Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Courtyard Apartments- Graphs and Charts!

When you're working with about 200 buildings it's natural to organize them into a list.  And of course, if you're making a list why not use Excel?   And as long as it's in Excel why not generate a few pie charts and line graphs?  And why not import that table into a free geocoding site and see what kind of maps it comes up with?  

Anyway, it was only a matter of time before I could inflict some abstract illustrations on the viewing public.  I believe I've already included a distribution map in an earlier post, but sometimes it's hard for me to stop fiddling.  

The above maps are good representations of the distribution of the various types of courtyard apartments.  The map to the left uses individual markers for each address, while the one on the right uses pie charts of various sizes to represent building clusters and distribution of types within the cluster.  Both clearly show the dominance of the U-Court building.  Not bad for free maps from BatchGeo.

Above a more comprehensive pie chart from Excel showing the courtyard type breakdown much more clearly.  Yep, the U-Courts win.  L-Courts are a distant second.  

But I'm also looking at the construction dates for these buildings.  Nice to know Excel can do such an clear chart showing total buildings by year and by type breakdown.  Took me a bit to figure this out, but I think it's worth it.  Still trying to get the total building counts placed at the top of the column...   Anyway, it's interesting to show that all building didn't end with the onset of the Great Depression.  Not until after 1933 does construction of these types appear to cease.

Click to actually read these numbers.
One of the things that I'm interested in showing is how drastically the density in Rogers Park increased during the time in which the courtyard apartment colonized the neighborhood.  Sure, the Census figures (and the Local Community Factbook) show that Chicago's population increased 150% between 1910 and 1930,  but the population of Rogers Park increased more than 800%.

Farwell between Greenview and Glenwood
It helps to illustrate the change with a snapshot of the block of Farwell bounded by Glenwood and Greenview.  The du/ac notation above indicates dwelling units per acre.  Coincidentally, it shows almost exactly an 800% increase.   

OK, that should do it for charts and diagrams, at least for the moment.

Friday, August 26, 2011

S-Court Apartments in Rogers Park

The Rogers Park S-Court apartment is the most irregular and the most predictable courtyard type.  Irregular because I can never estimate what sort of dimensions will work for an S-Court.  They can be located on lots ranging from 100' deep to 170' deep, and they might accomodate as few as 20 units or more than 40.  But one thing is sure--  if it's an S-Court you'll find it on a corner lot.

7001-7017 N. Wolcott

An S-Court is really the fusion of a U-Court with a more standard apartment building attached on one end and arranged to provide a narrow interior access court.  Rather than construct a single U-Court (which would provide a generous amount of central green space) the S-Court maximizes nearly every square foot of a lot. It does this partly by skimping on the central court,  which may read as uncomfortably narrow.  And unlike an L-Court, which can sometimes borrow the perception of space from the lot next door, an S-Court will be narrow forever.

Perhaps in compensation for not having views into the interior court the side wing will often have use of a front yard.  I've seen front yards that are very generous on some of these buildings, but also yards with barely room for a potted plant.

Here's my courtyard test:  If you can stand in your window and unintentionally watch your cross-court neighbor do something embarrassing then the court is too narrow.  As you might guess, I live in an S-Court building.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Entrances to Courtyard Apartments, #2

Click to enlarge.
In a previous post I introduced some examples of the decorative entrances of several courtyard buildings and talked about some of the ways these operate to define public, private, and semi-private spaces.  I even had a nifty graphic, which I'm recycling to the right.  But as usual, I have some more examples I'd like to include. 

7320-7330 N. Damen, 1930

Above is a brick and stone wall and fence combination with Craftmans details.  It seems likely that the fence section is a later addition, but it doesn't add much more security.  Even I could hop this one. Still, it's good to retain the visibility into the court.  I've seen some high solid walls which make a building look under seige.

7349-7355 N. Damen, 1926

This is a particularly good one, with some gothic touches.  The combination of very tall piers and very low walls is a bit unusual.  So again, not a real physical barrier, but it provides a psychological break between public and private space.

