THE LOFT-STYLE RESIDENTIAL building may be one of the most popular urban housing types today, but not all projects are architecturally successful. Markethouse Lofts is not one of those projects. With its bold-colored exteriors and angular lines, it is a welcome addition to its new neighborhood.

Targeted at urban professionals and empty-nesters, the project sits amid a diverse neighborhood of multifamily buildings, small single-family homes, and active railroad tracks. The architects decided to use that as their organizing filter, so, inspired by the railway vernacular, the design team organized the cluster of five buildings as a collection of boxcars on the triangular lot. “If you look closely, the buildings look like boxcars that were in a wreck,” says architect Randy B. Popp, senior project manager on the design team. The triangular organization creates a series of spaces that include entry, courtyard, passage, and plaza.

The exteriors are punctuated by an aluminum commercial storefront glazing system that echoes the site's industrial pedigree. To avoid repetition and to break up the massing of the exteriors, the architects delineated the shift in building planes with colored stucco, masonry block, metal railings, and awnings.

Each two-story unit has double-height areas that soar to 18 feet. “That makes for a wonderful interior, but the question is, how do you make it big on the inside and not appear so tall on the outside,” Popp says. The architects minimized the slope of the roof and tipped a portion of it downward. “This helped to enhance the sense that the building is not quite so tall,” Popp adds, but does not prevent tall spaces inside.

Builder Tip Sounds of Silence People may want an urban loft in a gritty industrial area, but dollars to doughnuts they don't want to hear the screeching of a train or the grinding sounds of a sheet metal workshop. That's where acoustic treatments make a big difference. Because Markethouse Lofts is located near operating railroad tracks, the architects employed a series of special techniques to mitigate noise, says architect Randy B. Popp. Walls facing the tracks were made with two layers of gypsum and included limited openings. Special commercial windows with double laminate glass made a big difference on noise, Popp says, and caulked perimeter edges seal the interior.

CATEGORIES: Infill community (grand); Lofts (merit); ENTRANT/ARCHITECT/LAND PLANNER: The Steinberg Group, San Jose, Calif.; BUILDER/DEVELOPER: Regis Homes of Northern California, Foster City, Calif.; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: The Guzzardo Partnership, San Francisco; INTERIOR DESIGNER: Creative Design Consultants, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA, San Jose, CA.