Three’s Company

An award-winning collection of Boulder townhouses reimagines land use and community living in the modern West.

By Kimberly Field

“Contextual modernism” is how architect E. J. Meade, a principal at Arch11 in Boulder, describes 303 Canyon, a deeply custom living solution that reconceives the traditional single family lot as a setting for thoughtful interaction, privacy and beauty.

Two couples, repeat clients of Arch11 looking to downsize, found a 9,800-square-foot lot that was zoned for three units, rare in West Boulder. They wanted something more interesting than simply lining up three townhouses, and imagined a communal scenario in which they could live individually, yet in a community. They were joined by an internet executive whose demanding job required frequent travel. A fan of Arch11’s work, she wanted in on the project, but this was more than a simple real estate transaction. The five would-be cohabitants met over wine, and a sophisticated 21st century commune took shape.


Meade and his team took this unique set of circumstances created an innovative, transformative (and award-winning) dwelling. “Our challenge was to configure a single family lot into three living zones that have privacy and a sense of community, that have private indoor and outdoor space as well as shared outdoor space,” he says. “We had three clients with individual needs. We sculpted a cohesive exterior but defined the interiors to be specific to how they live.”


Meade and the owners looked not only to how the dwelling would live within its context, but how it could add to it. “Our goal was to address the site and fit into the western part of town. We also wanted to set a pattern for better land use for a changing set of needs and wants, not only for where these clients are in their lives, but where our culture is,” Meade explains.

Every physical boundary pushes against the limits of Boulder’s building code, in height and footprint. The three individual two-story units are sited so that each is flooded with sunlight and has spectacular views of the iconic Flatirons to the west along with dramatic corner windows. One 1,500-square-foot unit stands alone across a common garden and outdoor kitchen area from the other slightly larger attached units. Parking, storage and mechanical equipment are located beneath the living and garden spaces to maximize building area and meet Boulder’s stringent requirements of a 50-50 floor area-to-site ratio.


303 sits in a neighborhood of single family homes ranging from low slung midcenturies to Victorian miner’s cottages. 303 utilizes all of its allowable footprint, but it does not feel like a behemoth straining at its setbacks. Breaking up the masses and incorporating a variety of materials brought the experience of the building down in scale. One has the sense of being in a garden at 303 Canyon, but it is honest in its urban setting, and provides an elegant transition from the busy thoroughfare to the peaceful neighborhood. “The longtime neighbors get it,” Meade says.


Did Meade find any surprises in the finished dwelling? “The Flatirons through the windows are even more magical than we imagined.”

Architect: E.J. Meade, Arch 11

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