Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sherman Gardens

Sherman Gardens is another of Holsman, Holsman, Klekamp and Taylors large cooperative projects. This one is probably their highest density design, with three mid-rise buildings around a landscaped courtyard in downtown Evanston. The land plan of this is quite interesting, being in a trapezoidal block, which however, they were not able to get all of, which means that there are interloping buildings within it.

As you can see from the aerial view, the three buildings are clustered around a central courtyard. Two of the buildings take a similar dumbbell plan while the third takes an ell shaped plan. The buildings also have many units with balconies facing onto the court (as well as onto the surrounding streets), which have canted, fluted glass fronts as part of the railing system.

East View into Court
View into CourtBalcony View

The construction system is the same as their other projects, however, it appears that Sherman Gardens was built with a higher-income tenancy in mind, as there are some grander moderne flourishes to the entries, sculptural panels screening the service stair windows and a main entry from Sherman into the court. The buildings also have some larger unit combinations - maisonette units in a few of the building.

Lobby Entry View
Lobby Entry View
Main Entry View
View of Main EntryView through Main Entry Vestibule

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part V - Courtyards de Luxe

This post is dedicated to the ultra large courtyard building, which I am giving the terminology of Courtyard de Luxe (or perhaps a taxonomy of Courtyard Giganticus) of which there are several well known and lesser known examples throughout Chicago.

The first of these is the legendary or near notorious Tudorbethan Park Gables of Indian Boundary Park, which is one of the very finest examples of both the style and of a large courtyard, in this case a double-courtyard in fact. In many cases, unusually, the exterior decor here carries into the interior, carrying the theme of gothicism inside with vaulted ceilings and beamed rooms.
And I'm not even mentioning it's neighbor, the Park Tudor, which has more of a castellated, gothick feel than Park Gables.

The next example in this post is The Sterling Apartments, probably less well known, in fact, as much as unknown I would say. This one is of the single-courtyard type, but with multiple entries along the front and sides, as well as off of the side courtyard and it runs from side street to side street, for an entire block front. As you can see from only half of the floor plan it is a large building with a variety of accomodation types, from studios to two-bedroomed suites.

Some other examples of these large types can be found in Kenwood, South Shore, Beverly and other areas (such as Uptown-Buena Park, in the Pattington) which were upper middle class.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part IV

After covering the basics with the courtyard building, we're now moving on to the courtyard itself. The best of these buildings were built on wider than average (or multiple) lots, which enable the courtyards to be exceptionally wide (Park Gables in Rogers Park for instance). One disadvantage to the design of these buildings is the "back side" of the buildings, with the service entrances, back stairs & etc. When they were built, deliveries were common, classism was much greater and there were servants and more stay at home householders to take receipt of deliveries and keep the back entries necessary.

But this is mere digression, since we were (well, are) discussing the courtyard themselves. The best of these are lushly and elegantly landscaped, and by this time have mature plantings, perhaps maintained lovingly by tenants or landlords.

Our first example is a nicely maintained, but rather plan example - the shot was taken in spring. Part of the reason for it's not having heavy landscaping is the width, which is quite narrow, as well as it's north-facing orientation, which prevents sunlight from fostering many plants.

In our next example, the courtyard is simply landscaped, but comes across as both warmer and lusher; two factors enhance this - the south facing building gets more light then the first example, while the lower building height allows more light from the east and west in (the first building has an English basement, while this one has a conventional first floor and partial height, if you will, basement).

The next example has landscaping which nearly conceals the entire building from view - while it makes the building less visible, it does provide shade and helps to keep the apartments cool. In fact, sometimes the landscaping and trees make summertime photography impossible. I will have to make some winter time treks to photographically document many buildings after my summer time reconnaissance missions.

The last example has a rather nice balance of landscaping - ground cover, tree's, etc in a fairly wide and sunny (west facing) courtyard. The lawns and plantings are all well tending and lovingly designed to compliment the building.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Odd Duck Three-Flats

One of the more fun things of being an apartment building spotter is spotting odd duck, sore thumb, missing tooth or mismatching buildings. They can be the result of tear downs, unbuilt lots (aka land banking) or just odd circumstances in urban history. Often, they take the form of three flats, which today's post will focus on, in specific, what I am calling 'symmetrical' three flats, with a symmetrical front and side entry (or center entry, with an English Basement set up).

Our first example of this is actually the most "typical" example in it's detailing and decoration; a buttery orange-yellow brick, an octagon bay front (also, somewhat related to a bungalow in this respect). It sports it's original windows and front door and chaste classical trim, albeit of a medieval/heraldric type.

Our next example is a step up, if you will, into a more typically 20s neo-classical style - this time colonial in blond brick (very typically Chicago however, in this color choice). Here we have three windows on the front, chippendale window heads and quoins, all in limestone. This aesthetic is typical of "higher class" apartment houses from this period. Many 1920s apartment buildings feature this sort of decoration, as we shall see in further examples.

