What is it that makes urban environments so engaging? As architects we wonder about this all the time, and we think we've found part of the answer in what we've dubbed the Q Zone — the place that exists at the intersection between a building's facade and the public right-of-way. This zone is wonderfully differentiated, ever changing, and endlessly adaptable. Quirky, you might say. Hence the Q.
The Q Zone differs from context to context, use to use, neighborhood to neighborhood. Sometimes it's used to create a wider sidewalk, at other times it contains landscaping. For restaurants, it can be a great place for outdoor seating. For retail, the place to tell a story, through signage or displays, about the shop's point of view. And for residential buildings, it might be the site of a front stoop that navigates an elevation change, connecting residents with the neighborhood while still maintaining a sense of privacy. All of these elements soften the edge between the building and the public right-of-way, make that edge physically and visually welcoming, and most importantly add personality and character to the environment at large — just the thing that makes successful urban places so coveted and that adds value to any project.
It's easy for architects to focus solely on the aspects of buildings we’re most familiar with—how big the shops are, how high the ceilings are, where the service entrances are. But while those things certainly matter, in our experience it's the moves we make in the Q Zone that really bring our buildings and their surroundings to life.