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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review: Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction by Kevin Klinkenberg 2014.

Book Review:  Why I Walk; Taking a Step in the Right Direction by Kevin Klinkenberg 2014.  

Why I Walk is a recent book by Kevin Klinkenberg.  Kevin is an urbanist, architect and planner who has been helping to create vibrant walkable places.  In his book, Kevin compares walking as a primary lifestyle to choosing to live a more automobile oriented lifestyle.  This is a great approach as the idea of choosing to live in a walkable environment is still foreign to some people.  

Kevin thoughtfully explains the many reasons for choosing a walkable lifestyle: Financial, Freedom, Health and Social. These show how freeing yourself from the daily need of a car can improve your lifestyle in ways you may not have expected.  People are so used to sitting in heavy traffic for 60 minutes each day that they forget that they have a choice and that there are alternatives.  What if you walked 7500 steps a day just going to work?  Your body would be in much better shape even before you hit the gym after work.  What if you put a car payment into a great house in a great neighborhood and rode a bike to work?  

Kevin helps the reader to imagine things differently from the old school, post World War 2 suburban dream, which has grown into something more resembling a nightmare in many places.  The millennial generation is the first to see a decline in automobile ownership. They are choosing instead to live in walkable urban places. And it's not just the young who prefer this approach. One of the hottest trends in senior care is creating or integrating with walkable urban neighborhoods for new projects.  Seniors generally cite freedom and social engagement as the leading characteristics that appeal to them in urban projects, just as Kevin describes.

The overall tone of the book is one of a humanistic explanation of why you would want to walk and how that will affect your life.  Kevin relies on both facts and figures and creative anecdotes from his own life and fairly addresses the challenges of walking (like rain!).  

Having just made the choice last year to relocate our office and myself into the core of historic Savannah, I can relate on a personal level to Kevin’s book.  Why I Walk is spot on in showing how a predominantly walking lifestyle can change the very nature of your life for the better.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially to people who are designing or planning walkable communities, but who do not adopt that lifestyle and experience the benefits themselves.  Why I Walk is a great addition to everyone’s library. Also, check out Kevin’s website and blog, which is full of good stuff, at 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Announcing our Residential Plan Collection

Announcing the release of our Residential Plan Collection: 

Brown Design Studio has put together a collection of single family house plans that our Studio has produced over the last 16 years.  These plans are the result of our Studio working to create great traditional neighborhoods, communities and places across the country.  We are pleased to announce that we are making this collection of homes available for purchase as pre-designed home plan sets for the first time.  They may be viewed at or via our main website at 

Our plans are focused on fitting into a traditional neighborhood context, whether a New Urbanist development or historic / urban infill.  The exteriors are based on traditional proportions and detailing.  Most of the plans are designed to fit on more narrow alley fed lots with parking in the rear.  These can be used on larger lots and they often will rotate on a larger lot or form more of a compound arrangement.  

The core design intent of these plans are to bring great timeless proportion and scale to the home.   This proportion is evident in the pleasing exterior elevations but also in the scale of the interior rooms, something most plans miss.  While each plan is unique, most do focus on a more modern open floor plan that is flexible.  We also strive for flexibility in offering spaces that can be converted or used in different ways.   A flex room that might be used as guest room or study or even a dining room as a great example.  Many of these plans do either offer floor plan options or can be easily modified.  

The traditional nature of our practice of architecture means that these plans, and particularly the exterior design, will reflect the climate and location that they were originally designed for.  Most of the elevation reflect a more southern or south-east vernacular style.  Many of the plans have alternate elevations available, brick versus a lap siding for example.  If you like a floor plan but the elevations seems off for your area, please check with us about design options for that plan.  We’ve built these all over the US and can adapt many of the plans to many areas of the country.

The interiors are such a large part of the enjoyment and experience of a home.  We have also designed a specific interior package for each of these plans that may be added to the base set of plans.  This allows us to fully integrate the traditional design them in the home and helps us to take the interior rooms to a next level.  The typical set of interior plans add all the interior trim and millwork details, ceiling details and helps to set up for an easy set of selections to finish off the home.  

