The designs of a corner site possess a number of challenges. The following design guidelines are offered as a means to address these special site conditions associated with a corner residential property.
Unify Street Frontage The site design for a corner lot should unify the two street frontages through a common set of design forms and palette of materials (Figures 13—5 and 13—7). It is important for the designer to treat the two sides as one so the house and property appear as one site, not two competing or unrelated areas. This should be done even if there is a clear “front” and “side” to the orientation of the house toward the streets. A unified composition for the areas facing both streets will provide a consistent public identity to the site and house from all vantage points.
Establish a Hierarchy of Emphasis There should also be relative importance placed on a selected area or areas within the framework of a unified public frontage. One area, usually the front of the house and its associated entry, should be emphasized to visually lead the eye and visitors to the front door (Figure 13—5). This concept will likewise avoid the possibility of a monotonous appearance along the street frontage.
Identify Entry Walks A directly related need is to clearly identify where and how one gets to the front door of the house, especially when it cannot be immediately seen from all site entry points. In addition to visually emphasizing the front door itself, it
is important to locate and design entry walks so guests and service people can easily find their way to the door. Two different walks are often required on a corner site. One walk should extend directly from one of the streets to the front door and be emphasized with showy planting, accent lighting, address sign, and so on to acknowledge its prominence (Figure 13—5). A second walk is frequently necessary from the driveway. It, too, should be clearly visible and lead directly to the front entry area. The two walks should meet at one common outdoor entry foyer, giving everyone the same experience of entering the house (Figure 13—6).
Locate Selected Uses in Front Because space is often limited in the backyard, the designer should consider locating appropriate uses in the more public areas facing the streets. Small sitting or eating areas may be located adjacent to the public side of the house if proper separation and screening from the street is established. The ideal situation is to create a space that is partially enclosed from the street, but allows for some view out. Plants, walls, and/or fences that are about 3 to 4 feet high can provide a low partition while sitting, but still allow homeowners to view other areas of the front yard and the street. This locality gives homeowners a direct connection to the activity of the street without jeopardizing privacy. Lawn areas along one of the streets might also be used for recreation. Again, separation from the street might be provided with plants or structures if local zoning codes permit.
Establish Privacy It is critical to establish privacy in a corner lot because it is so often jeopardized owing to the location of the house on the site. Screening should be provided both from the adjoining streets and from neighboring properties. To separate the site from the streets, walls, fences, or hedges may be placed along the street or sidewalk edge in selected locations if local zoning permits this (Figure 13—7). Even a low vertical plane that is between 2 and 3 feet in height can provide a sense of partition and help separate the public street from the yard area of the home. Screening along the property lines is most critical in the backyard because of the close proximity of the house to the property line and the lack of outdoor area. Here walls and fences are usually the best solution because they can provide a solid structural separation from neighbors without taking up much space. In addition, it may be necessary to provide overhead planes to screen views from the upper stories of nearby houses (Figure 13—8).
Urbanize Backyard Because it is usually small in size, it is recommended that the backyard of the corner lot be treated like a small urban space rather than a typical suburban backyard (Figure 13—9). Thus, lawn should be minimized or eliminated
Overhead planes and fences/walls should be used in the backyard to establish privacy from nearby neighbors.
The backyard of a corner site should be treated as an urban garden with a series of well-defined outdoor rooms.
altogether with a series of paved outdoor sitting, entertaining, and/or eating spaces established in its place. These should be carefully detailed to provide spatial enclosure in both the vertical and overhead planes. Walls, fences, and overhead trellises may be used with plants to create space and separation from neighbors. Attractive pavement should dominate the ground plane and be balanced by carefully located planting beds. If treated appropriately, the backyard of a corner lot can be viewed as an architectural extension of the house with a room or series of rooms that visually and functionally carry the indoors into the exterior (also see “The Townhouse Garden,” the last section of this chapter).