Client/Owner: Gill Holland, The Group Entertainment LLC
Architecture and Interior Design: (fer) studio, LLP
Douglas Pierson (as partner with (fer) studio)
Renderings: Youn Choi and Richard Solis
Portland is a historic neighborhood northwest of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, along the bend of the Ohio River. It’s a family-friendly, urban district with a small town ambience that attracts young families, single residents, and retirees.
“Shotgun houses” make up roughly 10 percent of all houses in greater Louisville. They are a significant thread in the city’s architectural tapestry and part of Portland’s charm.
These simple houses are narrow rectangles with a single door and one or two tall windows on the façade. Inside, each room is directly behind the other and the back door is opposite the front door. A “camelback” shotgun has a second story on the back end of the house. It’s believed that these little houses got their name from the notion that a shotgun fired through the front door could travel the length of the house and exit the back door without hitting anything.
With developer Gill Holland, we talked about the neighborhood's character and this mixed-use building’s impact on the tightly knit community. We discussed the need for an authentic modern, sustainable design for the 21st century rather than an imitation of Portland’s historic structures. Yet as part of the “bigger picture,” we decided to draw inspiration from the shotgun house to maintain continuity with Portland’s past.
Our challenge was to create a conceptual master plan for the six-acre site concurrent with architectural design for the new structure. To us, there was a third challenge: We wanted to explore new methods for creating a building in a quick, inexpensive, and aesthetically pleasing way.
Taking cues from the “camelback,” shotgun, the new building would have a low end and a high end. The low end would reflect the scale of the neighborhood. The high end – the camelback -- would echo the scale of the warehouse buildings on the eastern side of the site near the railroad tracks.
The floorplan locates retail on the lower level -- perhaps a general store that sells fresh produce. Two tenant units will occupy the space above the store as live/work studios. A central, open-air stair in the middle of the structure will provide access to the store and the units.
For natural light, we’ve designed slatted walls at the retail space, which can be secured and turned into a kind of lock box at night.
As our architectural design progressed, we discovered a type of structure, created on assembly lines, destined to be part of shipping containers. We suggest that these prefabricated blocks be dropped onto each other to form the entire building and provide support for the exterior shell.
Our proposal also calls for a screen wall at the outdoor spaces with platforms above for spectacular views of the Ohio River.