American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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A 6 by 10 display board created for the initial phase of the competition to convey the feeling of a community: layered, complex, messy vitality.

Site analysis diagrams of the six primary systems of the master plan.
Neighborhoods are defined by clustered density centered around a public space with a supporting hierarchy of semi-private and private spaces creating a variety of opportunities for individual and social interaction.
Natural, built and social systems were considered in relationship to one another resulting in a master plan that expresses a sustainable lifestyle at every level.
The central core of the project is defined by The Commons Building and Live-Work units providing a nucleus of activity at the heart of the project. Neighborhoods radiate out from this central core.
ANALYSIS AND PLANNING AWARD OF HONOR

Burlingame Ranch Affordable Housing, Aspen, CO
DHM Design, Carbondale, CO


"Demonstrates that affordable housing deserves the same level of analysis and planning that more costly enterprises usually have. . .legitimate and diverse options. . .stratified experience, refined throughout the scales."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

In 2000, the City of Aspen adopted the Aspen Area Community Plan (2000 AACP). One of the primary outcomes of that planning effort was identification of a significant shortfall in the community’s affordable housing inventory. With the potential of creating between 225-330 housing units, the Burlingame Ranch Affordable Housing project was established early on as one of the City’s best means of achieving a cross-section of affordable housing.

The City of Aspen began an extensive public process in 2001 to create a development plan that would guide future planning efforts for Burlingame. Over a two-year period, a task force of 20 citizens, including elected officials and members of the public, participated in an intensive public process to discuss all considerations that would impact future development. That process culminated with final adoption of the development plan in late 2003. The final guidelines considered environmental aspects of development, infrastructure, transportation, architecture, economics, and market conditions. The task force’s stated goals were to build an affordable housing village that: has an interesting aesthetic design complementary to the surrounding environment; supports public transit use; incorporates green building; embodies a cost-effective design that is financially feasible; and creates a sense of community.

A design competition was conducted through the summer and fall of 2004. During that process, competing teams were asked to develop a conceptual master plan design for Burlingame based on the previously approved development guidelines. Required competition submittals included a full conceptual land use application, a site plan, architectural drawings, preliminary engineering plans, a model, a financial analysis, a sustainability analysis, a presentation to the jury, an open house, and two follow-up presentations to the City Council in a public forum. DHM Design's team consisted of land planners, architects, engineers, a contractor, sustainability experts, and a market analyst. In November of 2004, this project was selected as the winning entry. The integrity of the original submittal has remained intact throughout subsequent phases of the planning and design process.

During the competition, the team engaged in lively debate about the issues that define an affordable housing project: community character, density, parking, open space, sustainability, and financial resources to name just a few. The heart of the discussion revolved around the notion of how to successfully build community. The proposed master plan was based on the philosophy that while a solution must meet the programmatic requirements set forth by the City, more important was the creation of a neighborhood or neighborhoods that would function socially as well as physically.

The planning process began with a multi-pronged analysis of key ingredients for a successful community. The challenge of building a healthy community is not new. Clare Cooper Marcus, Randolph Hester and many others have spent thirty-plus years analyzing and testing theories about what makes successful communities. Their research and findings were integral to the underlying planning effort for this project and are evident in several aspects of the plan such as neighborhood layout and clustered density around communal landscapes. This research was supplemented by an analysis of successful neighborhoods in and around the City of Aspen examining the relationships of housing units to parking, road layout, architectural character, proximity of units to one another, character and layout of public space, and relationship of public and private spaces.

The obvious concern about many newer residential developments is that they foster a sense of social isolation. Hence, the rise of new urbanism and efforts to create neighborhoods more traditional in character, leading to the possibility of greater interaction amongst neighbors. Many of the precepts of new urbanism did not apply to this project: the location of the project is outside of the urban core, the City had specifically excluded any type of commercial activities from Burlingame, the site is relatively small with an ambitious program, and the site is rural in character with significant grade change which precluded a traditional grid pattern for the neighborhood design. DHM Design's team, however, was extremely interested in creating a community that fostered a rich social fabric.

DHM Design sees a healthy community as complex, richly layered and saturated with messy vitality; all values intrinsic to the City of Aspen. As Randolph Hester notes, “People are consciously seeking ‘roots’ in their neighborhoods” and it was imperative that the master plan for Burlingame Ranch speak to this desire for ownership, community pride, and permanence. An important ingredient for a healthy community is derived from the integration of sustainability into every layer of planning and design. This master plan envisions a community that is socially desirable, economically viable, and ecologically sustainable for generations to come. Proven research and technologies have been integrated into the planning process from the outset with facilities and systems that are both high-tech and no-tech to promote non-consumptive values. This approach will result in a model project that establishes a new threshold for excellence by achieving density while minimizing impact on the land, incorporating sustainable design principles at every opportunity, and responding to how people live, work, rest and move. DHM Design's team looked at six primary systems in developing the overall master plan for Burlingame to create a layered plan that speaks to both livability and sustainability. Those six systems included: landform, neighborhoods, transit, public space, drainage, and community.