Here in our third example, we have a continuation of style and an increase in scale and granduer, although in this case the decoration seems to be a bit earlier, in a teens or early proto-deco manner (and with interesting esses in the third floor window key's. This example also ditches sash (i.e. double-hung) windows in favor of inward swinging casements.

In our fourth and final (yes, I'm sorry, it's the last one for today) example, we have what is in some ways the grandest, yet most domestic and homey of the four. This one is in red brick with a very wide facade, which most likely accommodates both living room and dining room in front. It has a very domestic neo-colonial cornice, friezes, window keys, divided lite windows and garlands in limestone as well as a simple awning or portico above the entrance. There is also a false roof or gable, which probably was originally slate or tile, but is now asphalt shingles.

I realize that I've cheated a bit in this entry, or used a false title, yeah, I was dishonest, as it was really more about symmetrical facade three-flats rather than their odd duck status, although each of these examples is on it's own, with no directly similar buildings around, which doesn't show up well in the photographs - perhaps more context should be added, but I do hope you've enjoyed this, dear reader...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part III

Obviously, the main, overridingly distinctive feature of the courtyard building, both architecturally and functionally is the courtyard. While there are many different unit plan combinations, the basic premise of a large courtyard is a constant, consistent theme of the type.

The post will deal with the while future entries will deal with the court itself, this posting deals with the entry into the courtyard. Often, all that enters the courtyard is a simple sidewalk, perhaps, if one is lucky, with a few plantings around it, along the length, or I should say, depth, of the courtyard. However, in a few lucky instances, there is something rather more, both interesting and elegant (as well as functional).

In the first three examples, which are above, there are simple gates across the front of the courtyard, inset a bit from both the street and main facade. In the first example, the gate is simply an openwork trellis. In the second, it appears that the gate is either new or rebuilt to accommodate a gate with an electric strike. In the third example, the gate replaces a fence which was yet further in, which has been, in turn, replaced with nothing in a recent renovation.

This is a gate or fence, which blocks direct entry into the courtyard. The court entry can be unlocked, or more often than not, has been turned into a keyed entry with buzzers and intercom system from entry to units. Sometimes, it even becomes a pavilion of sorts, decorated in the style of the building, or even becoming the featured decoration of the buildings court. The courtyard is often, especially when wider, lushly landscaped and luxuriantly verdant.

In the first example above, there is an open gate, in an ornate fence, welcoming residents and visitors into the court. In the second and third examples, there is a pavilion blocking entry (and controlling access) into the courtyard. In the second example, it connects to the main block of the building, while having one end (and I am cheating somewhat here, since this isn't a full courtyard building - although more than half - albeit an excellent example of an entry pavilion). In the last example, the gate stretches across the entire narrow mouth of the courtyard with elaborate terra cotta ornamentation and tile roof, in a Spanish Revival- Neo-Colonial amalgamation. There also exist moorish and gothic-medieval variations of this as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part II

Here we have a larger building, with grander pretensions than most, being designed by noted and renowned architect, Robert S. De Golyer, who designed many well-known lakefront high-rises among other projects.

This is located in southern Evanston, at a street corner. In plan, it is fairly typical of a corner courtyard building, with the courtyard proper, and then another wing along the side street frontage. The unit layouts are typical as well, if a bit larger than most.


As in most courtyard buildings, the largest, best and most desirable units are those in the front, which in the case even reach four bedrooms (not uncommon in Evanston). The exterior is noteworthy in that it is a Colonial Revival red brick composition with rather elegant entryways and a simpler system of architectural detailing than most building would have had.

View from Southeast

View into Courtyard


The Architectural Forum, ca. 1919.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part I

I think it's probably time to move on to the largest of the typical apartment types in Chicago. Yes, it is definitely time to move on to the courtyard building.

From the name of the building, it's quite clear that there is a courtyard of some kind, however, this isn't an enclosed courtyard (see the Rebori Cooperative for an example of a semi-enclosed court) but a U-shaped, normally front facing courtyard. A few scattered examples actually go all the way through the block, but by this fact, aren't true courtyards.

Our first example lives in Lake View, on a side street. It mainly contains smaller apartments, almost all variously sized one-bedrooms. The plans shows only half of the building, which typically sits on a triple or quadruple lot of normal depth.

Plans; note north is to the right in the unit plans and to the bottom in the overall plan.

Very often, usually, in fact, the largest units are at the front of the building, with the best exposure, that is, towards the street, and are often two bedroom units (although not in this case). The rear units can also be quite large, but there are many, many variations of this, based on the size of the building, age of the building, etc.

Overall Elevation
Detail Elevation

The details of the elevation are fairly standard, similar to what would be found on many other buildings, from bungalows to three-flats. In this case, dark brick with stone trim.


The Architectural Forum, Vol. XXXI, Number 5, November 1919, p. 152.


Ah, Stockholm, my second favorite city (Sorry London, you done been beat, you gots some work to do). A city of apartment dwellers, with good design standards and high quality of life.

And here are some initial plans to whet your appetites for future postings to come. I have an extensive library of plans and a treasure trove of images, along with a great knowledge of Swedish architecture and planning to share with you in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned.....