530 West Dickens

Type: Multi Family - New Construction
Program: 4 Duplex Units with Parking
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Client: Ranquist & New Era Development Groups
Construction: G.Corp Development
Status: Completed 2020
Brief: New 10,500 SF Four-Unit Condominium Building with Detached Garage

530 Dickens is a new four unit multi-family building that aims to contribute to an already established architectural dialogue within its neighborhood context. It is situated on a beautiful tree lined street, nested between two noteworthy dwellings which respectively represent two periods of our city’s history. As a result of the Chicago fire of 1871 and subsequent street re-planning, the building site is rather atypical in shape. The southern pedestrian edge maintains an average Chicago lot dimension, yet the property steps and widens as it opens up toward the rear.

Tasked to construct four duplex units with dedicated parking on a site with adjacent buildings located directly on the property line yielded an unexpected project outcome. We utilized the side yard setback as an exterior circulation corridor, locating the primary vertical interior circulation at the middle of the building footprint, the wider section of the plan. In this entry procession, we considered the poetic opportunities offered by the existing building walls as part of the pedestrian experience. In juxtaposing the new with the old Chicago masonry leaves lasting impression on both the homeowner and the visitor.

Furthermore, the building is organized as a series of overlapping Tetris-like dwelling spaces. The sleeping rooms are located towards the front, the narrowest section of the building, while the living spaces were placed at the back, where the lot opens up considerably. This arrangement enabled us to efficiently distribute the required building area, meeting zoning height constraints while maximizing for daylight within this bounding lot. In addition, this stacking approach was optimal in providing views and light in each living space, capturing all four orientations. Balconies and terraces are integrated at both ends of the building, promoting social connectivity with the surrounding context and creating possibility for cross-ventilation within each unit.

The outward reading of this building was carefully considered as its form and scale is visible from many vantage points within the neighborhood. We removed the formal notion of front, side, and rear as part of the conversation, but rather thought of the building as a formal response to interior and site planning considerations, combined with the question of how to connect with the place that we are building in. We built upon the surrounding material language of masonry and iron work, bringing the two together in a contemporary and sensible way. We also observed the existing large trees and the potential role they could play — their ability to paint sculptural shadows on the surrounding surfaces. Thus, we imagined the front masonry shear wall as a canvas with an ability to engage with the shadows, producing mural-like condition throughout the year, harnessing the inherent qualities of place and emphasizing the existing.

In our minds, the 530 Dickens building needed to feel like it belonged here, while also marking its place in time and becoming a well-intentioned neighbor for many years to come.