CITIES ARE MERCURIAL PLACES where the character of a street can change dramatically from one block to the next. Case in point: This tricky infill project in Pasadena, Calif., which presents two entirely different façades from different vantage points.

There is a logical rationale for the dual identity of this 103-unit rental property. The 1.23-acre site spans two different urban zones: One specified for commercial use with a height limit of 125 feet, and the other earmarked for commercial/residential use with a cap of 50 feet. Hence, the evolution of two distinct building masses. A six-story structure fronts the commercial zone, while a lower-profile, four-story structure jibes with the commercial/residential zone. The midblock point where the two volumes meet is marked by a two-story portal—a unifying element for an otherwise bifurcated project.

There were challenges shaping the interior space, too. Zoning requirements dictated that residential space in the six-story structure could not exceed 50 percent of the total square footage. This stipulation was resolved with stacked, two-story loft units on the upper four stories. The double-volume units satisfy code and offer an alternative dwelling typology for renters.

And when it comes to navigating the rough terrain of urban development, it definitely helps to have a sense of humor. Prado wears its comic side well. Beneath its thick skin of brick bands and spandrel windows lies a playful edge: light-box soffits that read like freeze-frames of passing pedestrians.


Awards: Residential project of the year/ attached—urban; grand for best midrise apartment project (4 to 6 stories); merit for best mixed-use project; Builder: Hanover R.S. Limited Partnership, Houston; Developer: The Hanover Co., Houston; Architect: Togawa & Smith, Pasadena, Calif.; Land planner: GWH Landscape Architects, Houston

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA.