Rowhouse typology is usually characterized by repetition–copy-paste, copy-paste, all along the length of the structure, each unit mirroring the one that came before–but by incorporating disparate aspects of their multifaceted environment, Seattle’s Corson Rowhouses break the mold. At the corner of Willow and Corson, where urban living intersects industry, the residences in this six-unit multifamily complex find unity in individual expression by playing with the arrangement of modular design elements.
Together, those modular elements compose a bold industrial palette. Concrete masonry units hug the ground floor, occasionally stretching up the height of the three-story structure. Black steel frames the windows and doors. Black cement board panels encapsulate much of the second and third stories–but here the palette also softens. In conjunction with panels of vertical wood slats, horizontal strips of white siding balance out the darker components of the facade.
Though every unit incorporates these materials, no two units express them in the same way. The wood slats never appear in the same place, the arrangement of the white siding is not uniform, and the window pattern varies from one wall to the next. Neither the stairwells, the balconies, nor the steel canopies that hang over the doors repeat with any regularity. Steel mesh, which allows for the growth of landscaped greenwalls up the building, overlays some sections of the concrete masonry units, but not others. There’s no question when driving past or viewing from afar that solidarity exists among the complex’s six units, and the relationship between the building and its surrounding residential and industrial communities is clear. But upon closer inspection it’s also evident: each segment of the structure differentiates itself from the others. Every home is unique.
Consistent with rowhouse typology, each unit expands vertically. Around the stairwells, the spaces are triple-height. On the ground floor, glass panels flow between the steel guardrails that separate the stairwell from the living space.
Upstairs, a steel-framed sliding glass door separates the sleeping quarters from the rest of the primary suite. Details like these allow the floorplan to remain economical while feeling larger, by both connecting and partitioning adjacent spaces.
Plural’s Director of Architecture, Josh Carel, designed Corson Rowhouses while working at b9 Architects. On many levels, the project is an exercise in duality. Steel, glass, and concrete nod to surrounding industry, while wood panels and room for green growth up the facade–as well as bioswales behind the building, which help with stormwater retention and management–integrate the residential and organic. Aesthetically and practically, the exercise is a success. Since their completion in 2019, Corson Rowhouses have reached full occupancy, becoming home to six Seattle families.
Completed by Josh Carel at b9 Architects