other features include flex areas so homeowners can maximize the space for their own particular uses, oversized kitchen islands to better incorporate indoor and outdoor spaces together, first-level guest suites which open onto the backyards, and carports which extend well in front of the garage doors.

Over in Orange County’s coveted Monarch Beach, William Lyon hired Bassenian Lagoni for its Grand Monarch project, with its Plan 2 winner of the architecture award for all attached home plans. What’s most interesting about this project was how this triplex building really looks like a large, Italian-style mansion. Only once inside would a visitor know that this is actually one of three luxury townhomes of nearly 3800 square feet with a game room, a media room, great room, large covered loggia and a two-car attached garage. Best of all, however, is its location hugging the coast and access to the highly regarded St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, and its various high-level services and amenities.

But perhaps the most interesting winner was Lumina in San Francisco, winner of the architecture award for attached projects. A project by Tishman Speyer, this four-project building is the largest condominium development in the history of the city, which is certainly no stranger to either high-rise condos or compelling architecture. In this case, the glass curves of this collection of 8- to 42-story towers—seemingly shaped by the constant winds which bluster through the city—were meant to capture the spirit of modern San Francisco while also not overwhelming the building site with sharp angles. For the lucky residents who can afford one of these 656 homes, they’ll also benefit from an amenity list that includes a two-story lounge, rooftop terrace, fitness center with climbing wall and a 70-foot lap pool. The architecture is just another bonus.

Patrick S. Duffy is a Principal with MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors and contributes to BuilderBytes. He can be reached at
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