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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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brown Design Featured in Better! Cities & Towns

Brown Design Studio’s work in Beaufort, South Carolina will be featured in the March-April, May-June and July-August editions of Better! Cities & Towns ( The three-part article will outline the City of Beaufort’s vision for the future. The first, written by Robert Steuteville, is titled “Civic Master Plan Points the Way.” This feature provides an overview of the first steps in the updated City Master Plan and will touch on several of our projects that we have worked on over the last several years. 

One of the projects is Lafayette Street, which is a Public-Private partnership between Brown Design and the City of Beaufort.  Lafayette Street is the first of the projects to come out of the Civic Master Plan and into the implementation stage.  The project will consist of six market-rate infill cottages ranging from 1000-1300 sq.ft.  Construction starts this summer. 

Lafayette and Rodgers Street Infill Project

Stay tuned to our blog for more information on the exciting projects happening at Brown Design Studio.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Berean Presbyterian Church is Complete

We’re proud to say this is our final update on the renovation work for the former Berean Presbyterian Church. After months of design work and construction, the USC-B Art Studio is complete!  The roof has been completely restored, and all the wood rot has been removed and replaced. Have a look at some of the before and after imagery!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Brown Design Featured in Best In American Living

Brown Design Studio’s projects were recently featured in the Winter 2014 edition of Best in American Living, a publication of the National Association of Home Builders ( The publication discusses the many different aspects associated with home building in the United States. Our work is featured in the article, “The Missing Middle,” which looks at the current home building trends and discusses the “forgotten group,” consisting of empty nesters and single-person households that don’t require a large living space. The two projects featured in the article were Habersham Village (, located in Beaufort, South Carolina and East Beach (, located in Norfolk, Virginia. These projects include small to large single-family units, multi-family units, and row houses catering to this group. Flexibility in the design of these units allows us to adapt to the area’s density by altering the buildings from a single-family unit to a multi-family unit. We have been refining this design approach over the past 16 years developing walkable neighborhoods and town centers. We would like to thank Daniel Parolek at Opticos Design Inc. for featuring us in “The Missing Middle” article.

Writing by Andrew Boughan,
Co-op Student at Brown Design Studio

Friday, February 21, 2014

Presbyterian Church Update

Great news! Since our last update on the Berean Presbyterian Church, we are seeing different aspects of the project starting to come to fruition. The roof has been completely stripped of all wood rot and the team has installed new wood boards and waterproof installation.

They’ve also added new canopies over the doors and replaced some of the wood trim that was in disrepair. The stairs and wheelchair ramp are finishing up and should be done within the week.

As the projects starts to come to a close, we should expect to see the new red metal roof installed, the final paint job of the exterior, and a complete landscaping of the site over the coming weeks.

Photos from Huss Construction
Writing by Andrew Boughan,
Co-op Student at Brown Design Studio