Bowtie Modular Construction

Here is the goal of Jesse Wig, co-owner of “modern yet classic” Pittsburgh based development company, Atlas Estates: The creation of a set of eighteen hundred square foot Homestead Library adjacent homes with near passive house quality that will be available for purchase – complete with land and utilities – for less than four hundred thousand dollars.

Is it possible? Construction costs are nuts these days and designing with good quality parts can bring the price up quickly.  Jesse teamed with Fisher ARCHitecture and modular construction company, SMI, to make it happen.  “Building modular can reduce your costs by a third without compromising quality,” says Fisher ARCHitecture architect, Eric Fisher. “Jesse came to us because he wanted out-of-the-Pittsburgh-box thinking, and he got it.”  Instead of designing units that align like soldiers along East Eleventh Street, Eric and Bea designed a series of courtyard buildings with diffuse openings between front and back.  This strategy creates a campus-like environment that encourages pedestrian traffic and interaction between residents.

However, the project volumes are arranged simply and conform precisely to SMI’s requirements, which keeps prices down.

We’re only just beginning to analyse the project’s look:  The resulting homes were left standing at attention in our opinion.  There was not quite enough variation to capture potential owner’s imaginations.  The project pieces needed a whimsical touch.  So Eric undertook a study of the Atlas Estates bowtie logo using his Grasshopper software, and came up with a painting scheme that draped the abstracted pattern across the project facades and brought them to life.

How far is too far? Does adding both pattern and color crash the system by taking away from the simple (Adolf) Loos-like elegance of the project masses? After consulting with Jesse, Eric moderated the design by limiting the color palette to shades of blue.  We like this more restrained version but we’re just seeing it now for the first time.  This modular construction design is still in development.  What do YOU think?  Write us at to let us know.  Thanks!

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