Blend In, Stand Out

T1. Natural Zone
Proposed Interventions
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T3. Sub-Urban Zone
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T4. General Urban Zone
T6. Urban Core Zone
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Primary Author

  • Drew Stanley


  • University of Illinois at Chicago


  • Paul Andersen (Professor)
  • Robert Somol (Director)


  • Robert Somol


To provide a potential antidote worthy of discussion, one must first ground their proposal through rigorous research and analysis of form based codes currently enforced today, including those in the cities of Rowlett, TX, Cincinnati, OH, and Livermore, CA, to name a few. Additionally, it is imperative to consider precedent form and how it relates to the intentions of these form based code initiatives. The overall sensibilities should also address how these two things (form based codes and their precedents) relate to an “ideal” architecture. The most successful projects will likely consider and execute three things at once: encourage non-traditional design, ensure coherence across a broad range of sizes and types of new buildings, and establish continuity with existing, traditional buildings. In an effort to keep form rather ordinary, the use of regular geometry (Platonic, ideal, primitive) should be considered, including cubes, pyramids, spheres, cylinders, cones, and regular prisms. Building form, in general, might rely on fundamental, repeatable elements, or projects might propose atypical combinations of those elements to define an expanded palette of architectural and urban qualities. Form should simultaneously embody the universality of modernism and the cosmopolitan impurity of contemporary design.

Project Statement

In the 1970s, urban planners’ attention began to shift from land use to building form. Where zoning regulations once established limits for a building’s FAR and how it could be used, today’s most progressive codes designate solutions to massing, materials, and detailing standards. Form based codes have proven to be effective tools for establishing coherent, traditional neighborhoods. But as they become more popular, the ordinary architecture of most cities becomes increasingly cheap, developer-driven schlock. Deficient architecture exists with or without a zoning code, but the code’s broad influence provides an opportunity to make a city’s everyday architecture a little less dreadful. Form based codes’ best attribute is that they are remarkably good at homogenizing new buildings. However, the architecture that they prescribe is rather problematic. They universally advocate a traditional, largely pre-modern image of the city — an image that is easy to articulate with a simple formula and equally easy to see in the older parts of most cities. Newly constructed traditional buildings are often unfavorably compared to the original versions on which they are modeled. They perpetually seem thin and cheap because they aren’t born of the same craft and industry as their 100 year old counterparts.

Project Description

Ideal architecture carries with it a sense of mass, permanence, and heaviness; a perception that can be understood through both the immediate physical properties of building materials (think brick, stone, concrete), as well as the visual qualities emotionally perceived (think stability, balance, power). History necessitated heavy material properties to build structures and to achieve desires for stability and historical legacy. Today, some municipalities have adopted Form Based Codes as a regulating authority that still value these historical forms and material relationships even though contemporary construction methods no longer require them for construction, indicating that these materials and forms are still ideal. As a response, Blend In, Stand Out seeks to appropriate those same forms and materials to construct an architecture of ambivalent perceptions, recognizing and performing historical relationships while proposing ambiguous and precarious compositions through a series of two-part compositions (a nod to the required tripartite architecture some Form Based Codes require) that attempt to fit into an existing context. These proposals recognize and conform to the general organizations and densities required within each transect defined throughout Form Based Codes, as well as the required material finishes, fenestration orientations, roof lines, and other small-scale details addressed, ultimately becoming camouflaged in a police lineup of buildings and landscapes. The overall form and material relationships, however, start to be reconfigured; heavy, brick pyramids function like a crown and are placed on top of a seemingly lightweight vinyl box; inverted concrete supports dance precariously on the ground surface; super tall, slender columns support a heavy truncated brick pyramid 150 feet in the air. As a collection, these structures embrace a quirky formal logic that are yet earnest in their recognizable materiality (brick, stone, concrete, wood) as a response to the contemporary preservation of material and form.

T1. Natural Zone