Design of the apartment building at the Takoma Metro: offering better design cues
But yes, the building design as currently rendered is not particularly special and I would argue that the site--at the heart of the neighborhood and its commercial district--is deserving of a more distinguished treatment given its location in/between two historic districts.
The Takoma Park Historic District Brochure (DC) discusses the period of architectural significance of the district and provides information on the architectural styles which typify the area.
-- City of Takoma Park, Maryland Historic Preservation
-- Design Guidelines for Commercial Buildings, City of Takoma Park
-- Montgomery County Historic Preservation
-- Montgomery County Design Guidelines (introductory chapters on history of the county, and architectural history, and a chapter with two-page descriptions of each historic district)
Ideally, the design could reference one of these styles, as is recommended by Stephen Semes, author of The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation ("The Bias Against Tradition," Wall Street Journal) who argues that new construction in historic districts should be complementary and reference historic styles rather than employing a more "modern" and usually visually discordant, design.
It happens that one of the nearby apartment buildings, Gables Takoma (pictured above), which opened in 2008 on Blair Road on the west side of the Metro Station, has a reasonably distinguished design.
It was designed by area architect Eric Colbert but is of high quality because the building was designed to be sold as condominiums.
Instead of condos, it became an apartment building as a result of the 2008 real estate crash and financing problems faced by the original owner, who then sold it to the Gables Apartments group (owned by Trammell Crow).
In the early years of Takoma Park, there were many large buildings constructed out of wood in the Victorian styles of the time, and I think that high quality wooden buildings such as the Ocean House Hotel in Rhode Island are good examples of this kind of architecture which could be referenced in designing a facade treatment for a building at the Takoma Metro Station. (Flickr photo by Centerbrook Architects.)
It has a vague Second Empire feel at the top of the building/cornice line, and some of the brick buildings constructed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Takoma Park in the 1930s evoke that style.
It's located between Willow and Laurel Streets on the west and east, Eastern Avenue on the north, and Aspen Street on the south, and can be accessed through the alley off Aspen or a walkway from Eastern Avenue.
Monroe Street Market project in Brookland, on land owned by Catholic University and developed by Abdo Development and the Bozzuto Group.
It's a more distinguished design, at least from this elevation (looking east from Michigan Avenue towards Monroe Street), than is typical of such buildings that are being constructed across the city.
Another building, not pictured, along the Metropolitan Branch railroad, references warehouse style architecture typical of buildings constructed along the railroad line in the 1920s and 1930s.
I'd argue that there are some "proportion" issues with this design, but the general idea pertains.
These buildings vaguely reference some of the historic architecture present in buildings on the nearby Catholic University and Trinity University campuses.
Labels: apartments, architectural detailing, commercial district revitalization planning, historic preservation, multi-unit housing, real estate development, transit oriented development, urban design/placemaking