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2016 MCHAP

Mohawk Residence

Martin Felsen

Chicago, IL, USA

August 2015


UrbanLab Sarah Dunn


Intrinsic (Landscape Architect)


Rachel Cantor


Michelle Litvin


Extensive research was conducted to find a locally produced solid black brick (not easy!). The bond pattern of the façade is an arrangement of bricks such that each course consists of alternate bricks having their short sides (extruded headers) and long sides (stretchers) facing outwards, with alternate courses being offset. In order to mitigate a prescribed massive volume, a series of tactical removals at multiple scales was undertaken: the back of the house volume was sliced to create an angled plane; a courtyard-sized volume was removed from the top floor; and smaller scale removals (from the punched window openings to the brick pattern) were deployed to dematerialize the large box. A landscape surface connects the basement level and ground level to the green roof above the garage creating a hill on an otherwise flat Chicago landscape.


The house is a contemporary response to a changing cultural environment in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, which is characterized by a growing demand for monumentality, solidity and enclosure as dominant aesthetic as expressed in the architecture of the private house. As a response, we positioned the house as a massive volume between front and back garden, separating a relatively introverted street facade (large windows with translucent shades) from a very extroverted garden facade on the back of the house. The kitchen, dining room, living room are almost completely open to stimulate socialization, and connect all spaces to the back garden. The lowest level connects to the outdoor garden and houses indoor play spaces. On the second floor, three intimate bedrooms, storage-space, bathrooms and a study are arrayed around an open stair well. The third floor contains the master bedroom and bathroom arranged around a courtyard. All floors are interconnected in a continuous flow by a perforated steel stair that allows light to penetrate through the house from the courtyard on the top floor.


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