It is impossible not to admire the versatility of the terracotta brick, capable of adapting to the most eccentric positions. For example, this building from the outskirts of Chicago.
Second parts were never good or, in other words, better than the first. However, this is not entirely true when we talk about architecture. In this case we can say that second parts will never be the same as the first. The wonderful use of construction materials always puts their physical and aesthetic capacities to the limit. And in extreme situations, one of the most important materials is terracotta brick. Simple, straightforward and effective like no other.
A two-story house, 260 m2 and 1.2 million dollars
For sample, a button. This week we traveled to Evanston, a city very close to populous Chicago, Illinois. We have been struck by an incredible building constructed among abundantly wooded parcels and conceived for a wealth financial advisor named Robert Lipton, a lover of art and architecture.
It seems that Mr. Lipton needed a home and contacted the architecture studio Brooks + Scarpa, with offices in California and Florida. He saw in his works what he was looking for, but he failed halfway, as the architects went off the established script and created something new for him. Obviously, they convinced the promoter of his idea, and by the end of 2018 he had his new home built, a two-story, 260-square-meter building, which cost him 1.2 million dollars, about 1.06 million euros.
A brick facade with a life of its own
Lawrence Scarpa, the designer architect, had very clear ideas from the beginning, and created a home where the main material was brick, but arranged in a very special way. Although the readers of The Luxonomist had already seen something similar a few years ago.
What defines the envelope of the house is a huge brick facade 6.5 meters high. A wall with elements placed in a linear way, but slightly offset from their axis, allowing an impressive moiré effect, and giving the façade a life of its own.
A facade that changes shape by light
The position of the bricks allows light to enter a front patio, which overlooks the interior façade of the two-story house, fully glazed. This means that from inside the home you can see different light graduations, as the star moves.
Outside, the passerby cannot help but feel attracted by a facade that changes shape while walking, a sensation that the rest of the houses do not produce, with the classic main doors with pavement up to the sidewalk.
To better choreograph the homecoming scene, the designer laid a concrete tile driveway to the home on a diagonal. In this way, access is not direct, and you can see the façade in its different facets.
A spacious two-story house
When you open the huge steel door, one more surprise, you do not enter the house, but instead enter a glass-enclosed hall that overlooks the exterior patio. Everything is conceived to enjoy the maximum daylight hours in artistic intimacy, but the architect reflects it differently: «You can see through the house from the back alley to the street in front.»
For the rest, the house is distributed in an obvious way. A huge room of two heights provides its users with a living room and dining room, with an attached bathroom. The kitchen also occupies the same space, covered with white carpentry that contrasts with the gray and mahogany tones of the rest of the elements.
On the ground floor, joined to the house by a glass corridor, there is an office for moments of work or reflection. And on the upper floor, the master bedroom, which overlooks the back of the building, and another guest bedroom above the office.
A work that had two architects
Being from another State, the architects had the help of other colleagues, what is usually called Architects of Records, that is, those who sign direct the work and adapt the project to the regulations of the region. On this occasion, the work fell to the Studio Dwell Architects, who, in addition, contributed as electrical engineers and construction, yes, they were kind enough to leave some work for Louis Shell Structures, who were in charge of the structure.
The staircase and the floor, the most outstanding elements of the interior
Inside, the polished concrete pavement on the ground floor stands out. Also the staircase, which begins with three concrete steps, which are transformed into oak in the room, probably with an internal steel structure with oak wood cladding, and a white railing to lean on.
The paving on the upper floor continues with the same wood, wood that hides radiant heating and cooling systems, to cushion the cold or heat depending on the time of year.
An incredible Chicago terracotta brick facade
The rear façade is made of cement and plaster panels, made from recycled Portland cement. This is another of the keys to housing, the emphasis on using materials with low environmental impact. Thus, the oak wood flooring is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the paint is non-toxic, and the tiles are nicknamed «eco». In the front and back yards, part of the floor is gravel, and the Solarban 80 glazing, from the Vitro company, is highly protective of the sun.
But let’s go back to the main singular element, the facade. It is executed with terracotta bricks from the Chicago region, bricks that, due to the raw material, obtain quite atypical tones, which means that they are used for purposes other than aesthetic (back walls, chimneys, hidden structural supports…).
The use of these bricks has a double reading, the commitment to the materials of the region, and the challenge of making their dubious aesthetics end up being attractive… Did they get it? For me if.
The challenge of achieving a moiré-effect facade
To obtain the moiré effect, and that the wall did not come over them, the contractor executed horizontal steel structures (5×15), every 80 centimeters high, giving stability to the irregular courses of bricks. In this way, Mr. Lipton safely enjoys natural light during the day, and at night he dazzles his neighbors with the golden rays of light from the interior of the house that pass through the facade. Go with to the financial advisor.