A community can be the few homes at the end of a cul-de-sac, a neighborhood comprised of a few city blocks, a single development, a village, or a region. This article, though dedicated to Brickyard Creek, allows that all definitions are applicable.
The easiest way to create and control thoughtful planning of a community is through a single owner with a single vision; unrealistic when most communities are made up of multiple owners with varying, or little, vision. The challenge of every community is to get multiple owners to share a single vision. A few do. Some never try. Others fail miserably, having underestimated the commitment and effort required to create a meaningful and lasting identity.
How is it that some places you walk or drive through have a feeling of warmth and radiate a sense of belonging, so much so you find yourself thinking, “I could live here.”
…While other places elicit no human emotion other than one that causes you to ask, “How do I get out of here?”
Places where you feel uncomfortable are void of architectural organization and are usually communities that may have been planned with good intentions but didn’t possess sufficient panning control to survive an onslaught of disconnected architects, developers or buyers who think only of their own property instead of how they might best fit into the surrounding architectural landscape. They fail to become a vibrant community based on integrity and character and often fall into neglect, abandonment or partial abandonment.
Then there are the communities throughout the US, frequently located within or near outstanding natural environments that have yet to realize their full potential as relevant and sought after-status. They have positive attributes but are sprinkled with disjointed planning and sterile pockets of architecture. They are in architectural and planning limbo—waiting for somebody or something to stimulate the resident’s awareness of place and to start to identify, expand and protect its character.
If you’ve been to places like Woodstock, Vermont; Bar Harbor, Maine; Old Town Alexandria, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Seaside, Florida; Carmel, California; or countless newer neighborhoods and small communities that have been smartly developed to give residents and visitors a unique experience—you know how special and inviting a community can be. You’ll also learn, upon inquiry, how expensive homes and rental are within these communities.
First is a strong sense of place. They never try to be all things to all people. They know what they are—and what they are not. They are not models of perfection, not contrived, Disneyesque developments where homogeneous architecture and topiary rules the landscape, like so many emotionally sterile gated communities developers have given the world in the past couple of decades. The identity associated with these communities is so powerful there is no need to hide their blemishes; on the contrary, the blemishes become part of what makes the community authentic.
Second is pride of community. With a clear identity and vision firmly in place, many residents become fiercely protective of their community.
Third are thoughtful rules and guidelines that help guide new residents, or forgetful older residents, as to how to make their homes fit into the community. Rarely needed when many historic communities were founded because of an inherent understanding and pride in the architecture at the time, rules were later introduced by committed residents who felt the need to retain the character of their community and to govern unwanted and unwelcomed distracting structures, whether by design or scale, into the community.
This brings up the fourth common characteristic—the will to fairly enforce rules and guidelines.
Most modern developments have architectural guidelines set up by the developer and mandate enforcement by the condo or homeowner’s association through committee sometimes called Board of Architectural Review (BAR), an Architectural Review Board (ARB) or, as in the case at Brickyard Creek, the Architectural Control Committee(ACC). Not all communities start with a clear identity or vision from which to formulate guidelines that help mold them into vibrant and relevant neighborhoods and many are made weaker by committee membership that is unengaged or lacks experience or willingness to execute. Likewise, not all residents within a community understand the importance of architectural consistency and choose not to comply with or skirt guidelines.
A well-charged and engaged Architectural Control Committee protects value, identity and architectural integrity while simultaneously ensuring a sense of place, the comfort of surroundings and the overall health of the community it serves. This is the continuous goal of the Brickyard Creek ACC.
Fortunately, Brickyard Creek has a clear identity, set in place by the developers and furthered by the many of its residents, committees and board of directors. It has also an Architectural Control Committee that uses the property’s guidelines to help ensure that there is no disruption in overall character of the community and tries to eliminate visual blights or disruptive details that are black eyes to the community.
