How to Park a Cake (and Eat it Too) – “How To…” Series

Today, in the continuing adventures in architectural alchemy at Studio E …

It’s Part II in our “How To…” series!
Previously in this series, John Sheehan touched on our desire to find design opportunities within the limitations presented to us in modest construction budgets.  In our work, we frequently work with “left-over” sites – lots that are tiny, irregularly shaped, or constrained in ways such that they have proven difficult or undesirable to develop.  Even with best sites, however, it seems that automobile parking never fails to claim a disproportionately large share of the proverbial cake that is the site.

Is this anyone's ideal location to enjoy a sunset?

On our website and here on our blog, we have written often of the principle of Reclaiming – specifically as the act of co-opting precious slices of space on our sites from the greedy mouths of automobiles for sweeter, more noble purposes: the humble parking space transformed into the plaza, grove, marketplace, or play yard.

Reclaiming in action: Guerilla Landscaping on PARK(ing) Day

This idea has  been embraced as a part of a guerilla movement of sorts in the guise of PARK(ing) Day, where DIY landscape architects take to the streets to transform metered parking spots in urban areas into temporary parks.  For a more permanent example of this principle in action in our own work, we turn to the recently-completed Ulma/McKinstry Residence – a two-story, 1,300 square foot single-family home on the isle of Coronado.

Ulma/McKinstry Residence prior to completion: Coronado, California

The owners presented us with a petit four-sized (3,000 square feet) piece of some of California’s most desirable real estate (along with a cottage and detached garage that were past their sell-by date) on which to build their new home.  Once the city-mandated two parking spaces and street, alley, side & rear setbacks were overlaid on the tiny lot, space for the dwelling itself was quickly becoming scarce, with but a few crumbs remaining for a yard.
We overcame this shortcoming with two key moves: (1) re-purposing a portion of the existing garage to meet the covered parking requirement within an otherwise unusable setback along the property’s rear edge, and (2) orienting the home around the required uncovered parking space adjacent to the new garage.

Ulma/McKinstry Residence: Site Parti

With these moves we were able to create a central entry court that, when surrounded by a low garden wall and treated as a part of the landscape, allows for the storage of a car when necessary but functions primarily as an extension of an adjacent patio – and the house itself – thus elevating what may have otherwise been an utterly forgettable driveway to the ideal location for a dinner (and dessert!) under the stars.

Ulma/McKinstry Residence: Entry Court View

Ulma/McKinstry Residence prior to completion: the patio/parking area as an an extension of the living space

For more examples of this principle used in our work, click here and here.  Stay tuned for the next episode, and Bon Appétit!

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