Urban Courtyard

Urban Courtyard

Unbuilt Buildings

Firm: Massey Associates Architects

Location: Chicago

Narrow city lots and zoning regulations create homes with limited variation in volume and scarce natural light. Typically, light is introduced from the front and back facades or with narrow light wells. This home takes the concept of the light well and expands it to introduce not only light but a habitable exterior volume at the center of the home. A zoning variance to eliminate required yards was granted for this sub-standard city lot. This allowed the design to capture the maximum interior floor area permitted but would have left the client without outdoor space. The building mass was strategically developed by carving away the building form to create exterior spaces. The house feels larger than its square footage due to the open floor plan that provides views of other parts of the home through exterior spaces. Even with purposely delineated living spaces, one can look from the windows at the street, through the center courtyard to the rear terrace over the garage.

Most primary interior spaces have two exposures, maximizing a sense of openness and providing abundant daylight. The design maximizes daylighting in all primary interior spaces and creates opportunities for cross ventilation. Also it utilizes the central courtyard to create a stack effect for natural ventilation of the interior living spaces. A solid masonry wall on the east side of the house organizes interior circulation and references the original mass from which exterior spaces were carved. The wall provides texture that contrasts the smooth material palate—burnished black stucco and areas of cementitious rain screen on the exterior, and the light filled white interior. This house creates a sense of openness and space greater than its square footage would typically allow, without sacrificing outdoor space.

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