Thoughtful Design Wins

2 min read

Nestled in the woods of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia a string of Cotswolds-inspired cottages line a country lane that runs from a retail district to an artist village. The path between the homes is paved with cobblestones and is just wide enough for people, not cars, to pass by. Although the path of homes seems winding and organic, the neighborhood is no happy accident. It was artfully designed. It is Swann Wynd—winner of the 2018 CNU Charter Award.

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Much like the Academy Awards are to the film industry, the CNU Charter Awards are the highest honor for new urban architecture and design. CNU, or Congress for the New Urbanism, is the organization that hands out these prestigious awards nationally each year. Their charter includes new urbanism principles such as designing for people not cars, public spaces, and conservation of natural environments.    

This year, out of countless entries, Swann Wynd caught the attention of CNU and earned one of only eleven Charter Awards given out. Designed by the architecture firm Rhinehart Pulliam & Company, Swann Wynd was recognized for its pedestrian-focused design within a natural landscape.   

 Designed for people not cars, a lantern-lit footbridge connects retail to the Swann Ridge residences. 

Designed for people not cars, a lantern-lit footbridge connects retail to the Swann Ridge residences. 

Architects Robert Pulliam and Eddy Rhinehart were tasked with planning and designing a small constellation of homes in the Swann Wynd neighborhood. They placed a pedestrian walkway in the heart of a forest while connecting a commercial area with an artist village.

 An overview of the plan for Swann Wynd showing the footpath that intersects the neighborhood. All positioned amongst dense forest. 

An overview of the plan for Swann Wynd showing the footpath that intersects the neighborhood. All positioned amongst dense forest. 

In Swann Wynd, pedestrians are the priority. Garages and driveways are hidden from the walkway. The footbridge leading to the neighborhood is lit throughout with charming lanterns, signaling the transition into a different area of Serenbe. All of the homes face the path, giving the pedestrian interesting and beautiful architecture to enjoy as they pass. 

According to the Rhinehart Pulliam & Co team, “Each experience is defined by different materials, different architecture, and different views of nature, both wild and cultivated.”

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 From a wooden footbridge to cobblestone, the path provides interest to the pedestrian through the use of different natural materials. 

From a wooden footbridge to cobblestone, the path provides interest to the pedestrian through the use of different natural materials. 

When people are encouraged to walk, the street and the neighborhood comes alive. Neighbors stop to chat, visitors can admire the homes up close. “Visiting pedestrians can and do touch the facades of the houses as they pass by,” Robert and Eddy explain. What could have been a sleepy footpath, is actually a semi-public space that promotes social interaction. 

 Homes define the edge of the path, a rare design in North America.

Homes define the edge of the path, a rare design in North America.

Interesting scenery and architecture. A clear footpath. Destinations at the end of the walkways. Walkability means nothing if people don’t use the walkways. You have to make it easier or more enjoyable to walk somewhere rather than drive. There has to be good reasons and points of interest designed at the scale of humans.


A postscript from Steve Beshara, the owner/developer of 14 and 17 Swann Wynd:

When the bulldozers first started clearing a path through the forest, I was optimistic that Robert and Eddy’s designs would look as good in real life as they did on paper. They exceeded the highest of expectations. (CNU agrees!) And with John Bynum, a builder of excellence, they became the dream team. We love the homes. Congrats to Robert and Eddy on their excellent design–worthy CNU Charter Award winners!


To view more photography of 17 Swann Wynd.

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 Walking the walk. Robert, John, and Eddy working the details. Circa 2014.

Walking the walk. Robert, John, and Eddy working the details. Circa 2014.

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