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The Best and Worst Designed Apartment Buildings in FW (and WHY)

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#1 Urbndwlr

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Posted 12 September 2021 - 11:02 PM

What are the best designed apartment buildings in Fort Worth, built since 2010? 

What are the worst

Why are they the best or worst designs? 

 

Are there some design elements or approaches (or combinations thereof) that are safe to say, always bad or always good? 

 

Notes: 

- Identifying why is important to try to identify what about the design makes it succeed or fail.

- Feel free to list multiple.  Doesn't have to be #1 best or worst. 

 



#2 Nitixope

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Posted 12 September 2021 - 11:40 PM

Trinity Terrace (River Tower) seems like it has a lot going for its design based on location, vistas, amenities, layout and general look and feel. Never been inside and I realize it is a retirement community but not sure why that would disqualify it.

TT_12767_Homepage_Header1_1920x900.jpg

Might as well also throw in The Stayton at Museum Way retirement community. I like the way the architect staggered or splayed the three towers to maximize views and privacy at the same time so that you are not looking in on others but still able to see the city. I like that the exterior has a light feel with clean lines and a unified facade design and not overworked versus some other apartments these days look too disjointed and sort a cheap, schizophrenic look. From the photos it also appears to have pretty good indoor/outdoor spaces as well. I want to say buy-in was $500k-$1M+ plus fees but that's just from quick searches.
 

cs-stayton-H.jpg



#3 Austin55

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Posted 13 September 2021 - 08:03 AM

I don't know that I have a particular nomination for best, there's just so many, but Bottle House on Main is some really awkward architecture in my eyes. My nominee for the worst. 

bottle-house-on-main-fort-worth-tx-build



#4 roverone

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Posted 13 September 2021 - 08:28 AM

In the pre-thread for this subject there was mention of complexity and simplicity, and for sure those play part in how we interpret designs.  There is also the important element of what scale we interact with these developments.  As things grow into towers, the repetitions are viewed more as textures than monotony because the expectation is that it is viewed it from a distance.  There is also a shift of expectations from residential to commercial.  Going to the other extreme, a block full of identical single family homes, no matter how nice the individual design, becomes distasteful.

 

These mid-sized apartment completes fall in this awkward middle space, too small for their repetitions to look like the texture of a commercial building and too large for the full-on variation of a typical neighborhood of single family homes to work.  (which is not to say that random variations cannot themselves be a type of texture, like variations in a pile of river rocks has a small scale differentiation and a large scale uniform similarity)  They end up looking institutional.

 

I think I'm most frustrated with the geometric aspect that is unchangeable in our super-cost-sensitive kind of market, and that everything is going to be a box.  Not a wedge, not a pyramid, not a box with holes in it, just a box.  How you color up the outside is a second order issue after geometry.

 

I always want there to be an attention to detail; that for every decision made that it leaves the impression that there was a thoughtful reason for doing it that way.  The example Austin55 just provided has material changes vertically mid-way through windows -- it would be interesting to hear the the thoughtful reason behind that.



#5 Austin55

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Posted 13 September 2021 - 11:12 AM

A good number of multifamily communities in Fort Worth were designed by Dallas-based JHP Architecture. If you want a one stop look at what apartments these days look like, their portfolio is a good start. 

https://jhparch.com/portfolio



#6 txbornviking

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Posted 13 September 2021 - 12:03 PM

Trinity Terrace (River Tower) seems like it has a lot going for its design based on location, vistas, amenities, layout and general look and feel. Never been inside and I realize it is a retirement community but not sure why that would disqualify it.

TT_12767_Homepage_Header1_1920x900.jpg

Might as well also throw in The Stayton at Museum Way retirement community. I like the way the architect staggered or splayed the three towers to maximize views and privacy at the same time so that you are not looking in on others but still able to see the city. I like that the exterior has a light feel with clean lines and a unified facade design and not overworked versus some other apartments these days look too disjointed and sort a cheap, schizophrenic look. From the photos it also appears to have pretty good indoor/outdoor spaces as well. I want to say buy-in was $500k-$1M+ plus fees but that's just from quick searches.
 

cs-stayton-H.jpg

 

 

I'll agree that The Stayton is a solid example of a style/form we could use more of



#7 Nitixope

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Posted 13 September 2021 - 12:46 PM

In the pre-thread for this subject there was mention of complexity and simplicity, and for sure those play part in how we interpret designs.  There is also the important element of what scale we interact with these developments.  As things grow into towers, the repetitions are viewed more as textures than monotony because the expectation is that it is viewed it from a distance.  There is also a shift of expectations from residential to commercial.  Going to the other extreme, a block full of identical single family homes, no matter how nice the individual design, becomes distasteful.

 

These mid-sized apartment completes fall in this awkward middle space, too small for their repetitions to look like the texture of a commercial building and too large for the full-on variation of a typical neighborhood of single family homes to work.  (which is not to say that random variations cannot themselves be a type of texture, like variations in a pile of river rocks has a small scale differentiation and a large scale uniform similarity)  They end up looking institutional.

