Guide to new Philadelphia rowhouse features: stoops, garages, gas meters, bay windows, etc.

From Hidden City Philadelphia, a series of posts called the “Field Guide to New Row House Construction”.  From the introduction: “New row houses are larger, bolder, and more visually incoherent than those built before World War II.  Even so, architects and developers still have a limited palette with which to work, especially on infill projects where the small lot size is a constraint on form. This makes details such as as lintels, stoops, cornices and bay windows all the more important, yet they are often given short shrift.  Meanwhile, new design problems such as integrating first floor garages and gas meters have made creating a coherent design a greater challenge than before.”

Gas Meter: “Most Philadelphia row houses rely on a Quaker simplicity for their good looks–a creamy marble stoop, red brick, white shutters.  What to do with gas meters, those ugly metal pimples that have popped up on the face of new row house construction?  You can hide it in a box, either plain, or stylish, or better yet, make the box match the building and put flowers on top of it.”

Garage Door: “No single factor changed the use and the look of row house facades more than when the City mandated off street parking for new row house construction decades ago. A garage means losing much of the stoop, as well as the first floor window.  It also effectively deadens the interplay between pedestrian and building, giving a passer-by nothing to look at or into.  It takes some truly inspired architecture to achieve even a modicum of harmony on a row house with a first floor garage.”

Front Doors and Stoops: “A little color can really liven up a doorway, yet the vast majority of doors on new construction are black, white or gray.  No doubt builders choose neutral colors to appeal (or at least not offend) the greatest number of buyers.  Hopefully, homeowners will add a little more variety over time, as this  one did.  After he painted the grille work, trim and door, several neighbors followed his lead painting their doors as well.”

Bays and Balconies: “In the search for more square footage and light, many architects and builders of new row houses in Graduate Hospital have turned to the bay window.  Beyond its functionality, though, the bay window provides the most obvious way to differentiate one row from another,  and developers have run wild with this relative freedom, experimenting with new shapes, colors, materials and proportions.  Along with their appearance, what’s new and different about this profusion of bay windows is their placement on the second and third floor.  The problem with the new second-and-third floor facades is that they tend to make the buildings appear top-heavy.”

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