Four Tenets of Placemaking From a Lion of American Architecture

Patrick Ahearn is no stranger to placemaking. A celebrated classicist and household name to many, for more than four decades, the man Architectural Digest described as a “legendary architect” has created historically-motivated structures with a distinctive sense of place throughout New England and beyond. Primary recently had the pleasure of creating the Design Your Legacy campaign for Patrick Ahearn Architect, capturing the essence of his firm’s approach. Patrick Ahearn properties are far more than walls, windows and rooflines – his designs are practically living entities that tug at residents’ heartstrings and make guests want to return time and again. But how does he do it? How does he evoke a sense of place even in new construction homes? We’ve captured four key takeaways on placemaking from this preeminent professional.

Differentiate with details

Even the smallest elements in Patrick Ahearn plans are precisely specified. Historically-inspired features like operable shutters, holdbacks, and window boxes are the norm, imbuing exteriors with character and allowing a home to exude romanticism and charm. Elements like copper lanterns, gutters, and downspouts give the patina of age even on a brand-new home. All materials that are touched are purposefully chosen to indicate premium quality – solid doors are used, and particular consideration is given to door hardware, which is heavily weighted no matter the style. At every touch and glance, these details indicate a timeless place of enduring quality.

Capitalize on amenities

In his complimentary master class, Patrick Ahearn’s Studio, Patrick discusses in depth how he works to deliberately create a sense of place via architecture. Whether natural or historic, he encourages identifying the unique features that exist at a site, and then optimizing residents’ enjoyment of those amenities. Perhaps a property enjoys river frontage, wooded paths, or harbor views, or perhaps important events have occurred on or near the land to be developed. Patrick pinpoints those benefits in advance of a home’s development, and then allows the architecture to respect and enjoy those features to create a deeply authentic experience at the property.

Practice the greater good theory

Patrick believes passionately that architecture has the power to improve lives, not only for those who live within his homes but for the public as well. He advocates respecting the fabric of existing surroundings when designing new houses, and carefully considers spaces between buildings to preserve public vistas and views. With this sort of respect and consideration, a new project can become part of a greater neighborhood composition for all to appreciate and enjoy.

Narrate your own story

Patrick’s process of narrative-driven architecture creates a backstory for each and every project, instilling an implied history even in new construction residences. In this way, a home might be drawn to appear as a main structure added onto over time, with outbuildings that could have been barns or boathouses connected anew by breezeways or corridors. As a result, his properties feel far richer and more storied than nondescript spec houses, leaving passersby to comment that they seem to have stood forever.

Patrick’s insights on placemaking are as relevant for multifamily marketers as they are for his draftsmen and women. Simply put, multifamily developments that consider details, highlight amenities, and allow for public appreciation and enjoyment will be far more successful over time than those that don’t. Narrating the multifamily story is all about branding, and that’s where Primary can help. With nearly 40 years’ experience, Primary has assisted countless names in multifamily in making communities meaningful and magnetic – it’s the art of placemaking that gets our motor running.
Contact us for more information on how Primary can help turn your community into a true destination.

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