 

I think I'm most frustrated with the geometric aspect that is unchangeable in our super-cost-sensitive kind of market, and that everything is going to be a box.  Not a wedge, not a pyramid, not a box with holes in it, just a box.  How you color up the outside is a second order issue after geometry.

 

I always want there to be an attention to detail; that for every decision made that it leaves the impression that there was a thoughtful reason for doing it that way.  The example Austin55 just provided has material changes vertically mid-way through windows -- it would be interesting to hear the the thoughtful reason behind that.

 

As far as answering the question of how to interpret the design of all these new mid-rise apartments, two words come to mind "labor" and "material."  This article does a good job of explaining the design and construction behind many of these apartment buildings we're seeing pop-up.  As we all know from this past year's material escalation, all forms of construction are becoming more expensive; even building a simple fence in your backyard has increased considerably.  There's a give and a take / push and pull in there between budget and design.  These type of mid-rise, wood framed apartments are designed to use materials and methods that cost less than steel and concrete construction.  Also, working with lumber has its advantages being is more adaptable to changes, sometimes easier to source and the labor is a factor because you can utilize subcontractors operating on thinner operating margins with low overhead, sourcing their labor from a wider pool of workers, where larger subs often have higher overhead making them not competitive on these types of projects.    You're still getting hopefully what is a quality building but it's two totally different approaches to handling material selection and labor utilization, which is all dictated by the design.

 

To cite a contrasting example from a local project was the Kimbell Museum Piano Pavilion.  I'm generalizing a bit here, but the architectural concrete walls that were specified throughout the museum involved flying in a special concrete finishing crew from Italy that were experienced in working with this type of material to achieve that look and feel required by the architect's design.  At that point, the question becomes "what is it going to take to get this project done and what is it going to cost?"  If allowed, a design can be as simple or sophisticated as a project requires but it will have a direct impact on the cost of completing the project.  At some point the project owner's budget must dictate to what degree of sophistication a design is allowed to achieve.



#8 Volare

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 07:52 AM

The question assumes that there is more than one design being used for the vast majority of the apartments being built. To the naked eye, it sure seems like that is not the case, and rather, a cookie cutter approach is being used to stamp out the cheapest, the fastest. 30 years from now this will not be looked on kindly at all as these building deteriorate.



#9 rriojas71

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 11:46 AM

Volare... I completely agree.  Of all the newer complexes built I think the Broadstone on Summit and 5th is by far the best but it is by no means a great design.  I don't know if it qualifies but the Forest Park Tower that is now a condo tower is my vote for best.  I also think several of the apartment buildings on Hulen and Bellaire are pretty cool when you explore the interior walkways.



#10 Austin55

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Posted 07 October 2021 - 05:14 PM

As far as best stick framed apartments, I think 400 South Jennings is well done, maybe my favorite of the type in the city. It has enough facade variety to not appear imposing but also isn't trying to be something that it's not. There's some unique shapes and elements, like the corner patio, the wavy stair coverings (not very visible in this photo) and slanted windows that add some interest. The materials all appear high quality, there's more brick and stone on this building than most. The bit of retail on the corner is a great touch too. 

 

UtK4L51.jpg

Mag & May is another that isn't too bad, though it's paintjob and murals are probably pretty subjective. I appreciate the U shape of the pool deck that overlooks magnolia. The facade materials seem like a step down from South 400 though. 

 

RVDq5hn.jpg

 

Whenever I always think about the now-demolished Lucerne apartments that stood on Pennsylvania near where Cooks is now. It seems to have been a 1920s version of the "pancake architecture" of today. 

 

QBte2kq.png

 

https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery/img/20101542 

 

 

Anyway, moral of my story is when in doubt just put bricks on it. 



#11 Nitixope

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Posted 07 October 2021 - 06:35 PM

Mag & May is another that isn't too bad, though it's paintjob and murals are probably pretty subjective. I appreciate the U shape of the pool deck that overlooks magnolia. The facade materials seem like a step down from South 400 though. 
 
RVDq5hn.jpg
  


Is it the perspective or are those yellow balconies incredibly tiny? Its about enough space for one person to step out and have a smoke.

#12 John T Roberts

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Posted 07 October 2021 - 07:14 PM

Austin, I remember the Lucerne Apartments.  They had two deep courtyards between the wings on the north and south sides.  The small hospital next door to the east also had a courtyard between the wings. 



#13 panthercity

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Posted 07 October 2021 - 08:50 PM

Mag & May is another that isn't too bad, though it's paintjob and murals are probably pretty subjective. I appreciate the U shape of the pool deck that overlooks magnolia. The facade materials seem like a step down from South 400 though. 
 
RVDq5hn.jpg
  

Is it the perspective or are those yellow balconies incredibly tiny? Its about enough space for one person to step out and have a smoke.

They are tiny, which is why we chose an interior unit. We got a corner location with a bigger and more private balcony. Really like the building but some of our neighbors are super noisy.

#14 Austin55

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Posted 08 October 2021 - 08:34 AM

 

They are tiny, which is why we chose an interior unit. We got a corner location with a bigger and more private balcony. Really like the building but some of our neighbors are super noisy.

