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Regenerating Brooklyn

When Jennifer Underwood looked for inspiration for a modern “Charlotte-style” house, she looked to a neighborhood that no longer exists, cleared away decades ago from Uptown’s southern Second Ward.

The Brooklyn neighborhood was the community center for the area’s black citizens from the late 1800s until it was razed during the urban renewal programs of the 1960s and 1970s.Jennifer Underwood 4

Underwood, an architect intern at Intec Group and former interior designer, drew on the neighborhood’s common practice of establishing businesses on the front of residences.

Jennifer Underwood 3Underwood takes that concept full circle, both nostalgically and practically. What was once commonplace due to the conditions present at that time – such as higher small-business ownership and the lack of transportation one would need to live elsewhere – is now a choice due to technological advances that allow many people to telecommute.

And for those who must occasionally visit with others in the course of their work, the front office space is set aside from the information living area of the house, providing both a more presentable workspace and a physical separation between work life and home life.

The home is construction in a style that was common to Charlotte’s Brooklyn neighborhood: the shotgun.

“This was the starting point for my design,” she said. “The major axis connects the front of the house to the back on both levels, with rooms falling off the axis on either side. This axis is further articulated with walls and changes in elevation defining the circulation space.”

Both floors have an abundance of porches and decks in public and private spaces, and strategically placed windows and doors to take advantage of natural light. But while it may draw on a shotgun shack for its design, the home is definitely modern, along the lines of the geometric boxiness of the Bauhaus aesthetic.

Underwood has worked for a little more than a year at Intec Group, a commercial architecture firm with about 35 employees between its Charlotte and Fairfax, Va., offices.  She has contributed to projects ranging from 5,000-square-foot tenant improvements to high-rise mixed-use construction.

Her love of architecture and building began at a young age: At 14 she helped design and build a 900-square-foot house with her father.

JenniferUnderwood2Intec Group supported her design creation for The Mecklenburg Times’ architectural challenge, she said, because the company “encourages employee involvement in design competitions such as ‘Reframing Charlotte’ to stimulate the creative process.”

She said she “sees residential and multifamily design as a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals, and hopes that the process of exploring design concepts for this competition will help her with future multi-family projects at Intec Group.”


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