Landform: The site is approximately 31 acres in size with the history of the site tied to the ranching operations of the adjacent Bar/X Ranch. The site has an open rural character. Moving from east to west the site slopes over ninety feet with three distinctive, flatter benches. Two knolls mark the entry to the site from the south and a series of landforms and low points within the site give further definition to the character of the site. The landscape is dominated by native grasses and sage communities with few trees.

Existing landforms and topography were a significant factor in shaping the site plan. Building orientation responded to the natural topography of the site minimizing cut and fill. Road layouts, neighborhood patterns, drainage systems and pedestrian trails all are sensitive to maintaining the existing topography and landforms. Additionally, the proposed master plan is respectful of the existing landscape and draws the native vegetation into the site in many locations creating an ambiguous line between development and open space.

Neighborhoods: While the overall master plan for Burlingame needed to embody a sense of unity, the way in which individuals interact and relate is at a much smaller and more intimate scale. Our approach has been to consider a series of neighborhoods within a larger community. This plan proposes a community of 236 units divided into six neighborhoods, centered on a common core. Densities within the neighborhoods range from 25-70 units.

A series of density studies helped in an analysis of the carrying capacity of the land. With the underlying goal of creating a livable and sustainable community, the ultimate density settled at 236 units for sale. While the development guidelines allowed for a maximum density of 330 units, our analysis found that this level of density had too great an impact on the land, compromising open space and public space. At a density of 236 units, the master plan was able to preserve 50% of the site as open space. Based on a market analysis as well as City of Aspen preferences, the site plan proposes fully integrated neighborhoods; an address does not define one’s economic status. From the building exteriors, there is no distinction between different category levels of income.

Important to the success of the neighborhoods is the character of the architecture. Utilizing primary forms reminiscent of historic western ranch vernacular, the buildings give homage to the ranching tradition of the site. On working ranches, as buildings were required to grow, the rancher would combine simple-form shelters in what has later become described as “additive architecture". This vernacular reflects the western ranch heritage and provides identity to forms within the community and neighborhoods. Primary sheltering forms are combined, transposed and hyphenated within well-proportioned compositions to create individual buildings. Integration of units within each building creates movement and individuality within each structure, avoiding repetition of structures on the site. Massing is reduced at the entry to each unit, providing human scale. Architectural detailing of front porches, window trim, and material transitions are consistent with expectations of family residential construction.

Transit: To support the vitality of the neighborhoods, this master plan encourages residents to leave their cars at home whenever possible and creates incentives for a lifestyle that is less consumptive. A local bus route has been designed to cover the entire site with eight transit stops interspersed throughout the community. A resident will not have to walk more than 350 feet from their home to a local bus stop.

The community-wide transit loop is integrated into the public space system. The transit loop consists of a two-way road system with road grades of less than 5% to meet accessibility requirements. Each transit stop includes a whole host of neighborhood amenities – a bus stop, mailboxes, newspaper stands, recycling and trash receptacles. The location of the transit stops within each of the neighborhoods makes transit a central part of daily life. The transit stations become a focus of social activity – a place to meet and greet one’s neighbors while attending to the routines of day-to-day living.

Bicycle and pedestrian traffic are encouraged throughout the project. A regional bike trail passes through the center of the proposed conceptual master plan, creating a central spine in the heart of the project and an emphasis on non-motorized movement. While limited one-way vehicle traffic is accommodated on this route, the materials selected create a pedestrian scaled environment and encourage residents and visitors to travel by bike and foot. This spine serves as a regional trail system and is supported by a variety of trails and sidewalks that weave through the project site.

Public Space: The public space network is designed to create the opportunity for a rich social fabric. The site plan accommodates a hierarchy of public spaces from the large common gathering areas at the Commons facility and the great lawn, to the neighborhood centers defined by shared social activities, to the more intimate patio and porch layouts at individual building entries. These layers of public space are defined without creating a rigid appearance and there is a logical progression from one level of interaction to the next.