 

I've mentioned before I lived in one of these, and everything about the experience was fabulous except the noise. I had a good sized balcony, enough to fit a chair and small table and probably could've had two. Resort style pool, game room, gym, secure parking, and a great sense of community when you see your neighbors all the time. Plus I had all this in a 5 minute bike ride  from downtown, Magnolia or South Main. And that's why I'm happy to have these ways of getting more residents into urban areas. But there really should be a breakthrough on noise control. The walls at my place weren't bad, but I could hear everything happening above me and outside through the windows. 


BTW, I think the Phoenix is pretty nice looking. Not directly related to the architecture itself, but one of my favorite things about The Phoenix was all the landscaping around the perimeter and the brick sidewalks. 
phoenix.jpg
(photo by John)



#15 John T Roberts

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Posted 08 October 2021 - 09:13 AM

Even though I have a wide range of experience as an architect coming up on 35 years of being registered, I have never worked on one of these "pancake" apartment projects.  Therefore, I can't say what the standard is for sound attenuation inside the demising partitions between apartments.  However, I did design and do the construction documents for a more residential style apartment complex in Decatur, Texas that finished up this summer.  The buildings were all one story with wood stud construction.  The exterior walls and demising partitions between units were 2 x 6 wood studs at 16" O.C. and the interior framing was 2 x 4 studs at 16" O.C.  The sound batts between the units were unfaced, flexible, fiberglass insulation, placed between each stud.  On the exterior, the insulation was 6" thick R-19 thermal insulation.  Above the ceilings of each unit, we also placed R-38 thermal insulation.  In this case, there is only attic above the ceilings, and the demising partitions went all the way to the roof deck.  I have not heard about any sound issues within these apartments.  I also have not photographed this project for our office because there were issues with the pool and outdoor amenity construction. 

 

This apartment community is a completely different type, but if you want to check out their website, the link is here: https://www.trophyridgeapartments.com/ 

 

I apologize for the shameless plug.



#16 Nitixope

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Posted 08 October 2021 - 10:21 AM

Nice project John!  Good to see something different and regionally-appropriate use of materials. 

 

Did you double the drywall between units to knock down the sound a bit?



#17 John T Roberts

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Posted 08 October 2021 - 11:04 AM

Nitixope, we did not.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't done.  The owner may have installed that second layer on his own during construction.  We only specified one layer on each side. 

 

By the way, thanks for the kind words.  This project took forever to get built.  It has a 2013 job number attached to it, but it wasn't finished until this year.  Actually, I think the project was cursed.  Two civil engineers died during the time the project was on the boards. 



#18 Urbndwlr

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 12:06 PM

I think the George in Clearfork has, so far, done the best job of exterior design within this category in Fort Worth. 

I generally like the rhythm and clean color palette, which, IMO, avoids using too many different materials (common mistake). 

Someone pointed out it looks too massive (think they meant width).  I think its okay.    Assuming maintained responsibly, it should age well and fit into a context of 4-8 story buildings in a future, more complete Clear Fork street grid.

 

Another aspect I like is that its facades provide some modest variation in depth at windows/balconies, and those variations (slight step backs) seem to be located in logical, eye-pleasing locations.  I'm guessing these rhythms follow some Palladian ratios that I can't explain but my make my eyes happy.  

 

The David-Shwarz designed buildings Downtown tend to respect and achieve these eye-pleasing Palladian ratios, as many of our treasured old Art Deco buildings did.  Im not including any of the DMS buildings since they are either pre 2010 or are not primarily multifamily. 

 

I think window size and ratio of windows to solid walls make a big difference too.  There is something about these that seems to matter greatly.  Most developers seem to go with smaller, likely standard-sized windows (assume cost issue) and limited amounts of larger windows.  Havent figured out what those ratios are that seem to be most pleasing to the eye.  I dont think its as simple as maxing out glass to result in good design.  There are buildings in other cities like Austin that go heavy on glass and yet still something isnt right.



#19 Crestline

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:43 AM

The question assumes that there is more than one design being used for the vast majority of the apartments being built. To the naked eye, it sure seems like that is not the case, and rather, a cookie cutter approach is being used to stamp out the cheapest, the fastest. 30 years from now this will not be looked on kindly at all as these building deteriorate.

 

I read this sentiment frequently on this forum: that this style of apartment building will deteriorate. I understand that everything made by man deteriorates, but I'm not an architect, so is there something especially poor about this style of building that will cause it to deteriorate faster or more noticeably than some other style that we all like more? Or, given sufficient capex / maintenance spend by ownership will this style of building actually have an indefinite service life?

 

But there really should be a breakthrough on noise control. The walls at my place weren't bad, but I could hear everything happening above me and outside through the windows. 

 

Therefore, I can't say what the standard is for sound attenuation inside the demising partitions between apartments.  

 

If this isn't addressed in our building codes, I wonder if it could be. Seems like it would be simple enough to mandate extra drywall or sound battening to achieve an objectively standard amount of dampening. Can't imagine this adding much to the final price tag, either.







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