Category: Architecture

Year: 2023

Palo Alto, CA

Wilton Court


David Wakely

Wilton Court creates a fresh and visionary residential presence along one of Silicon Valley’s most suburban commercial corridors, while prioritizing clarity in its use and durability in its operation. The project introduces 59 apartments and residential amenities for low-income and disabled Palo Altans to a half-acre site. As Palo Alto’s first approved affordable housing project in seven years, Wilton Court leads a new generation of such developments for the region.

Through its use of inviting materials, thoughtful massing, and playful gestures, the project sets a precedence for healing urban fabric, bringing density, activity, and delight to the historically car-oriented thoroughfare. Multi-color terracotta cladding lends an organic warmth to the streetscape. Massing steps down towards the adjacent single-family neighborhood while maintaining an acoustic barrier. Along the ground floor, a zigzagging storefront, glazed corner lobby, and murals of native birds and trees enliven the pedestrian experience. The building is set back several feet, widening the sidewalk and allowing for benches, trees, and planters. All contribute to a compassionate architecture priming the transformation of ECR into a more livable corridor.

For resident spaces, trauma-informed design in apartments, services, and resources support low-income households, including 21 apartments for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Interiors were developed around a “prospect and refuge” design approach that allows users to easily navigate the building, anticipate social experiences, minimize anxiety, and employ principles of tolerance for error and comfortability without fatigue – strategies that enable residents of all abilities to have full access to, and ownership of, their shared and private spaces. The design created places for retreat from large groups, consistently established direct sightlines between spaces, and employed principles of tolerance for error and comfortability without fatigue. Differing color schemes distinguish each residential floor. Use of interior tiles not only lends a tactile quality to common spaces but creates a highly durable and low maintenance material palette. A landscaped podium courtyard is protected by the building from the street noise and wind. With its commitment to housing current Palo Altans, Wilton Court enables those who would otherwise be priced out to continue living in their hometown.

Wilton Court is GreenPoint Rated (GPR) Gold certified, all-electric, and utilizes high-efficiency lighting appliances and low-flow fixtures throughout. The project employs advanced water use tracking and supports roof-mounted solar hot water and a photovoltaic array that provides sufficient energy to power common areas. Sunshades on south- and west-facing unit windows reduce solar glare and heat gain, and a high-performance enclosure and windows reduce energy loss. EV outlets are provided at every garage parking space. The project uses Dark Sky compliant fixtures throughout and adheres to San Francisco’s Bird-Safe standards. Existing street trees and an existing mature tree on site were preserved, and stormwater is managed with infiltration planters and a bioretention basin in the rear yard. New landscaping is 100% native and Bay Area Friendly, and creates or preserves 3,860 square feet of vegetated open space, or 20% of the previously developed site.

Extensive community engagement led by the locally-based developer and supported by the design team generated community support. Frequent neighborhood meetings allowed stakeholders to find common ground, lift up underrepresented voices, and build momentum with the City for approvals and critical funding.

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