- Area: 6600 ft²
- Year: 2020
Manufacturers: Color Cord, Corten.com, Ritchlite, Stile and Rail, WAC Lighting
- Design Lead: Robert Humble
- Project Designer: Thomas Gesslin
- Interior / Spec: Alex Herbig
- Kitchen Design: Akkarawin Valinluck
- Landscape: Glenn Takagi
- Engineering: Malsam Trang
- City: Seattle
- Country: United States
Text description provided by the architects. A Townhome You’d Actually Like to Live In: Cor-ten Clad, Bright, and Private. On a commercial lot, an existing, single-story building was in disarray and disrepair. Seattle-based Hybrid was approached by the owner to partner on a redevelopment plan to tap into the lot’s high potential– creating four spacious homes, each with a flex space for extra income or living space. These are not your average townhomes; with a striking corten exterior and close connection to a new cafe, the homes were designed to stand out while rooting into the street and neighborhood. In addition to the flex space, Steel Stacks offers a private yard, tall ceilings, lots of light, and a spacious, enclosed rooftop deck, or skyroom.
Seattle is experiencing urban flight–prospective homeowners attracted to the elements of suburban living like front porches, back yards, and more room and light are leaving the city’s core. The team heard a challenge: Provide these elements in the urban context. With Steel Stacks, give homeowners the living experience they seek and deserve. Keep them here, rooted in the city they know, which knows them, to which they add character and a story. Overlapping are cost concerns–what can a middle-class income buy me anymore? Is it worth it? Steel Stacks serves as an example of how market-rate development, too, can be built well and cost-effective, offering an option within reach to young professionals and creatives, avoiding displacement and providing a flexible design to accomodate living here for a long time to come.
Realizing this project, Hybrid made several key moves–none of them perhaps more visible than the corten cladding seen on the exterior of the homes. Robert Humble, Principal of Hybrid: “We like to employ honest materials that can age gracefully and provide a striking contrast to the standard ‘hardi party’ found on most Seattle townhouse projects. The corten will never need to be repainted and reflects the commercial character of the site.” Steel Stacks is just half a mile away from the Nucor steel plant that informs the neighborhoods’ history and development. Romanticising and rooting in the industrial, Steel Stacks honors the past. At Nucor, steel is recycled and turned into rebar–in Steel Stacks, the material is translated into a lofted home full of opportunities and quirks unique only to the commercially zoned context.
The team celebrated roof water collection with enlarged scupper boxes and routed the downspouts to a continuous bioretention planter at the base of the building. This planter creates a vegetated mote that is crossed by a timber bridge to access the front door–a very Pacific Northwest vignette. Inside, the team opted for a reverse floor plan, placing the living room at the top of the home allowing for light, views and ready access to the enveloped rooftop deck. South-facing window walls bring light deep into the homes, with the front two and rear two units staggered to allow for corner windows to look out to the front and back of the site. Two bedrooms and a large shared bath occupy the middle level, with the lowest level comprising the “flex space” that can serve as an AirBnB, home office or master bedroom. The rooftop deck, or skyroom, incorporates full 10’ parapet walls with framed openings to provide exterior rooftop privacy and create a true exterior room. Outdoor string lights will create a virtual “ceiling” to the skyroom.
Robert Humble, Principal: “We take pride in our spatial and material experimentation and feel there is no other townhouse in Seattle that looks anything like this one. Plus, the ground-level flex spaces allow the building to change over time as the needs of its occupants evolve, addressing issues such as housing affordability, displacement and density.” Thoughtfully designed for people who value design and community connection, Steel Stacks embodies a central Hybrid ambition: creating beautiful density. By partnering with the original property owner, Hybrid is providing access to equity to existing residents, resulting not in displacement but growth–a vision for a rapidly gentrifying city that’s easy to get behind.