Residence for Two Collectors by Wheeler Kearns Architects
After a lengthy search, a full penthouse floor of a Chicago high-rise was discovered that afforded 11 foot high ceilings, a double height space looking south to the city, and 360 degrees views. The site was gutted to a shell condition, awaiting the new interventions.
The owners’ brief was “a home we love, have pride in, are comfortable in; ability to entertain graciously with simple elegance”.
Lifelong collectors, the brief included also finding space for numerous pieces of mid-century (to present day) furniture, sculpture, art. It was to feel comfortable for the couple and their dog, their immediate family, and philanthropic events for 75 people.
The process was truly collaborative, with the owners intimately knowledgeable, fascinated in construction; the way buildings, things are made. Discussions often led to Jean Prouve and Pierre Chareau, who offered the precedent of machined elements that could operate, and transform spaces of long views and openness to ones contained, and in between.
The first essential decision was the non-directional end-grain walnut floor, providing the visual weight and durability of a factory. Plastered perimeter walls for art; perforated metal, slatted wood, and floating planes of fabric provide acoustic absorption.
Machined, patinaed steel fabrications were subsequently “inserted” as operative/functional elements: barn/pocketing doors, shelving/storage/mezzanine loft and stair, doors and jamb-liners, all to toughen the space. After all, the client’s father was a machinist, and what could be a greater sign of respect than selecting correct fastener size and drive, countersunk of course.
Photography by Tom Rossiter