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Sunday, February 27, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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AIA Homes of the Year

SPIRIT.

Such an intangible word, but the judges charged with selecting the Seattle Times / AIA Home of the Year knew it was important, and knew they'd recognize it when they saw it.

Spirit: A Kirkland residence that's at once simple, energetic (imagine running up that curved roof and parachuting off!) and a fresh answer to what to do with adult children.

Spirit: A carefully arranged group of colorful town houses tumbling down a hillside along with a man-made creek.

But when it came down to it, how would the judges select just one design that most exemplified spirit (and a host of other qualities they thought important)?

It couldn't be done, so these two - architect Brian Brand's own Kirkland home and the Stonewater Condominiums, designed by architects Ray and Mary Johnston - both took Home of the Year honors Friday at a ceremony at the University of Washington's Kane Hall.

They were chosen from among last year's Homes of the Month, selected by the American Institute of Architects' Seattle Chapter and featured in The Seattle Times' Home / Real Estate section.

Going into the judging, Marga Rose Hancock, vice president of AIA / Seattle, told the three judges, local architects Carolyn Geise, William Kreager and builder Chris Bull, that the "spirited" winner should be "a design that tells a story."

As they hashed it out among themselves, these judges fleshed out that story. The winning design, they agreed, would have a good contextual relationship to its site. It would be forward-thinking, perhaps in its use of materials, in its respect for the environment or as an example of well-wrought design for density.

And it should make a statement that speaks to a social value. But which one? "An ego on the beach?" one judge suggested dryly.

Not likely.

Here's a look at the two winners, and how they came to be, followed by a reprise of the year's other Homes of the Month.

THE BRAND RESIDENCE: Inhabited Sculpture

TWO AUTUMNS AGO, Brian and Candy Brand found themselves sitting on the beach in Positano, a picturesque Italian fishing village that clings to a hillside above the Mediterranean. The couple, who had known each other 35 years, realized they were entering a new phase in their lives. Travel had replaced child-rearing. And their old Eastside home, which Brian, principal of the Bellevue firm of Baylis Architects, had redesigned repeatedly over 25 years through their life phases - childless, child-rearing, empty-nester - was no longer what they wanted.

On that beach, they talked of their dream home. Brian, red-haired and full of energy, sketched on note cards what it would look like. Candy, dark-haired, quieter, almost completely shared the vision.

First, it would have some of what they were seeing in Italy: courtyards, compactness, small lots. But it wouldn't be Old World; it would be very much them.

"We both like simple, open spaces," explains Brian, who's been recognized for his clean-lined contemporary architecture. And a favorite quote played in his mind. "Architecture is inhabited sculpture."

Another thought played in Candy's: While so many people seemed consumed with having the biggest house, she wasn't. Looking at her husband's preliminary designs she'd request: "Can't you make it smaller?"

He did, delivering a design for what's essentially a 2,000-square-foot town house with expansive spaces but not many rooms.

And because he did, the money was there to dress it out with expensive finishes, such as slate floors, stainless steel and sandblasted-glass exterior sunscreens, and European-style cabinets made of buttery yellow figured-anigre wood.

"With this house we wanted quality rather than quantity; that was the key," Brand says. The couple also was committed to sustainable materials that don't need upkeep because "we want to spend our future years traveling instead of maintaining a home."

The Brands found their dream lot even before it was a lot. One of his clients owned a 2-acre Kirkland estate in the older section of town near Lake Washington. Brand was offered the chance to buy a small chunk of it. He chose the old tennis-court area, partitioning the land to preserve longtime neighbors' water views and give himself one, too.

The structure he put upon it would explore "the interconnection of simple geometric forms, and the relationship of interior and exterior space, interpreted in a language using metal and steel materials." In practice, that meant a two-story home that's very much like a town house.

In his previous home, Brand went traditional Northwest contemporary using lots of wood.

This time, he re-interpreted contemporary with steel columns and beams exposed inside and out. Instead of wood siding, he paired rough concrete block, synthetic stucco and silvery corrugated metal installed horizontally to replicate the imagery of horizontal siding.

And the roof. "I wanted a pitched roof, but not a straight pitched, so we have an arched metal roof," Brand comments. "The arches are soft so they let water drain."

