Building for Long Term: Architect Scott Marek on Sustainable Design

Known for their modern builds, award-winning Marek Architecture’s approach to urban residential design made them an ideal choice for Urban Commons. The group’s approach is centered in a belief that the “built environment should help us connect to the land and to each other.” This ethos aligns with the Urban Commons vision of sustainable residential living in a community-focused development. Founded by Scott Marek in 2012, Marek Architecture has received awards from the American Institute of Architects and has been named to D Magazine’s Best Of lists several times. We spoke with the group about their approach to urban living and sustainability.  

What projects in your career have led you to work on Urban Commons?

Diane reached out to see if we would work with her on a speculative house in her development, Urban Reserve.  The project, Jeté, allowed us to work between two distinct homes and try to strike a balance between the forms. That project led to us doing multiple residences in Urban Reserve and a mutual respect between Diane and our firm. Ripple D+B also worked with us to construct our design of a residence at 20 Vanguard [in Urban Reserve] that has led to us working together to design four houses in Urban Commons.

When it comes to sustainable design, what inspires your design the most?

The context. We want our homes to respect the world that our houses will be built in and try to make conscientious choices on how we relate to the land, environment, energy use, resilience, and the community surrounding it.

How do you think Urban Commons represents the future of urban living? 

Urban Commons has a unique approach to try and strike a balance between diversity and continuity. It offers a variety of different ways to live, different aesthetics, yet with some commonalities that will hopefully make the development feel united.  

What acts of sustainable living or sustainable design do you find important?

Building for the long term. Creating a well constructed house that will last and trying to plan for some flexibility and growth in the design.

What excited you the most about creating homes for Urban Commons? 

Being part of a new approach to a community development, and the chance to team up with the contractors, Garrett Ratner at Ripple Design Build and Chris Reader at Dimension Design Build, to develop some alternative approaches to constructing a residence such as leaving the house framing structure exposed and removing sheetrock as a typical interior finish.

Do you have a specific design ethos and aesthetic that you feel the new home buyers will be excited about your design? 

On this particular project, we are planning to exhibit the beauty of light wood frame construction with all its flaws and imperfections.  This will make the spaces feel more raw and gritty and hope that home buyers will appreciate the possibilities of these interiors and make them their own.