BELOW GRADE GARAGE,
This single family attached home on a modest property in one of Washington's finest Historic Districts offered a unique and challenging opportunity for us, to leave the existing single car garage in place and add a new 2 car plus garage on a site with a small, elevated rear yard, historic stone retaining walls and a difficult access rear alley AND maintain some play space for the family dog and 2 small children.
As a testament to the adage, adversity spurs creativity the site and the client created an extraordinary opportunity for us to create a simple, unique and wholly "green" solution to this multi pronged challenge. We convinced the client, the neighbors and the Washington, D.C.'s Historic Preservation Office to allow us to create a simple garage door opening in the existing historic stone wall, leaving the footprint of the wall and it's historic essence intact, so that we could create a 3 dimensional, truly green solution in this unique context. Because the house and yard sit nearly a full storey above the rear alley and had no square footage available for a garage from a Zoning standpoint, we proposed to put the garage wholly UNDER the existing rear yard at alley grade.
First the existing historic stone walls were meticulously dismantled and salvaged so they could be re-used. Using small bobcat excavation equipment and hand shovels, the rear yard was removed entirely, the rear of the house was underpinned and a new reinforced concrete garage was built from property line to property line in place of the entire rear yard of the home with deep planting wells at the north property line for larger planning specimens. The historic stone walls were meticulously re-built, the existing historic metal stair from the yard to the alley was replaced, a new black steel picket safety fence was installed and the rear yard and the landscaping was restored.
The new garage with an overall ceiling height of 8 feet, storage for trash, bikes, kayaks, tools, and extensive shelves was connected into the existing historic garage with a new interior door, and to the existing house with a new interior concrete stairway to an unused storage room in the basement that was converted into a new coat/mud room.
The property and the neighbors affected yards were then re-landscaped by Dianne Seiffert who's loving hand and extraordinary sensitivity to context and the living environment created a beautiful and serine yard with seasonally flowering plantings for the children and family to enjoy all year.
Photographer: Andy Ramirez