Integrating Art Into Multifamily Communities

Displaying artwork at apartment communities not only enriches the space but also boosts social engagement.

The lobby at Avalon 555 President. Image by Alan Schindler via AvalonBay Communities

Art does more than just beautify a space. It has the power to lower stress while reinforcing the identity and purpose of the home it is placed in, and blank walls become focal points when covered with paintings, murals, or have statues positioned in front.

Multifamily owners and managers have taken notice of art’s intangible benefits and placed it higher on the amenities list, even during troubled economic times.

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Public art has long been considered an asset that enriches the residential space it is placed in, as it can lead to higher levels of community engagement and social bonding—while helping multifamily companies create a more meaningful connection between the community and its residents.

“We’re respectful of the neighborhood and focused on what kind of communities we want to create within that particular environment,” Yoon Park, senior director for design at AvalonBay Communities, told Multi-Housing News. “With that goal in mind, we develop a design story that aligns with ways we think will enhance our resident experience, and art takes a big part of that.”

Because art is a physical form of expression when it is closely integrated within the design of a building, it helps to tie various knots to complete the overall design features and make the space feel more real, according to Park.

“In selecting art, we ensure that it represents our brand, the local context and also introduces design uniqueness. We aim to create an inspiring place to live that provides a sense of belonging for our residents,” she noted.

This attention to art helps prospective residents to get the feeling that they can build their life there.

“The art of a community, if thoughtfully executed, is an important component of the overall experience and brand,” explained Bozzuto Development Co.’s SVP & Managing Director Jeff Kayce.

It’s highly likely that one piece of art won’t have a major influence on a prospective resident’s choices, but “a cohesive experience throughout the community absolutely will,” Kayce noted—and each selection must be purposeful and complementary to the overall design.

Art comes in many forms

To seamlessly integrate art into multifamily communities, design teams pay attention to the location and brand, not just aesthetics. The possibilities are numerous and include murals, sculptures, paintings, photography, living walls and iconic signage.

Mural at Anthem House. Image courtesy of Bozzuto

For example, at The Abby—Bozzuto’s luxury community in Quincy, Mass., which is named after the iconic Abigail Adams—the art is focused on local, female artists. What’s more, an original Abigail Adams letter was procured and integrated into a work of art in the project.

Another example is Bozzuto’s Anthem House in Baltimore, which displays a local artist’s mural of Billie Holiday upon the entrance. Bozzuto has commissioned an additional mural—painted on a 20-foot-high retaining wall around the community—with portraits of beloved local historical figures, while throughout the common areas and corridors they’ve placed mostly original art.

Commissioning artwork is something AvalonBay Communities does frequently, too: “This process is so valuable since each artist brings in their unique point of view that often takes the end product to another level,” Park said. “We also find that it is important to stay open-minded about using various types of art, so we can continue to experiment and push our boundaries.”

What’s trending now

In recent years, street art featured on façades and amenity spaces has been gaining popularity—but its success is closely related to the authenticity of each application within the overall brand and aesthetics, as well as the quality of the art itself.

To that extent, the artwork at each community needs to be carefully curated in order to suit the overall vibe of the project. For example, at Anthem House, street art created by various artists was boldly integrated into large murals throughout the community, while at Bozzuto’s Liberty Harbor East tower most selections would be considered fine art.

Another view of the lobby at Avalon 555 President. Image by Alan Schindler via AvalonBay Communities

The pandemic has influenced the choice of art throughout multifamily communities and nature-driven themes created with natural materials are a top selection. A focus on a sense of balance and wellness is presently trending at AvalonBay Communities’ properties.

Even before the onset of the health crisis, the lobby and amenity experience at Bozzuto’s properties have been critical to the success of each project. According to Kayce, these “should extend between interior and exterior spaces.” And making the amenities easily adaptable is essential—so, they easily function well for work socializing and wellness.

Some creative spaces also feature artwork, depending on the programmatic research for each specific community. Bozzuto even considers displaying residents’ creations as a sense of ownership among residents, Kayce said, adding that “the programming needs to be funded in the specific details of each community and its residents”.

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