Architects: Wheeler Kearns Architects
Interior Designers: Kadlec Architecture & Design
Landscape Designer/Contractor: Gardens by Leslie
Photography: Steve Hall, Daniel Wicke
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Total integration of sustainable goals, client needs and site challenges.
Overlooking a park with Lake Michigan beyond, this prominent corner site is bound to the south by an urban residential street with a mixture of high and low rise buildings, a neighboring building to the west and a wooded lot with mature trees to the north. The building’s form consists of two masses, a plinth anchoring the house to its site, and a sculptural volume springing from the plinth towards the lake beyond. A two story void, housing the public spaces, links the solid masses together and visually opens the house to the neighborhood, providing sweeping views of the park. The concept directly translates to the buildings form creating a unique and fresh visual language for this contemporary neighborhood.
Orientation, program elements, and adjacency requirements informed the carving of each volume, resulting in the houses open and inviting public spaces as well as providing an intimate exterior environment in proximity to the residence’s private quarters. The resulting sloped roof is an optimum angle for the solar thermal panels, while a parapet wall continues to form a built-in screen shielding the exterior terrace from the neighboring high-rise building. The parapet continues to the building’s north façade, dropping to reveal the side-yard with a row of spectacular mature trees.
The scale of the building is derived largely from and informed by the surrounding trees. The 2-story living room relates to the height of the tree trunks, maintaining a sense of openness, while the sculptural volume is suspended within the height of the canopy, utilizing the foliage as an additional layer to envelope the house’s private functions.
The conceptual diagram is reinforced through the exterior material palette. The volumes are expressed through the different use of one material, foreshadowing the projects attention to detail. To emphasize weight, mass and its earthen relationship, the stepped plinth volume is laid up out of load bearing rock-faced Kansas limestone. Similar to a carrot, carving the plinth reveals its ubiquitous material throughout. By contrast, the sculptural volume has a taut, honed exterior skin, employing the same stone as a thin rain-screen. Conceived of as a radish, the taut layers are peeled back at the openings and highlighted by ½” bronze colored jamb liners.
Sustainable measures were one of the highest priorities for the owner. The site footprint provides an elongated east-west layout maximizing passive solar gain. Other passive solar strategies include incorporating brise-soleil to shade west-facing windows from high angle summer sun/admission of low angle winter sun, the use of the stair well for stack effect, and thermal mass within the building envelope and floor. An innovative pultruded fiberglass support system was developed for supporting the rain-screen stone cladding along with an “out-sulated” exterior wall assembly help to minimize thermal bridging, and restrict the impact of diurnal temperature variations. In addition to the solar thermal panels, other active sustainable strategies include use of geothermal wells for heating, and rainwater harvesting for irrigation.