The home's etched-glass front door opens onto a dramatic space: a two-story entry bathed in light from clerestory windows. Along the right side, floating stairs hug a curved wall clad in the same shiny corrugated metal used outside.

The main-floor living space is almost completely composed of one large room centered by a kitchen whose cabinets almost seem to float. Indeed, they do not touch the walls or ceiling at any point.

One curved wall is glass, allowing views of Lake Washington and what will be a Japanese garden. Another Japanese touch: shoji screens that help close off a compact den / guest room.

The entire upstairs is basically a master suite with adjoining roof deck oriented to the view. (Should the Brands later have mobility problems, space for an elevator was designed in.)

But there is this other interesting detail: a covered bridge linking the home to a 700-square-foot studio apartment atop the detached garage. As the residence of the couple's 23-year-old son, Josh, and his fiancee, it's Brand's interpretation of how to become empty-nesters by simply rethinking what the nest should look like!

Eventually that space is likely to become Brian Brand's home office.

Constructed by Roger Montgomery of Montgomery Homes, the house drew raves from AIA judges. "Here's an architect who's done very, very big houses in high price ranges," noted Geise. "What he's chosen is in-town and a small space finished very, very nicely. It's a house that has a lot of long-term flexibility."

STONEWATER CONDOMINIUMS: A Neighborly Village

WHEN ONE LIVES on a houseboat, as William Parks did a decade ago, one develops a special bond of neighborliness. It's that essence of workable density that came to mind when Parks, a developer, decided to build the 12-unit Stonewater Condominiums in Fremont, a Seattle neighborhood every bit as free-spirited as any Lake Union houseboat community.

"I was thinking of the relationships people built because of the layout and design of houseboats," he recounts. "I wanted to build a little village like that."

But instead of having it surrounded by water, Parks decided to put a watercourse in the middle of his landlocked development, an idea that occurred to him when he saw one in a zoo. Voila! He hired a company that designs zoo exhibits, and his boulder-strewn watercourse was born.

That's getting ahead of the story.

First came the 13,420-square-foot building site. On a steep street within easy walking distance of Fremont's statue of Vladimir Lenin, the site had housed two vintage single-family homes.

Parks told husband-and-wife architects Ray and Mary Johnston about his desire to recreate the friendly density of houseboat living. They went to work, adding another layer to the vision. Says Ray: "We studied Italian hill towns and worked hard to get that massing."

Then came what for Parks was a major consideration: pleasing the neighbors, who quite rightly worried about increased congestion, decreased views and the soul of their freewheeling neighborhood.

"We were excited about this as an example of Fremont," says Ray. "We talked a lot about a way for this project to carry the feeling of Fremont forward and not replace it."

An issue that raised its head almost immediately was parking. Mary says the city wanted garages off the alley. However, "the neighborhood hated it," in part because it would take down prized maples.

So developer Parks committed to building an expensive underground garage with the dozen condo units above it, situating them so they appear to tumble down the hillside, and in the process preserving both the trees and the views of uphill neighbors.

"The steepness of the site helped because you had to have different levels, which created interest," Mary says. "And the idea of a central space is important because it brings people together and gives them a community space."

While there are four different floor plans, the units have many commonalities.

Each is three stories, three bedrooms (or two and a den), 2 1/2 baths. They average 1,500 square feet.

The spaces feel large thanks to high ceilings (9 feet in some places) and big windows. Many have views; all have fireplaces. Finishes run to the high end: sandstone entries, maple floors and cabinets, granite countertops and lots of wood trim.

Central to Parks' theme was that the units should look like individual little houses.

Thus each has its own entry, all crowned with copper awnings in a variety of shapes. Siding, stained the various colors of fall leaves, is shingle and board and batten.

The exteriors particularly wowed the Home of the Year judges. Noting the units' prices ($369,000 to $425,000) and the fact that almost all have sold, Kreager said "people recognized the uniqueness of this. Good design will lead to winsome product, and it will sell. This says to Seattle, you can do not just multifamily, but multifamily with individuality."

Elizabeth Rhodes is a Seattle Times reporter who covers residential real estate. Benjamin Benschneider is staff photographer for Pacific Northwest magazine.

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THE JUDGES

William Kreager, principal architect, Mithun Partners

Carolyn Geise, principal architect, Geise Architects

Christopher Bull, principal, Edifice Construction Co.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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