7381-7389 N. Damen, 1929

Sometimes you'll find these types of entrances, which use wrought iron to suspend a lantern.  This is an elegant treatment, but they don't age well.  It's difficult to keep something like this protected from the elements and operable.  Easier to chop off the metal and install lamps on the top of the piers. Or not at all.
6822-6828 N. Wayne, 1928

The most common materials used are brick and stone (or cast stone), so it's a bit unusual in Rogers Park to find a courtyard building with a significant amount of terracotta.  This entrance actually uses two types of terracotta, white and a dark green speckled base, which resembles granite. Nice adaptation of a gothic buttress form.
7400-7410 N. Damen, 1932

This is a good example of a different type of entrance incorporating a change in grade.  In this case the entire courtyard is elevated, probably creating a bit more basement storage.  There are also buildings which use a sunken courtyards, which can be even more effective in creating a semi-private space.

OK, that should do it for courtyard entrances, at least for a while.

Friday, August 5, 2011

U-Court Apartments in Rogers Park

"Tendencies in Apartment House Design: Part VII - Courtyard Plans,"
Frank Choteau Brown, The Architectural Record, Vol. LI, 1922, p.64.
U-Court apartments are generally what people think of as the classic courtyard building.  A single deep, semi-enclosed courtyard flanked with overlooking apartments.  Sometimes these courtyards open up to the street, and sometimes they're shaped more like a keyhole.  But in reality there's a remarkable variety in how these buildings utlize their lots and organize their space.  A previous post concerned with L-Court apartments introduced some of these principles. To the right is Frank Brown's 1922 graphic that I'm recycling from the L-Court article. But in this case it's the bottom row that's of interest.
As usual, click for a more legible version.
The above footprints are adapted from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  The smaller grey shapes represent interior or exterior stairs. If you look carefully you can tell that every unit has a front stair and a rear stair.  Although these aren't necessarily accurate they're the best I can do without some serious trespassing.

1639-1649 W. Touhy, 1931
Note the variety in the front yard setbacks.  While this is sometimes due to zoning it's just as likely that a property is observing a subdivision setback,  recorded to the property prior to development.  This is definitely the case for 1617-1627 W. Fargo, which observes a 30' front yard setback.  You can see these clearly on the 80-acre maps of the area.  Front yards are also a function of lot size.  The smallest lot at 1615-1625 W. Columbia has a zero front yard setback, allowing more square footage to be crammed in. 

Just like the L-Courts described previously, these buildings have multiple front entrances serving six units, two on each floor.  Arranging them in a U shape around a central court provides cross-ventilation and light from at least two directions.  The court itself functions as a symbolic entrance and a landscaped centerpiece.  No matter how dense the neighborhood may become the central court remains a green oasis.  Generally.

I realize these are tiny.  Click for a larger version.
While the first grouping shows buildings arranged on rectilinear lots, the central courtyard type can be adapted to a variety of lot shapes.  The buildings to the right are on irregular lots shaped by some of the neighborhood's diagonal streets and rights-of-way.  The modular form of the courtyard apartment allows these lots to be utilized just as easily as one made up of right angles.  In fact, adapting a building to an irregular lot can provide a variety of apartment sizes and configurations, which may help the building appeal to a variety of renters with different budgets and spatial needs. 

The challenge for many of these buildings is to find a system of ornamentation elastic enough to accommodate and unify an irregular plan. At least a few future posts will investigate some of these ornamental schemes.

7401-7411 N. Hoyne, 1931
There's a great variety in the size of lots and the number of units in each of these buildings.  But in general the lots of my unscientific sample above range from 14,500 sq. ft. to over 19,000 sq. ft.  There are normally 25 to 40 units (sometimes more) in these buildings.  In the case of 1535-1555 W. Fargo (bottom left above) the Cook County Assessor estimated 59 units, which I put down to the atypical use of a double-loaded design on one wing of the building. And also tiny apartments.