Archetect Woes

Some local architects are concerned that rewrites to development codes would constrict their designs. For example, under the new codes metal siding like that on the building located on the corner of North Rouse Avenue and East Oak Street, would not be allowed.

A group of 85 local architects and design professionals says it’s worried about portions of a major development code rewrite scheduled for consideration by Bozeman commissioners, writing in a letter that some of the proposed changes will impose unduly strict rules on new buildings built in the city.

Specifically, they say, the new guidelines would limit their ability to propose creative designs, promoting what they call “a recipe for postmodern style which is often characterized by over-exaggerated and quasi-historic looking architecture.”

“If implemented in their proposed form,” the letter continues, “these requirements will likely result in a monotonous built environment lacking in the unique character that makes Bozeman such an attractive, interesting and diverse community.”

The signatories include a number of prominent local architects, some known for developing structures with modern stylings. Among them are Rob Pertzborn of Intrinsik Architecture, Ben Lloyd of Comma-Q Architecture and Brian Caldwell and Erik Nelson, whose firm ThinkTank designed the Lark Hotel.

City planner Tom Rogers, the project manager for the city’s effort to update its unified development code, or UDC, said the document is still a draft and that the city is considering the input. As proposed, the design guidelines do have some flexibility, he also said.

“I don’t think they will find their creativity hampered or hindered with the standards that are being proposed here,” he said.

Among the specific concerns the architecture group points at are a proposed clause that would require most new commercial buildings to have their first-floor facade use brick or another masonry material unless designers get a special “departure” from city planners.

That could preclude steel-clad structures like the West Main Co-Op or the building that houses the Daily Coffee on North Rouse.

And, the architects note, brick tends to cost about two-and-a-half-times as much as wood or metal, according to numbers provided by Intrinsik’s Scott Freimuth.

“While I think we can all agree it is a nice building material,” Freimuth said, “it truly can become a big cost burden which will ultimately force developers to cut cost elsewhere in buildings — or, worse, decide to develop elsewhere.”

“The city has a long history of using solid materials,” Rogers said, adding that planners are looking at amending that code section specifically to allow more flexibility with materials like corrugated steel.

“The intent,” he said, “is, ‘We’re not building more Quonset huts.’”

The full UDC rewrite, which the city has been working on for nearly two years, is currently scheduled to head before city commissioners for an initial hearing July 17, Rogers said.

Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

Eric Dietrich covers city government and health for the Chronicle.

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