Evanston, Illinois - 2015
The stately façade well establishes the house within the century old neighborhood but it has a distinct character which itself is in keeping with the spirit of the area where the building stock is noteworthy for its rich eclecticism. This context granted us the freedom to pursue the clients’ concept for the house – a current day take on traditional Mediterranean design. Italian Rationalism of the 1920s, itself a derivation of Renaissance concepts, with an emphasis on logic and simplicity, became a launch pad for the house’s design. The four-bedroom structure is an amalgam of classic, simple volumes. In keeping with Rationalism, detailing throughout is traditional in spirit but streamlined, allowing for a focus on the volumes of spaces and how light animates them. Generously scaled windows were positioned high on walls to bring in light without sacrificing privacy – a key concern given the density of the neighborhood and the busy street the house faces. As one approaches the house, the classic gable roof disappears from one’s sightline; the defining view instead becomes a projecting cubic volume.
This just finished house for a newlywed couple represents a melding of cultures, time periods, materials and ideas about defining space. Housed within a historic district bordering Evanston’s city center, the stucco clad house presents a spare yet stately street face which is contrasted with the more informal and private courtyard that the house wraps around. Large windows flood the house with light yet most are positioned to maximize privacy, a priority given the busy street that fronts the property and the immediacy of adjacent buildings. Traditional architectural forms are reinterpreted to instill a modern spirit in the house, the end goal being a house that is clearly of its age while remaining contextually responsive.
With its easy access to a plethora of services, amenities, and public transit lines, the proximity of the site to Evanston’s center was key to the clients’ decision to purchase the vacant property. The site once housed a warehouse and effectively was a brownfield that required extensive soil remediation. Thick walls with extra insulation minimize energy costs and noise from the busy street. Now home to a toddler, the house was built under strict V.O.C. limits. Reused or salvaged materials appear throughout the house. Suspended, almost invisible yet highly efficient LED strips discretely illuminate the great room’s locally sourced cedar ceiling. Ornamental ironwork dating from the Art Deco period and crafted in Buenos Aires has been repurposed for railings inside and out.