Friday, June 14, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago - Circling the Wagons

In the 1960s and 70s many rowhouse designs in Chicago began to incorporate solid walls and barriers in front of the home.  Traditionally rowhouses had addressed the street with small setbacks and a generous stoop, allowing residents the opportunity to participate in neighborhood street life.

515-529 W. Dickens, 1964.  Tigerman and Koglin.

But now many turned away from the street, setting the structure further back on the lot and privatizing the front yard. The designs themselves also become more defensive--  in some cases almost bunker-like, as if they were intended to occupy the neighborhood by force.   These designs were most common in areas undergoing urban renewal, and convey some of the racial and economic anxiety that must have been felt at the time.  My examples here are from the Mid-North and Old Town neighborhoods, where they often replaced older building types.
515 W. Belden, 1967.  Anderson and Battles.
At the same time this was a very creative time for rowhouse design, with an emphasis on geometry and massing that utilized traditional as well as new ornamental materials. There was also some notable strides in site planning, often using several lots to create rowhouse arrangements with shared common spaces. 

1415-1425 N. Sandburg Terrace, 1972.  Component of Sandburg Village.
In the case of Sandburg Village the rowhouse components were part of a larger plan incorporating a variety of building types and sizes.  Rowhouses were one way to connect the new development with existing buildings at the periphery utilizing a similar scale.

1515 W. Belden, 1970.  Booth and Nagle.
This generation of rowhouses also addressed the needs of cars, often through clustered parking or even below-grade parking structures.  In some cases the occupant could step from their car right into their townhouse, without having to experience any of the intervening space.