AIA Bucks County 2018 Design Awards

Juror Commentary and Selections ​By Mark Barone, AIA, 2018 President AIA West Jersey

Small Projects

Award for Design Excellence: Fullam Residence – Wolstenholme Associates

​Commentary: A project with a wonderful story, an addition so well researched and detailed that it does not appear to be an addition at all, just as if it was meant to be there, wonderfully nestled in the landscape, beautiful spaces both interior and out. The project had potential to go very well or jeopardize this lovely property, however the architect and client seized the opportunity and executed it to perfection.

The Fullam Residence, located in Newtown, PA, was an anomaly in the Paul Rudolph portfolio. While it appeared in his chronology of projects, it was originally uncertain if the Fullam Residence was ever built. The original commission requested anonymity, which was honored by Rudolph. The house, sketches and plans were never published during Rudolph’s life, other than in one photograph where the sketch appears discretely on a drafting table with a proud Paul Rudolph hovering in front of it. The residence was “discovered” in 2007 when the aging owners contacted the Rudolph Foundation concerned that many of Rudolph’s projects were being demolished and seeking advice on how to conserve the home. The Foundation was not aware of the residence and photographer Chris Mottalini was the first to publish photographs of the home when he visited with the Foundation.

Paul Rudolph conceived the Fullam Residence in 1957 and sketched an initial concept, but it was more ambitious than what was finally built in 1958/59. Although the three bedroom, two bathroom residence that was subsequently designed was true to the original sketch by illustrating strong Rudolph design elements, a partial execution was built. Two out of the three bays of the original sketch were constructed with the intention, (as marked on the drawings), that the home could be expanded on either side while maintaining the original design objective. Fast-forward to 2014 when our architecture firm was commissioned by the new owner to design an addition to the iconic home. We knew that whatever we proposed should complement and honor the integrity of Rudolph’s original design. With our client, we re-imagined the residence as was originally intended by Paul Rudolph, based on the original sketches, and executed a design for how our clients live.

Throughout the construction process, there were many challenges that were presented. Since the original residence relies on the concept of massing, specifically with heavy vs. light, the stone masonry and large glass window expanses had to match with careful execution. Our firm worked closely with the builder to ensure a seamless transition between new and old. Not only did the new stone size and color have to be identical to the existing structure, but the unique pattern was to be replicated as well. It was identified that the stone walls had repeating patterns, only visible after carefully studying the stone. It was this careful attention to detail that made the new Pennsylvania fieldstone appear that it came from the same lot as the existing home.

Atop the new flanking stone wall, the solid mass of the undulating roof extending from the existing roof appears to “float” above the trapezoidal windows. This roof configuration, part of Rudolph’s original creation, allows the winter sun to penetrate deep into the space, passively heating the massive stone walls and floor, while also providing shade from the hot summer sun. Careful research by our client, who is an aficionado of Rudolph’s work, led him to find a custom window company in Europe that specializes in passive solar and who was able to create custom triple pane windows to match the existing. Also adding to effectiveness of the glazing, all the existing northern windows were replaced with matching triple pane windows.

While this project presented many challenges to preserve the original design integrity, it was nevertheless a project we thoroughly enjoyed. We are honored to have been able to complete a historically sensitive addition on a home designed by one of America’s most iconic modern architects.

Honor Award: Bittel Residence – Gary R. O’Connor, Architect

Commentary: Lovely use of natural materials on the interiors specifically the beams, island column and dining table, the exposed concrete pillars are a raw, unique yet utterly charming base to the building, inviting and open plan offering great views with plenty of light without going overboard on the amount of glazing, the residence is detailed in a wonderfully restrained way, it’s beautiful and does not clamor for attention.

The Client, Bob and Cindi Bittel used to have a vacation home on Lake Wallenpaupack but became weary from the two-and-a-half-hour commute to their weekend getaway. They found a riverfront property in the Byram Colony just 6 miles from their Lambertville home which came with an approved plan from DEP but the house designed by a Linden, NJ Architect was not fitting for many reasons and required a new design. The DEP approval had an expiration date coming due in a few short months requiring an immediate response to develop a design, have it’s approval confirmed by the agency and get the foundation completed before the approval’s expiration date.

The family have two grown children in the area with grandchildren. The plan is for the family to use the home for local vacations enjoying river sports during the summer months. When Bob and Cindi retire, they will likely relocate permanently to their river home and ultimately leave the property for their children to share.

The property: The Byram Colony is a narrow strip of land between route 29 and the Delaware River which traditionally has been a summer vacation colony with properties being passed down in families for generations.  The river stretch fronting the Colony has deep water supporting motor boating and water sports.  The Colony is also in the Flood Plain of the Delaware and the typical one-two story frame cottages have been flooded many times prompting the raising of several homes out of harm’s way.  The property the Bittel’s purchased previously housed such a cottage which had been previously demolished prior to the their purchase of the land.  The blank slate offered the opportunity to develop a new home raised up on pilotis making use of the ground plain.

