Thinking big on a small scale

Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Designer: Perimeter Architects, Architect John Issa
Project: Yao Residence and Issa Residence
Clients: private
Year of Completion: 2009 (Issa Residence) and 2010 (Yao Residence)
Structural Engineer: Louis Shell Structures (Yao Residence)
General Contractor: Tuscany Builders, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Photographs: Perimeter Architects, Ana Miyares
Two examples of residential architecture, which as small only have the production scale.

The care and precision in solving the technical and organisational problems with the spaces have received the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Award 2011 – Small Project Awards, for both the constructions.
These two homes are in Chicago in the immediate vicinity of the city centre.
The “Yao House” project began with redefining a previous building, just a few meters from the CTA surface metro line in Chicago. The first problem was to give sufficient soundproofing to the building, given the high noise levels created by the metro line. The western wall and part of the roof were covered in a technical metal cowling, with a high heat and sound proofing component inside, a sort of leathery armour, with the openings limited in number and size. The main light comes in through the skylight, once again, to protect the interiors from the inquisitive gaze of the passengers waiting at the raised metro platform outside.
On observing the views and section, an almost iconic model of a house has been created that is simple and immediately recognisable from the outside. The interiors are protected and open towards greener and quieter views – the terrace garden on the rear and the entrance.
“Issa Residence” is a project that is a condensation of different functions: home, architect’s study, photographer’s study, car space, garden, porch – all perfectly balanced together. This joining of functions is housed in a building on a lot measuring just 170 square meters, very small if one considers the standard of 300 square meters for housing lots in Chicago, and furthermore it has an unusual triangular shape. All foundations for complexity and unavoidable problems and limitations, which instead encouraged the architects to an extreme search for solutions. The new building stands out from the typical homes in the suburbs, and it is placed on a node between the commercial and residential areas of the neighbourhood. The layout of the interior spaces enables the various functions to co-exist peacefully, where the inhabitants are able to live and work autonomously and with independent itineraries and entrances.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 50