Specific to Brickyard Creek, obvious examples of visual blight include:
- Trash or construction materials strewn around a house or cottage
- Out of place plastic or metal storage buildings when every other structure is wood
- Colors not blending into the natural surrounding
- Buildings not buffered to blend in the landscape (abrupt two story walls, massive roof lines…)
- Unmaintained exteriors (stain, walkways, invasive weed control)
- Any signage, other than fire numbers outside cottages, which, other than temporary, specifically designed sale signs, are not allowed by the Declarations and By-laws
Less obvious is the disregard of architectural integrity. Some like to think that architecture is subjective, therefore not manageable or controllable. Nothing could be further from reality. How we see is a learned response that has taken us from the Neolithic age 12,000 years ago to present. Patterns, colors and scale elicit consistent human emotions—blue hues are cool, red hues warm; horizontal lines are more relaxing than lines that are vertical or diagonal. Unbalanced shapes beg to be completed, similar to dissonant chords in music that need to be followed with a consonant chord to bring the musical piece to a satisfactory conclusion.
Every day we see examples of architecture that are pleasing to look at, and other details that are clunky and seemingly out of place. Unless trained in architecture, most people find it hard to articulate why a design works or doesn’t work in their minds, but that doesn’t mean that architecture is not a science based on human emotion, scale and proportion. Leonardo De Vinci’s drawing of Vitruvian Man best demonstrates how much humans understand architecture. The drawing is based on the teachings of Rome’s Vitruvius, who taught us that architecture is an imitation of nature and nature’s designs are based on universal laws of proportion and symmetry. He also wisely brought up the concept that buildings need to be beautiful, stable and useful.
Brickyard Creek’s ACC has one primary charge—to protect the community by enhancing and enforcing, if needed, the vision as defined originally by the developers and further implemented by the community and the Board of Directors.
Different than typical condominium neighborhoods, where buildings have homogenous common walls and roofs, and where the existing landscape was scraped away and replanted, Brickyard’s Vision specifically prioritizes our natural environment, presenting a unique challenge to the ACC with respect to architectural control.
The ACC looks at all man-made structures within the environment as guests, guests that need to be respectful of their host—Mother Nature. Though the developers chose Arts and Crafts style architecture for the cottages because of its prominence in the region at the time of its economic heyday, Brickyard Creek residents should understand that our community is not just about architecture. It’s about peaceful co-mingling of humans and nature; and, unlike urban or suburban environments, there are no architectural statements to make with the exception that all structures are to blend into nature as much as possible.
Some typical ACC expectations are:
- Egress steps from screened porches should not promote expanded living spaces at the porch level. If a living space is desired off the porch, it needs to be at ground level so that neighbors and trail hikers don’t see additional porch detail with rails.
- Garages and guest houses are not automatically approved per cottage site. Their addition to the immediate area is predicated on topography, hydrology, vegetation and visibility by neighbors, roads and trails.
- Any new addition will require similar (cedar or comparable) exterior finishes and stain colors that compliment nature.
- Exterior light fixtures, doors and windows, if changed from the original and not consistent with our architectural style, will need to be changed.
It is critical that every resident of a community understand that the short and long-term value of an individual’s home or cottage is directly related to the appearance, condition and the aesthetics of the community it resides in—and a community without a clear identity and effective architectural control risks slipping into mediocrity, if it hadn’t already started that way, and property values will be judged accordingly.
Further, in a typical condominium property, owners would automatically be charged for exterior maintenance through monthly association fees. At Brickyard Creek each owner has a responsibility to themselves, their neighbors and our community to present their home or cottage in the best light possible and to not encroach on the surrounding natural landscape any more than is necessary for a simply but comfortable living experience. The effort will result in a continuing high-quality community and greater economic success with respect to property values and rental rates.
Many residents of Brickyard Creek have embraced our vision and feel that a strong Architectural Control Committee, one that prioritizes the good of the community over the needs of any individual owner, enhances our value financially and as a relevant community. Visitors and many new owners are thrilled to have stumbled into our neighborhood and it’s easy to see why. We have set a great example of sustainable development and community engagement and I have heard several within our community talk of legacy, something every resident would be proud to have been part of.
Legacy? Maybe. But it will take more than a few residents to see that lofty goal through to fruition. It will take an effort from all residents, and it starts with understanding our vision, fiercely protecting it, promoting it within and beyond our property and then simply enjoying what we have built.