The BUILDER - Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence is produced by BUILDER magazine and sponsored by Marvin Windows and Doors.
The BUILDER - Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence is produced by BUILDER magazine and sponsored by Marvin Windows and Doors.

Charlotte, N.C., may not leap to mind as a mecca for great residential design, but David Furman is working on it. Consistently breaking new ground in urban, high-density attached and multifamily housing since its founding in 1980, David Furman Architecture has been a bellwether for the industry by effectively balancing often-conflicting demands. “Multifamily design is extremely difficult at a high level because you're dealing with architecture as a commodity,” he says. “Making it fresh and distinctive is an incredible challenge.” Running counter to his brethren—or at least the stereotypical architect persona—Furman believes that a project must be popular to be successful, rather than simply judged on its design merits, regardless of sales. “It must have roots that the consumer can identify with and meet their preconception of what [multifamily] looks like, but also chart new territory,” he says, by using the same elements and components in new ways.

Perhaps the best example of achieving that objective is Buckingham Station, a 358-unit rental apartment project in Midlothian, Va., that in 1989 earned Furman his first of two Builder's Choice Project of the Year awards. “We tried to re-examine and break out of a formulaic type of architecture,” he says, by creating clusters, angling the buildings, and heavily landscaping the site to reduce the sense of density and make it more accessible.

Furman is, understandably, inspired by the popularity of new urbanism and what he calls a reclaiming and rediscovery of city life. “People attracted to that [life] have an adventuresome spirit, and they like that in their architecture,” he says. “The market is thirsty for a new aesthetic.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charlotte, NC.