Our Studio enjoys producing great traditional design work and we are pleased to offer this collection of plans. We also offer limited custom design residential work in most areas of the country.  Additionally, these set of plans do also serve as a great starting point for a semi-custom or modified home.    Lastly, we do consulting and product development work with a wide range of builders/developers, from small single home builders to full production builders.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "City Planning According to Artistic Principles"

This is another book review for a must-have classic.  City Planning According to Artistic Principles is an amazing read and is one of our office’s core design books.  If you have any interest in urban design or city planning, then you not only need this book, but, more importantly, you need to know Camillo Sitte.  

Sitte was a nineteenth century Austrian city planner who struggled with modern planning methods in his own city of Vienna, most of which were more utilitarian-based approaches (sound familiar?)  In response, Sitte turned to ancient and medieval urbanism for inspiration in planning.  The book is full of his sketches on observations illustrating his points and theories.  They alone offer enough reason enough to purchase this book.

One of the major points of design theory is that the urban space is much more important than the urban form.  Modern architects are especially guilty about this point. Sitte asserts that the urban space should be designed as an urban “room” and that this includes the importance of height & spatial closure. 

The other major point is to design urban spaces as “picturesque” experiences.  That is, to design the space or street as a series of experiences for the person using the space or street.  This was a much different approach than that of Sitte’s peers, and still quite different from typical planning methods employed today.

Sitte’s book advocates for the consideration of design and beauty in the city planning process.  He also urges the designer to consider how people will experience and view the spaces they are working on.  This work has given us great insight into how to design urban spaces and we recommend everyone own this book if it is not already a part of your library.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Introducing Carlos Paz, meet the intern, Fall 2014 edition.

Introducing Carlos Paz

Carlos is our current Fall 2014 intern.  Carlos attends the Savannah School of Art and Design and is set to graduate soon.  We asked Carlos to write a short bio about himself and some thoughts he has so far on being in an architectural office.  Carlos has responded with a not so short bio about himself but we are going to post it all anyway. Carlos is an articulate young man and his  observations as a native of South America, add a lot of good dialog in the office here and also provide good insight to how others view the City of Savannah.  We are glad to have him.  

My name is Carlos Paz, I am an architect and graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, GA, where I am currently obtaining my Master of Urban Design degree. 

I was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where I obtained my Bachelor of Architecture degree in the Universidad Rafael Urdaneta. During my undergraduate studies, I was able to explore the many areas and aspects of architecture through a wide range of projects that included: family housing, residential and commercial developments, and educational facilities, among others. As part of my undergraduate studies I did my internship in the CRU, the office in charge of the urban developments and preservation of the downtown area of the city. As a result of that experience, I developed a great interest toward the urban aspect of the cities and their historic downtowns, which led me into perusing my master degree in urban design.  

While looking through the different opportunities, I thought that the best way to expand my knowledge to the fullest would be by studying abroad. Since I had visited the country on several occasions, the United States was my first option. I have admired the country’s urban aspect, architecture and whole culture since I was young. While browsing though different colleges and majors, I found SCAD Savannah, and decided to visit the campus during the summer.  I was captivated by the city’s charm and character, the downtown of the city offers a perfect representation of how important the history of the cities are, and why it is essential to preserve it. In addition to that, the downtown area of Savannah finds a perfect way to merge the architectural aspect of the city with the city’s urban and pedestrian characteristics. The squares, big trees, sidewalks, water features, and many other elements, allow pedestrians to walk through the downtown and experience its prominence in a great way. Along with their great urban design program, and all the remarkable aspects that Savannah had to offer, I decided to apply to SCAD and pursue my master of urban design degree.

During my time in SCAD, I have been able to obtain a closer look into the city’s rich culture and history while expanding my knowledge on urban design and architecture in the United States. As a result of that, and due to my undergraduate background in architecture, I knew that it was essential for me to do my graduate internship in an office that would allow me to learn more about the traditional architecture and urban design of the United States, and that’s when I found the Brown Design Studio office.  While going through their website and reading about their projects and design principles, I though it would be a perfect place for me to do my internship and fulfill my desire to learn more about the traditional architecture of the United States.  

