Challenge When architect/developer Anderson Pearson formed his one-person firm, his inaugural project was the New Park West condominiums, completed in March 2005. Sited on a corner lot, facing a busy street on one side and a quiet cul-de-sac on the other, the project presented many challenges. Among them was working with city officials and neighborhood groups to rezone the lot, from single-family to multi-family use, a process that determined much of the project's program: The units had to be family-oriented, have no less than two bedrooms each, and provide off-street parking. Pearson also hoped to create a memorable entrance to the neighborhood and make the development appear uncrowded on its half-acre lot.

Architectural and Lighting Solution The seven-unit project is comprised of two buildings connected by a one-story porte-cochere that spans the entry drive. Each three-story townhouse offers a street-facing garden, a tandem garage on the first floor, living and kitchen areas on the second, and bedrooms on the third.

The rest of the neighborhood had previously been developed with condominiums; townhouses directly across the street and stacked flats fill out the rest of the cul-de-sac. 'I tried to pick up on some of their elements-the cedar siding, the stain-without copying them,' says Pearson. 'That also introduced a visual continuity that was lacking on the street.'

Perhaps the most striking visual element of New Park West is the stair tower that anchors the corner condo-the single three-bedroom unit in the project. Crowned with a glazed reading loft, the tower features a series of projecting fins that frame slotted windows. Day or night, the tower serves as a recognizable landmark, functioning as what Pearson calls a neighborhood 'porch light.'

Lighting plays an important role in the overall design of the exterior. Round wall sconces accent the busy street façade and provide illumination, modulating the building's massing at night, while low-voltage halogen recessed path lights mark unit entrances. This theme is continued by uplighting the porte-cochere and the trees in the entry gardens. All of the exterior lighting is placed on photocells to illuminate the site at night and provide a sense of security.

Careful detailing is not exclusive to the exterior. Pearson applied a standardized arsenal of luminaires on the interior, including recessed canlights in the ceilings and pendants over the open-kitchen bar tops, which combine economy with elegant design. Concealed fluorescent striplights placed above the kitchen cabinets create a warm glow on the ceilings. The same luminaires are also looped behind the half-bath mirror, causing that reflective surface to seemingly float.

Charlotte is currently experiencing a condo boom, making it an easy field for developers. Nonetheless, New Park West stands as a testament to the use of imaginative design in speculative projects. Not only were all the units sold under contract before construction, but the dramatic lighting and unique architectural elements have made the townhouses favorites among tenants and the neighborhood as a whole. aaron seward