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2016 MCHAP

St. James Residence

Margret McCurry, FAIA

Chicago, IL, USA

June 2015


Margaret McCurry, FAIA / Tigerman McCurry Architects


Jeremey Hinton, AIA / Tigerman McCurry Architects (Senior Project Architect) Rachel Oleinick, AIA / Tigerman McCurry Architects (Project Architect) Melany Telleen, RA / Tigerman McCurry Architects (Project Architect)


Joe Mansueto & Rika Yoshida-Mansueto (Not for Publication)


Steve Hall


In the Midwestern tradition of “form follows function,” the home as envisioned is structurally expressive but to create a finely detailed elegantly proportioned residence required the reworking or removal of the extant crudely constructed structural elements of the developer’s garage. A concrete expansion joint that would have bisected the main building was relocated to run along the east side. The concrete deck of the existing garage was removed to permit the installation of a totally new steel structure whose columns are set on the concrete piers of the lower levels of the garage. All steel components are clad in sustainable thermally insulated 100% recyclable zinc with aluminum rainscreen infill panels, louvers and sun shades. Inheriting a 12’ high drive aisle and excessive parking spaces, the eastern drive aisle was designated for the mechanical room while the parking section was repurposed by raising and reinforcing the floor to 4’ to create raceways as well as permitting depth for a skylit lap pool, bamboo garden and Japanese bath heated by high performance vacuum tube solar collectors on the green roof. The architect mitigated the developer’s awkward 3.5’ floor shift from the garage into the townhome by designing broad graceful stairs surrounded by a walled handicap ramp. As reported, the building was designed to use sustainable materials and reduce energy consumption. Thermally broken, LowE, laminated double glazed glass provides required R values. Fabric ceilings in public spaces mute street noise as do the acoustic properties of the Zinc.


An environmentally conscious aesthetically minded modern couple purchased all eight townhouse lots of a PUD which included a Postmodern condominium tower and townhouse lots that bracket a raised park all situated above two levels of parking. In a historically landmarked community, a mutual goal of architect and client was to create the appearance of individualized units that while contemporary in character would relate in scale to the greystone townhomes across the street. The classical townhouse Parti positions extended family guest quarters on the westernmost lot to shield the main structure from a neighboring high rise. Its counterpart to the east performs a similar screening function. The two are connected to the main home by bridges as hyphens that overlook courtyards. The selection of natural zinc cladding produces a sympathetic color palette which while equaling the longevity of the more historic building materials extant in the neighborhood does not mimic them. The main building is totally interactive as befits a young family. Street facing ground floor rooms interface with the courtyard gardens, while on a level above the living room and stair hall overlook the double height entry with its welcoming hearth. A perforated metal sky lit stair is the spine. Echoing the exterior detailing, the zinc clad structural elements are expressed on the spare and reductive interior. The wood flooring is Douglas Fir harvested from tree farms in the Black Forest. Individually zoned radiant heating is installed under the wood flooring, interior rugs, upholstery fabrics and ceiling are natural fibers.


The active family uses and enjoys every inch of their new residence. The Grade school boys race hover boards from one end to another while their sister tends her edible plants in the conservatory garden. The husband and wife attend to eleemosynary duties within their respective interconnected offices in the east wing while extended family inhabit its counterpart. Everyone relaxes in the Japanese bath after doing laps or exercising. With all bed rooms situated on the top floor, the family is close knit but very sociable. They tour friends and neighbors through the home touting all of its energy efficient features from its fully integrated home automation system that monitors all aspects of the environment and adjust to continuous changes in weather and occupants use, to the mix of hi-efficacy light sources and sophisticated controls that utilize low wattage halogen and hi color rendering LED’s that result in more than 50% energy savings compared to a conventional solution and a substantial reduction in landfill materials, to the exterior plantings in the rear garden which are a mix of low maintenance native species requiring minimal water usage. They take friends up on the roof to see the green roof trays that improve building insulation, reduce heat island effect and conserve rainwater and then escort them out through the courtyards visible from the connecting bridges and family rooms planted with Aspen trees hung with lights during the winter to brighten the neighborhood.

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