The Program: Flood Plain Management dictated the house be raised 6’ above the ground plain so we raised it a full story on reinforced concrete pillars to take full advantage of covered space on the ground plane for vehicles, off season boat storage and covered terrace for a future summer kitchen facing the river to the west. From the ground level foyer, you can ride the elevator up or take the stair which navigates around the elevator to the first floor living level. The program called for an open floor plan in the public realm of the home where the Kitchen, Dining and Livingroom all take advantage of the spectacular river views. Outdoor living was provided as open deck with glass guard rail and a covered semi-enclosed screened-in porch. A full bath was provided on this level to accommodate overflow visitors. On the upper private bedroom level, we provided for three ensuite bedrooms each taking advantage of river views. The Master bedroom is central and is distinguished by a vaulted ceiling. ​

Honorable Mention Award: Private Residence – Solebury, PA – Phillips & Donovan Architects

Commentary: A beautiful new living space, inside, outside and in between with the garden courtyard and terrace, abundant light but respectfully placed in the context of the site, a material palette that feels right at home in the woods, unfortunate that we could not see more of the courtyard

The homeowners of this secluded contemporary home desired to add new living and sleeping spaces. The home’s single story linear design sits atop a wooded brow and takes advantage of its context; embracing the landscape and surrounding views.

The design and layout of these new spaces continue these design principles. A new great room projects away from the existing house, allowing panoramic views to the outside. The renovated spaces abutting the existing house become a bedroom and home office that together with the great room, frame an outdoor garden courtyard.

Large Projects

Award for Design Excellence: Steeple View I – McAuliffe + Carroll Architects

Commentary: Industrial, yet chic. Clever solution in addressing the change in elevation over the site, Monumental stairs break the massing of the building into charming proportions, the loggia at the rear lower level makes a potentially heavy base, light and welcoming. Lush terraces provide the residents a place of respite away from the street and sheltered visually from the parking below.

This project is the largest infill project to take place in historic Newtown Borough in more than a decade. The mixed use design consists of ten luxury residential condominiums on the second and third floors, and two commercial spaces located at street level (occupied now by a Wine + Spirits store and a gourmet deli). Design highlights include a covered arcade sidewalk that connects State Street to the rear entrances of the wine store, and outdoor access for all the apartments via terraces or balconies. The apartments have direct access to the rear parking via a first floor lobby, and State Street via one of the stoop stairs. Due to the nature of the site, the commercial store fronts have an upper and lower level which helps to connect it into the fabric of the town more effectively. Materials and massing were derived from the commercial building adjacent to the site and design to provide continuity while maintaining a modern language. This building is the first phase of a larger redevelopment of the site which includes additional multi-story residential buildings, retail shops, restaurants, a parking garage and public amenity spaces. Because the building is located within Newtown’s historic district, approvals were needed from the Historic Architecture Review Board.

Honor Award: State Street Steak & Seafood – Wolstenholme Associates

Commentary: A transformative renovation, the proportions on the exterior honor the residential scale of the historic building, while the overhead door and modernization of the interiors breathe new life into the structure, both expansive and cozy at times, particularly in the banquettes of the upper level the project realizes its great potential, unfortunate the large duct was not a bit more integrated into the design.

Originally constructed for Jonas Knight in 1846, the Knight House has held a variety of occupancies, most recent of which has been a restaurant and bar. The current owner purchased the historic property in 2005.

The Knight House, a longtime staple restaurant in the heart of downtown Doylestown, PA, sustained critical damage after an electrical fire in April 2016. After much consideration of whether to retain the existing structure or start from scratch, the owner contacted architect John Wolstenholme of Wolstenholme Associates to breathe new life into the restaurant so that it would become a phoenix rising from the ashes.

After the fire, the owner and architect took to the drawing board to create numerous design iterations. Before settling on its current design, concepts ranged from repairing the former Knight House back to its original glory to starting from the ground up with a modern “open” concept. The team’s end goal was to create something fresh while paying homage to the original Knight House’s cozy “residential” proportions where possible. The key elements of the former Knight House that were to remain were the existing footprint, so as to maintain the adjoining outdoor bar with the neighboring restaurant, the existing staircase between the first and second floors, original exterior walls and roof, along with as much of the brickwork and chimneys that have stood the test of time.

Within these confines, the team was able to create a fresh dining experience in Doylestown. Overlooking the adjoining property, also owned by the State Street restaurant owner, patrons can sit at a custom concrete lean-to where a garage door opens to the 3-season bar below, previously designed by Wolstenholme Associates. The owner wanted to create an all-inclusive, almost campus-type, feel while still maintaining a separate dining steak house. The design of the new restaurant can be classified as “industrial modern.” From large gestures such as vaulted ceilings and dormer windows that give upstairs diners views onto the Borough, down to fine touches such as the bronzed vintage mirror behind the bar, or the application of shou sugi ban (the Japanese technique of charring wood), the new State Street Steak & Seafood encompasses simple elegance, with a rich, restored rawness.

Honorable Mention Award: St. Matthew’s Welcome Center – Raphael Architects

Commentary: Tackling one of architecture’s most difficult problems, “the knuckle” between two structures, this project is both bold enough to distinguish itself in its detailing and materials from the masonry structures adjacent, and subtle enough to maintain an agreeable relationship in terms.

The Welcome Center creates a main entrance and central gathering space, integrating the historic 1894 Milton Bean-designed church with the 1966 education building. The addition connects entry from the two remote parking areas and provides access to all five building levels. A new covered walkway to the Welcome Center from the rear parking area arrives at the lower level entry, next to the renovated reception hall. A new elevator and new men’s and women’s rooms on each floor create an accessible facility for all members of the community. The Welcome Center is located on the main level, a half level up from street entry and a full level above the rear entry. ​The Welcome Center supports activities in the sanctuary, offices, and meeting rooms on the main floor.

Design Awards