25 Years: 550 St. Clair

550 St. Clair is a large-scale residential development in Chicago where we conceived the design from the inside (of the living spaces) out: efficient floor plans prioritize function and flow, floor-to-ceiling windows provide uninterrupted views, and fixtures and finishes echo those found in high-end single-family homes. Located half a block from North Michigan Avenue, in Streeterville, an upscale neighborhood with a vibrant pedestrian life, 550 St. Clair holds 112 condominiums in a 26-story tower. 

25 Years: Perimeter Galleries

The two locations of Perimeter Gallery—exhibition spaces in Chicago and New York City—share a space-defining device that is both dynamic and subtle in its form and function: a floating wall that runs nearly the full length of each interior space. The walls support the display of painting, sculpture, works on paper, ceramics, and fiber art while drawing the viewer’s eye deep into the galleries.

25 Years: Carus Residence

One hundred miles southwest of Chicago, the Carus Residence honors, in its formal and material expression, the agricultural buildings typical of the Midwest. We sited the 6,900 square foot house, located in Peru, Illinois, at the front of the property so that its long, horizontally oriented facade - a response to the region’s flat prairie landscape - would act as a privacy screen for the living spaces, pool and yard. The L-shaped plan opens toward the side and back of the plot, creating a sequestered enclave, and a screened porch provides additional private outdoor space.

25 Years: Yamamoto Residence

Fifteen years ago we were asked to design a house in the suburbs of Indianapolis for Tom and Nancy Yamamoto after they had seen the Thompson House in a publication. They invited us to help choose the location and site in a planned development. Although surrounded by Neo-traditional houses on half-acre lots, the house adapts into a sloping site, which articulates views to a preserved area of woods and water. The plan and volumetric organization of the house was developed around a niche to display a pair of seventeenth-century six-panel Japanese screens.

The sequence of entry is defined by a series of horizontal elements including the garage, site wall and entrance canopy, which serves to both privatize and delineate the approach to the house. Setting the main living area of the house away from the street insulates the home from an area of typical suburban development, while reducing the impact of the design on that context. The intent is calm juxtaposition—not a radical statement.

The uniqueness of the design in suburban Indianapolis garnered Brininstool + Lynch a shelf full of awards, including two from the American Institute of Architects, and a host of publications, including a feature article in the second issue of Dwell magazine.

25 Years: Thompson House

A little over twenty years ago we completed the second to last of a number of projects that we worked on as both architect and contractor—the Thompson House.

It was the first project that received national and international press attention; it was also the first of a long line of projects for which we received both the Distinguished Building Award and the Interior Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects, valuing the building design holistically. Interestingly, it received attention recently when it sold for five times what it originally cost to acquisition the land and build it.

Studio Playlist: Fat Tuesday

Goin' Back To New Orleans

Dr. John

Walking To New Orleans

Fats Domino

Tipitina

Professor Longhair

Iko Iko

The Dixie Cups

Go To The Mardi Gras

Professor Longhair

Hey Pocky A-Way

The Meters

Big Chief

Professor Longhair

Street Parade

Earl King

Tremé Mardi Gras 

Kermit Ruffins

Handa Wanda

Bo Dillis and the Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian Band

Second and Dryades 

Galactic & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux

All On A Mardi Gras Day 

The Wild Magnolias

Fire On The Bayou 

The Neville Brothers

Right Place Wrong Time

Dr. John

Carnival Day 

Dave Bartholomew

Throw Me Something, Mister 

Buckwheat Zydeco

Do Watcha Wanna

Rebirth Brass Band

La Danse de Mardi Gras 

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys

When The Saints Go Marching In 

Pete Fountain

Jambalaya Strut 

Dr. Michael White

 

25 Years: Architecture Is a Lot Like Cooking Eggs

My favorite scene in the movie Big Night is the final one. Shot in a single five minute take, it contains almost no dialogue, only the sounds of a kitchen at breakfast. Secondo cooks eggs for his brother Primo and the waiter Cristiano after an almost endless night of preparing and serving one of the most amazing gourmet feasts ever represented in film. The scene is not only a visual record of how to cook eggs, but a testament to getting up in the morning and moving on to the next thing, to doing what you have to do.

Similarly, no matter what happens in a studio of architecture—no matter how many mistakes are made, how many projects are unrealized, or, inversely, how many successes are celebrated—you are right back at it the next morning with a routine of tasks. If you believe in it, there is no escaping it other than to leave it altogether.

When we were in a third floor loft on North May Street twenty-five years ago, there wasn't much there. The neighborhood was dark and empty after 5pm and the views to the skyline down the railroad tracks were expansive and uninterrupted. The wind rattled the single pane windows in winter and the jets from the Chicago Air and Water Show rattled them in the summer, given our location at their turnaround point.

Our desks were 4' by 8' sheets of MDF on metal legs topped with Borco and large parallel rules with Luxo drafting lamps mounted on the sides. Our side tables were hollow core doors on wood horses. Our conference room table was identical to our drafting tables and we had eight old banker's chairs arranged around it. Our office was the epitome of simplicity and frugality.

In 1989, CAD was still relatively new to architecture. Computers were huge (in size, not in speed or memory) and we used word processors. Almost no one used email and the Internet was a vast wasteland of informational opportunity. Cell phones looked and felt like small phone booths, there were no PDAs, digital photography was in its infancy and no one transferred files digitally. Our office technology consisted of a fax machine, a copier and an underutilized phone system; we tended to “drop things off” rather than use a messenger service.

We drafted by hand, used press type and sticky backs for schedules, titles and specifications, and hand-lettered notes on drawings. We used plastic lead on sheets of Mylar and some of us also used technical pens. The sounds of the office were the tearing of tracing paper, triangles and scales clacking against the edge of the rule, lead pointers grinding, electric erasers whirring, drafting brushes sweeping, eraser shields clinking on the desk and, of course, the sound of the parallel rule rolling up and down the sheet. A quiet background of classical music filled the room since there were no personal MP3 players. My favorite sound was that of a technical pen cutting into the Mylar, making an unmistakable etching sound as it crossed the surface—much like the sound of eggs hitting the pan at just the right moment, metaphorically speaking.

While the process within the studio is as vigorous as ever, the tactile sounds of architecture are mostly gone. What can be heard if you do not have earbuds in are the tapping of keyboards, a computer mouse dragging and the sound of printers in the background. Fortunately, there is still the tearing of trace and the sound of felt tips sketching; and the routine of showing up every morning and running through the tasks at hand is still here, as is the belief in doing good work.

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