The large common gathering area is located at the center of the development and includes a place where neighbors can interact, children are cared for during the work day, artisans can work and community workshops facilities are shared. This space is more civic in quality. The Commons is a centralized building planned to house a gathering room, day care facility, vending kiosk and workshop facility where residents can share work space and tools. (The City of Aspen specifically excluded programmatic considerations for other commercial, institutional, or governmental uses.) The vending kiosk is a concept derived from Japanese society, where many every day consumer items are available at vending centers. Energy efficient vending machines dispensing everything from milk and eggs to ball point pens and power bars will reduce trip generation from those inconvenient one-item jaunts to the grocery store.

Surrounding the Commons are Live-Work residential units. Aspen has many entrepreneurs who work, or would like to work from home. Designed as a residential unit on one floor and a work space on the other, these units can be converted to additional living space, or work space as each owner requires. The location of the work spaces facing onto the public commons will allow for “spill out” into the green thereby enhancing the life and fabric of the community.

At the neighborhood level, each neighborhood is organized around a centralized public space. Neighborhood density is concentrated toward the center with less density moving toward the edges; single family lots tend to be located on the periphery of the individual neighborhoods. This level of public space is designed with a built-in flexibility and can evolve over time to express the unique values of a given neighborhood. Garden plots provide opportunities where residents can cultivate food, flowers, and especially social contact. An orchard, or a specially designed playground might define other neighborhood spaces.

At the unit level, there becomes an active dialog between the front door, the porch, the semi-private space, and the public space. This relationship creates a rich vibrant interaction that adds energy to each neighborhood and to the community as a whole.

Drainage: Natural drainage patterns and systems are incorporated into the site plan in an integrated and holistic manner helping to define and strengthen other components of the proposal. Storm water management is developed into a site amenity which helps to define public space rather than being routed through an underground system. Plantings adjacent to the drainageways take advantage of intermittent moisture and add to the overall character of the community. Vegetated swales (bio-swales) collect storm water runoff, clean the water and protect receiving waters from the effects of sediment and pollution. These landscaped swales provide an aesthetic as well as a functional component to the master plan, enlivening public spaces with a rich and varied landscape palette.

Community: The integration of these patterns and systems creates a richly layered community that responds to the social and physical needs of the residents. The conceptual plan expresses a lifestyle that emphasizes shared open space, community gardens and orchards, a natural landscape enhanced by seasonal drainage, clustered neighborhoods with a strong bike and pedestrian linkage, common facilities located in the center of the site, a looped transit route and energy efficient units and buildings which reflect a ranch vernacular style. Housing units have been located to increase the possibility of neighbors meeting and of a sense of community developing. The line between public, semi-public and private spaces is ambiguous creating a sense of collective ownership. The summation of the parts results in an overall community that emphasizes neighborhood commitment at a physical, social and human scale.

At the request of the City, this project will be constructed in three phases. Phasing limits were determined after an analysis of the financial resources of the City and logical construction sequencing. The organized hierarchy of spaces were established in phase one so subsequent phases could be easily added. Final land use approvals for phase one of the project were granted in April of this year with construction scheduled to begin in late June. During and after construction, sustainable design and construction techniques will be monitored and documented to determine ultimate efficiencies, such as a comparison of actual energy usage to modeling completed during the planning process. Construction sub-contractors will be required to complete an on-site educational session outlining all aspects of the sustainable design package so that details are correctly implemented in the field. Final planning and design of phases two and three will be completed after a post-occupancy analysis of phase one has been completed.

Developing Burlingame Ranch has been a fluid process intermixing research, analysis, planning and design. This integrated approach, combined with an understanding of history and previous planning efforts can direct planning and design in the most positive way. The results will be a project that is appropriate in character, fitting for its setting, intentionally balanced and holistic without focusing on a single direction – sustainability at the expense of community or sacrificing design or planning for the sake of the other.

 

Density is clustered into six distinct neighborhoods ranging in size from 25-70 units, achieving density while minimizing impact on the land, incorporating sustainable design principles at every opportunity, and responding to how people live, work, rest and move.
The site plan expresses a lifestyle that emphasizes shared open space, community gardens and orchards, a natural landscape enhanced by seasonal drainage, clustered neighborhoods with a strong bike and pedestrian linkage, common facilities located in the center of the site, a looped transit route and energy efficient units and buildings which reflect a ranch vernacular style.
The architectural character of the project reflects the western ranch heritage and provides identity to forms within the community and neighborhoods. Primary sheltering forms are combined, transposed and hyphenated within well-proportioned compositions to create individual buildings.
Each transit stop includes a whole host of neighborhood amenities a bus stop, mailboxes, newspaper stands, recycling and trash receptacles. The location of the transit stops within each of the neighborhoods makes transit a central part of daily life.
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