Modern Architecture in our Historic Districts

We believe that there is a place, a much needed one, for modern architecture in the historic districts in Jacksonville’s urban core – especially in Springfield.  Springfield has struggled for decades trying to revitalize itself and live up to its potential.  Springfield had earlier pioneers in the late 70′s and 80′s move in and start restoring the neighborhood and the homes, with revitalization seemingly right around the corner.  A large spurt of development came in the middle of the last decade, but was slowed down by the sinking economy. Currently there is growth with creatives opening offices and young families moving in.  We think what can really give the revitalization momentum, is well designed modern architecture that fits into the fabric of the neighborhood.  Giving young professionals and families that want to live a modern lifestyle in an urban neighborhood an affordable, sustainable alternative to the current lot of available older homes and newer “clones,” opens a new stream of potential neighbors.  There is an audience in Jacksonville hungry for modern design and urban neighborhood living.   The challenge is how we infuse those types of homes in the neighborhoods that surround downtown Jacksonville, where the bulk of the area is Historic Districts.  People that want modern typically want sustainable.  Therefore, the majority does not want to live in the suburbs, but near the core in a pedestrian friendly fabric. Riverside and Avondale is obviously much further along in this regards to Springfield when talking about walkability to shops and restaurants.

We love Jacksonville.  We love historic preservation.  We love modern design.  We love good design.  Our goal is to design and build modern sustainable homes that meet the guidelines set for by the Secretary of the Interiors guide for new construction in a designated historic district. We honestly feel that good modern design next to preserved historic homes not only accentuates the historic home but also adds an eclectic fabric to the neighborhood. It would also make the older homes have higher value. What if the only way to live in a home that looked like it was built in the early 1900’s was to actually purchase a home that was built in that time period? Our concern with copying history and building a faux period home is that with today’s sustainability techniques and elements (high efficiency windows, foam insulation, etc.) coupled with how people live in our homes today (flow, open plan concepts, smart wiring, storage) more than likely negatively effects the value of an existing historic home.

Imagine two homes that appear to be the same from the street, the one on the left was built in 1902. You continually have to work on the exterior of the home, fixing wood rot, painting, repairing windows. The interior was designed for living in the early 1900’s. Closets are minimal, wasted space on rooms you typically don’t need for today’s living; the electric bill is very high due to poor or no insulation. The home on the right was built last year, with concrete fiber siding and trim, energy efficient windows. The interior was designed for today’s family, with plenty of storage, areas to entertain and relax. Less focus is on formal areas, and spaces are efficient and well lit.

The older home’s value diminishes a bit, because of the features on the right. We believe there will always be people that love true classic looking homes and if purchasing one and moving in and purchasing one and restoring is the only way to get one, we believe it makes them more valuable. This of course means that the home on the right would need to appear to be different. Does it need to be the crazy glass and steel structure? No, but it needs to be of the time and place it was built.

We have designed two modern homes that were approved by the Historic Preservation Commission here in Jacksonville. With careful thought and planning, the ability to build modern in our Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods is there, evidenced by these approvals.  The word has to spread a bit, but we believe once a few of the perceived barriers are broken and the education of the existing neighbors and potential neighbors on what is allowed to be built is more informed, then we will see more density, more variety, and met potential.