Location: Chicago, USA

Design: Martin Kläschen, Mike Meiners

Urban Context

Lined by two alleys the site forms a minor corner situation within the urban block. In the north are neo-Romanesque residences as the only immediate neighboring structures to the site. The south is determined by a solid building at the corner of Dayton Ave. and Armitage Ave. that emphasizes the end of the urban block. Whereas the average height of the surrounding buildings is about 38 feet the corner building raises to about 45 feet above street grade.

The alleys in the south and in the east function as infrastructure to supply the commercial used structures on Armitage Ave. This causes intensive traffic in both alleys that has an impact on the security as well as on the maneuverability of vehicles entering and leaving the site.

Structure and Infrastructure

The structure of the house consists of a concrete frame that exposes its open site to Dayton Ave. to allow interaction in-between the family life in the house and the community. Also, here is the main entry located.

The concrete frame evolves into a wall wrapping around the backyard of the site to protect house and yard from mechanical and acoustical impact. To avoid congestion in the alley the garage faces the alley, easily accessible in the south-west part of the house.

Slit into the concrete frame is a thermally sealed box that extends its skeleton structure in the eastside and is covered by a wooden curtain wall skin.

Facade Materials and Form

The primer intention of the facade design is to integrate the house into the neighborhood. The front facade shows the west face of the thermal box within the concrete frame. It receives its formal order from an overlay of interior and contextual factors. The interior spatial and structural organization setup a division typical for this neighborhood: in reference to the Italian renaissance it is the classic notion of the elevated Piano Nobile, above a functional first floor (garage) that forms an interactive pole in-between street- and family life. The two bedroom levels on the third and the fourth floor are also connected to the public space by balconies in the front of the building.

Form and scale of the division is an abstract representation deriving from a formal analysis of the contextual classic and modern facades.


Further applications to the façade are its inherent passive solar system that provides a heat-loss reduction of approximately 30% minimum. Along with the cities agenda of developing a clean and healthy environment this project presents a new status of advanced green-technology. Besides gaining energy the glass facade in the back of the house functions as a greenhouse atrium that allows practice four seasons gardening within the interior living areas. Combined with a ground source heat pump and the thermal mass of the concrete super structure the house will be heated and cooled completely independent from public recourses and without any cost for this kind of energy. Only electricity needs to be used from public recourses.


Although the backyard is lowered about half story underneath grade, the landscape design preserves its connection to the front yard and the alley in order to be able to participate in the Sheffield garden walk event. A path in the setback area to the northern neighbor allows getting from the front yard on Dayton Ave. to the secluded rear yard. To establish a looped walkway the fire stair connects the rear yard with an exit to the southern alley.