A four unit townhome, stepping up a hill on an urban corner site in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood.
The Aurora is a four unit townhome located in the eclectic Goose Hollow neighborhood of Portland, close to bus and light rail stops. The site is a small southeast corner lot, with a slope down to the east.
The design was inspired by the quality of light in the stair hall of the Charnley House. This was used to anchor the multiple layers of meaning in the scheme, integrated into a cohesive, yet dynamic whole.
By giving each unit a large open volume for the living space flanked by a support volume containing the stair, bathrooms, laundry, and pantry, we get light and air to all rooms, including the bathrooms. On the second floor this arrangement, using the plywood and glass partition system, allows for greater programmatic flexibility.
The stair volume is open. Skylights bring light to the very center of the unit (traditionally in rowhouses a dark, unfriendly space). The large living volumes also have light from the north and south. The partition system allows light and a spatial connection to all of the rooms on the upper floors.
We derived design principles from traditional rowhouse typology and characteristics of neighboring houses. Among these are large window bays adjacent to the entry stair; hierarchy of volumes; expressed base, body, and attic; porches; and front steps.
In response to the scale of the large neighboring houses; the corner lot; and the slope of the site, we covered the units with a single roof, sloped to the east. The end unit (where the owner will live) is unique and relates to its neighbor. The massing of the volumes, party wall expression, over-arching roof, stepping of the units, and the composition of vertical and horizontal elements helps give each unit its own identity while also making a cohesive whole.
To compensate for the relatively small size of the units, each unit has abundant outdoor living space, with varying degrees of privacy. To connect to the street, each unit has a front porch, between the living room and the sidewalk. The porch floor elevation was “tuned” to provide social interaction without giving up a sense of protection.
We utilize large window bays for passive solar heating, with vegetative shading from planters at each porch. All rooms have operable windows, including the bathrooms, along with intake louvers and automatic operable skylights for secure nighttime cold air flushing. We were able to incorporate PV panels on the roof even though it faces east, due to the low slope.
John Maternoski while working with Tripp Architecture. Design and sketches by William Tripp.