Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
Photos by Christopher Barrett
Text by Patrick Sisson
It’s comparable to finding a hole in the landscape. When locals first encountered the Claremont House—a standout amid rows of classic bungalows in Chicago’s St. Ben’s neighborhood—it was a jolt to see through the home and into the backyard from the sidewalk.
“When the translucent blind is open and you can see the light come in through the back, people slam on their breaks, because that moment is so different,” says architect Brad Lynch of Brininstool + Lynch, who designed the house for his family. “People think it limits privacy, but when the blinds are down, it’s really not noticeable.”
Completed back in 2007, the steel-framed 4,250-square-foot home on the city’s northwest side was designed with a nod toward past trends in urban architecture. It’s relatively straightforward to compare the brick-clad structure to its Modernist precursors. The see-through nature of the 10.5-by-15-foot front and back glass panels actually stare visitors in the face, while the side stairwell leaves the view unobstructed and provides natural light and air circulation.
But Lynch was also thinking about how past Chicago buildings, from mansions on Prairie Avenue to early neighborhood homes, revolved around a front porch that served as a space for community and communication. Since gentrification, many new homes have been oriented towards the backyard, he said; it leaves side windows, normally closed because of privacy concerns, as the go-to source for natural light. Lynch’s solution was to provide a new view toward neighborhood interaction, contrast it with a private second story, and anchor the structure in its environment.