Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Land of the Courtyard Apartments

I came across a number of areas in Rogers Park with high concentrations of courtyard apartments, but take a walk on Estes between Sheridan and Glenwood to see the clear winner.  Most of the buildings below were constructed between 1923 and 1924, creating an instant neighborhood and bringing hundreds of new residents to the block.

Now and again I like to resort to oblique angle aerial photos as reference imagery to better convey massing and context.  These photos used to be found only in city planning departments but now you can find them online for free.  Maybe they're not the most up-to-date, but good enough for my needs.  The drawing below is adapted from a bird's-eye photo found on the Bing search engine.
Estes between Sheridan and Glenwood.  To the left is the Red Line Elevator.  Click for larger version.
I like how the courtyards themselves read from above as geometric English gardens.  I was going to try and show the rooftop structures  (HVAC, skylights, elevator overrides, etc.) but it made the drawing too complex and difficult to read.  The white lines on some rooftops represent the bearing walls between units.

As much as I like courtyard apartments I have to think that maybe this is too much.  This block has lost some of the interest and variety you find in most of Rogers Park.  It doesn't help that nearly every one of these buildings is securely fenced.  The building at 1345-1359 W. Estes actually has curved and spiked fencing, which gives it a feeling of being under siege.  And it's likely that they're fenced in for good reason.  This is unfortunate, and it wasn't always the case.  Below is a Tribune blurb about this building when it was under construction as luxury rentals.
Chicago Daily Tribune: Feb. 18, 1923, pg. A13.
It's easy to forget that these buildings had so many amenities.  They attracted residents with higher-than-average incomes, those that might have opted to find a single family home further  towards the edge of the city.

I would be surprised if any of these buildings retained their entertaining rooms and playrooms.  For the most part they're now laundry and storage rooms.  If there are any courtyard apartment buildings in Rogers Park that still have elaborate communal facilities I would love to pay them a visit. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Multi-Court Apartments in Rogers Park

Special thanks to the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society which gave me an opportunity to talk about courtyard apartments last Saturday morning at their museum at Morse and Greenview.
"Tendencies in Apartment House Design: Part IV - Open Court Types,"
Frank Choteau Brown, The Architectural Record, Vol. L, 1921, p.489.  Accessed through Google eBooks.

Once again, Frank Brown gets there before I do.  The footprint to the far-right best represents what I refer to as muli-court buildings.  E-Plan works too.  I'm reminded of Steven Holl's Pamphlet Architecture #5, "The Alphebetical City," which I once passed up at a used bookstore and have regretted ever since.  Anyway, I had some difficulty defining what should be considered a multi-court building.  Are two idenitical U-Courts side-by-side a multi-court?  What if they're on separately owned lots?  So I came up with a few multi-court buildings that appear to create a coherent whole, even if they are technically individual buildings.

This buildings at 1800-1818 W. Farwell  are a good example this.  However, the setbacks of the individual wings are not identical.  The one on the far right comes closest to the front property line.  The center wings are set back somewhat and align with each other.  The left extension is set back even further.  It doesn't seem like there's a regulation which would require this, but the wing on the left better aligns with the single family homes to the west.  If that's what the designer intended I congratulate them on their nod to neighborhood context.  Of course it's still a massive building next to tiny buildings, but at least their neighbor still has their  front yard.

This complex is located at 7016-7034 N. Sheridan (Sheridan and Greenleaf) sits on three separate parcels.  It's really a combination of two L-Courts and one S-Court.  But they were intended to form a coherent composition (classical revival, down to the red brick, corner quoins and triangular pediments).  In this case I can explain the various setbacks.  On the lots to the right a 30' subdivision setback was recorded, which is absent on the lot to the far left.  Odd, but interesting.

This building at 1708-1720 W. Albion was a surprise to discover.  Not only has it never been enclosed with wrought iron fencing, but it still has all the original windows and doors.  They're not in great condition, but it's nice to see the level of detail these buildings had.

Again, from an ownership standpoint there are three separate lots.  Several L-Courts combine to create two central courts.  Architecturally it reads as a single multi-court building. 

It appears that the central section makes use of  corridors to access the units.  This is unusual for a courtyard apartment, which normally depends on a number of entrances.  Perhaps it's necessary because of the comparatively small lot size.