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Architects and Builders

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Design within the environment

With a few historic exceptions, such as Gillette’s Castle, traditional residential development has blended with the lower Connecticut River valley landscape, using shapes, colors and materials that complement natural features.

The choice of roof and siding colors, the prominence of glass and exterior lights, and even the pitch of a gable may have a significant effect on how visible a structure is from the river and its far shore.

The visual relationship of building bulk and form should be balanced with the site itself, and the use of color and texture should reflect the river’s setting. Sensitive design identifies natural features such as mature trees, topographic features, and rock outcroppings, and makes use of them as basic design elements, preserving as much of the environment as practical.

Designing and building to the environment preserves the land’s ecosystem, hydrologic features, scenic qualities, treed canopies and vistas, and open space that all contribute to a sense of place that defines the lower Connecticut River region.

designing within the environrment

An over-engineered site within the Zone. Considerable natural vegetation and topography have been altered.

Here are design and site development guidelines from the Connecticut River Gateway Commission:

  • Adapt a building’s design to the existing natural terrain, rather than excessively altering the landscape to fit a building style.
  • Structures built on the crest of hillsides overlooking the river should be sited back from the hill’s edge to reduce their visual impact on the horizon.
  • Minimize disturbance to sensitive areas during development. The smallest practical area of land should be exposed at any one time during development, and the length of exposure should be kept to the shortest practical time.
  • Remove as few existing healthy trees as possible. Preserve and care for trees and natural vegetation between your structures and the river.
  • Replant disturbed areas with native trees, shrubs and ground cover that preserve the lot’s appearance and that will thrive in the valley’s climate.
  • Site grading should avoid creating straight and unnatural slope faces. Cut and fill slopes should have curved configurations that closely reflect surrounding topography. At intersections of manufactured and natural slopes, avoid abrupt angular intersections and shape contours to blend with natural slopes.
  • Scale buildings and their architectural elements to their environment to avoid disrupting the river scene. Elements such as large roof areas should be broken to approximate natural slopes. The angle of a roof pitch should generally be at or below the angle of a natural hillside or manufactured slope.
  • Design rooftop treatments to avoid monotony of material, forms and color. Dark colored roof treatments reduce visual impact.
  • Minimize any outdoor aesthetic lighting (architectural and general site lighting) that isn’t related to health and safety

Gateway Commission staff can provide guidance on design and development so plans will be compatible with the natural and traditional riverway scene. Email us »

This page is intended only as a general summary. Please refer to the Commission’s standards for complete regulatory language.

sunset on the Connecticut River

Preserving A Natural and Traditional River Scene
Connecticut’s Legislature considered protection of the lower Connecticut River valley so critical that it provided the CT River Gateway Commission with the unusual authority of being able to disapprove locally-approved zoning regulations if the Commission believed such town regulations would harm the “natural and traditional river scene.”  The Gateway Commission is the only Connecticut regional entity with that level of authority.