A Craftsman's Home
I first met Richard when we did some work for his newly formed business. Richard is an accomplished woodworker and has a deep appreciation for the Arts & Crafts movement and Craftsman style homes. We stayed in touch over the years and when he purchased property in rural Albemarle, he contacted me about designing a new house for his family.
The primary design challenge in this project was coming up with the massing for the house. From our discussions with the Richard and his wife, we already knew what the exterior materials, the architectural style and the layout of the house were going to be. However, the elevations we presented failed to gain Richard's and his wife's enthusiasm. Repeated iterations and subsequent discussions failed to get us where the Richard and his wife wanted to be. Being laypersons relative to the language of architecture, Richard and his wife had trouble verbalizing the ideas they wanted in the house massing. They were getting frustrated at our inability to respond satisfactorily to their comments.
Realizing the problem lay in having words to describe what Richard and his wife wanted, we prepared a presentation that offered a visual dictionary of massing options for the house, all carefully labeled to facilitate subsequent verbal discussion. Within minutes of starting the presentation, Richard stood up and pointed at an illustration depicting a house with its second floor totally under roof (a "1-1/2 story" type house), and said, "That's what I want!” With that simple statement, we were able to go on and develop a design that fulfilled Richard and his wife’s dreams for their new home
Working for Pets
PSP Ventures L.L.C.
This project for a Pet Supplies Plus, a national retailer, began with a project to replace a Chinese restaurant, located on Charlottesville's busy Route 29, which had burned to the ground. The restaurant was never rebuilt, but the restaurant owner then asked Gorman Architects to quickly sketch out a concept for a strip shopping center that could be built on the site so the owner could market the property to others:
Meanwhile, Pet Supplies Plus was faced with the need to relocate their Charlottesville store because the building they leased was scheduled for demolition to make way for a new development.
Bricks and mortar retail is an extremely competitive environment, where every cent spent matters. PSP Ventures liked the concept we had developed for the restaurant Owner, realizing that substantial time could be saved on the project schedule and get them open in a new location sooner. Gorman Architects quickly adapted the conceptual plan to work for Pet Supplies Plus, but the design had to be vetted by Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board (ARB).
During the initial meeting with the ARB, it became clear that the proposed building design concept was going to be approved, but the site plan design was giving the Board problems. The design was typical of commercial strip buildings: a long horizontal structure, with store entrances facing a 3 row parking lot that lay between the building and the street. The board wanted the building to front on the street, with parking behind the building. Unfortunately the county’s zoning ordinance required a 35 foot building setback, while requiring only a 10 foot parking setback. Given the limited space available on site, there was no way to comply with the ARB’s desire AND comply with the county ordinance’s requirements for the number of parking spaces, because too much land would have been undevelopable.
Gorman Architects proposed a hybrid solution to the PSP Ventures. We suggested they let the Pet Supplies Plus store face the rear of the site, while the additional tenant spaces faced Route 29. This allowed parking to be split between the front and back of the property. Two rows of parking were provide in the rear with only a single row of parking between the building and route 29. The revised design was presented to the ARB and garnered unanimous approval.
Domini Canes Communitas
The Dominican Friars are a Roman Catholic religious order. Founded by Saint Dominic in the early 13th century, they were officialy sanctioned by Pope Honrarius III as the Ordo Praedicatorum (Order of Preachers) in 1216. They are known colloquially as the Dominicans, after their founder. The name, along with their reputation for tenancious evangelization, gave rise to a pun on the latin words "Domini" and "Canes" or "God's Dogs".
In 1959, the Dominicans assumed responsibility for the Newman Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. A rapidly growing Catholic population at UVA caused the Dominicans to build a new church and student center on Alderman Road in 1962.
The two Dominicans serving the parish resided in a small house near the church that did double duty as the Parish office. Because the population of the parish continued to grow, more Domincans were needed,exceeding the capacity of the parish house. A small brick bungalow was purchased near the parish house that could accommodate four friars. Meanwhile, the parish population continued to explode creating renewed pressure for more Dominicans.
In 2007, approaching their 50th anniversary in Charlottesville, the Pastor of Saint Thomas Aquinas approached Gorman Architects about designing a new residence for the Dominicans on the site of the original Parish House. Initial programming began in early 2008. During early talks, the friars described the religious life they wanted their new home to allow them to live. It became immediately apparent to Gorman Architects that what was needed was not some form of 21st century house adapted to their needs, but rather a 13th century building type updated for their 21st century needs: a monastery.
The Priory (as Dominican monasteries are called) uses idealized models of medieval monsateries in its organization, looks to traditional Virginia masonry architecture for its architectural expression and incorporates contemporary functionality. The building wraps around the cloister, an internal courtyard, providing an outdoor space for quiet contemplation. The cellas (bedrooms) offer individual bathrooms and workspaces, complete with full internet and enhanced cellular telephone access. The chapel provides an intimate, yet soaring space for mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Ample community space is provided for everyday activities as well as special events.
Gorman Architects was an active participant in the fundraising for the project. We delivered well-received public presentations on the Priory to parishioners, neighbors and local officials. We provided imagery and booklets used in asking efforts. Committments began in early 2010 and were completed by early 2014.