Up to now, I have been able I have been able to learn more about the different types of traditional buildings and structures of the US while browsing and updating the extensive catalog of the firm. I have been able to appreciate a wide range of buildings and structures, from mixed-use buildings, carriage houses, multi-family units, and many others. In addition, I have been able to learn more about the urban and planning aspect of the city by doing research and contacting one of the planners of the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. As everyone knows, architecture is a complex process of creation, during my time in the office, I have been able to appreciate how some projects have been designed and materialized. I have been able to participate in a discussion regarding the results of a design charrette, along with the site visit of a project that is currently being constructed on Bluffton, SC. As an international student this experience is truly valuable for me, because it allows me to get a closer look into the American construction system and how it takes place.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grubb Road Redevelopment

This week, Brown Design had the privilege of working on a proposed redevelopment of a site in Franklin Township, New Jersey. The site would primarily feature a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) alongside houses to be available on the market, and a small town center / market area with commercial space.

We started by investigating the surrounding area to see what sort of historical urban design techniques had already been utilized. Just down the street were two Christian camps (one active, one former). Pitman Grove, on the National Registry of Historic Places, was a Methodist summer camp built in the 1880s, laid out like a wagon wheel. The "spokes" were streets lined with houses, all pointing to a meeting hall located at the center. Down the road in the other direction is the Malaga Camp, laid out in a grid, but again featuring a design strategy that is built around a strong sense of community.

Using these camps as inspiration, we developed simple parti drawings at a very small scale to figure out how to divide the land, orient the lots, and run roads and streets. As we progressed, we increased the scale and detail level until we had a working concept site plan. We tried to divide the large plot of land into smaller neighborhoods located around central gardens.

After feedback from the clients, we refined the site plan to better illustrate our core themes of “pocket neighborhoods”, with cottages facing each other across a shared lawn or garden. We then constructed a Sketchup model and sketched over top of printed views of the model to produce some concept renderings, to better convey how we envision the site might appear.

It was a great experience for me, learning how to plan for the various levels of continuing care, including independent and assisted living, and how to design in such a way that caters as best as possible to both of them. We feel the result we’ve come up with is a great example of New Urbanist goals of designing to create a sense of community, of place, and provide many different unit types and sizes of residences for diverse age and income groups.

Written by David Easterday,
Designer at Brown Design Studio

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review:  A Living Tradition, Architecture of the Bahamas by Steve Mouzon

This is one of my favorite books, by a great friend and colleague Steve Mouzon.  This is an earlier book (2007) of Steve's and I am still so impressed with it that I wanted to formally review it and continue to get it in front of people who may have missed it, it's that good.  Everyone interested in architecture, placemaking, and preservation should read this book.  

The book is about the architecture of the Bahamas and it does a great job developing the patterns and traditions and organizing them into a pattern book format.  The reader will be able to learn about everything about Bahamian architecture, from fences to window details and everything in between.  All of these items are complimented by great color photos and black-and-white sketches, which help to illustrate the concepts.  Further, each of the patterns is also shown along the Classic-Vernacular spectrum, that is, from the most refined to the more organic in terms of the detailing. 

The bigger point of the work here is much broader and much more important than the details of the Bahamian architecture.  Steve starts by talking about placemaking principles.  Taking strong cues from the works of Vitruvius and Christopher Alexander, the author develops principals for creating the most loved places.  These are important because they are the reason that the architectural and building patterns were developed in the first place.  The resulting unique methods, materials and patterns then become the Living Tradition of that place, which then continues to reinforce the sense of a place.  It is the designing of a building to be true to a place that makes a place even better.  It's unfortunate that what used to be common sense is now largely misunderstood in our collective society today.

This brief review doesn't do Steve's book the justice it deserves.  This work is a must-read for anyone who is interested in how to develop (or preserve) a true place and gives us the blueprint for then developing an architecture that comes from the place, not a style of architecture that tries to define a place.  This key point is where architects (and preservationists) fail to understand the placemaking process, as they fall into the trap of trying to force a style onto a place in order to "brand it".  Even with good design and execution, you cannot create a real place without understanding and developing the Living Tradition.

More information on the Living Tradition , Steve Mouzon and the New Urban Guild Foundation can be found by following the links above.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Relocation to Savannah

Brown Design Studio is pleased to announce the relocation of its office to the downtown historical district of Savannah, GA! Please note our new address and telephone number:

24 Drayton St. Suite 604
Savannah, GA 31401

Phone: (912) 349-5628

Built in 1921, the Reality building is located at the heart of the downtown area on Drayton Street, between Johnson and Reynolds Squares.