Portland Garden House

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Like many US cities, substantial portions of Portland, Oregon are laid out on a rectilinear grid. One of the most common lot sizes in the gridded part of town is 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep. This house is tailored to one of these lots, with massing and features that relate it to its neighbors.

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Entering the garden house, you get a strong sense of space and light. The home’s vertical circulation presents itself at the front door, but doesn’t invite immediate ascent. While the living room is the first space you notice, dining and kitchen are hinted at.

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Crossing into the living room, the home’s layers become apparent. The open studio loft hovers above, framing the dining and kitchen, with a view to the back garden. Skylight floods over the stair, filling the space with a healthy glow.

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In the Garden House’s building section, the overall spatial scheme is made clear – the lower two floors are mostly open, and a third level contains bedrooms and a roof terrace. Views through the house are emphasized, from north to south and east to west.

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In plan, the home’s harmonious organization becomes clear. Living space is graduated from public to private; both front to back, and top to bottom. The home’s three gardens are seen here – the social garden at the front of the house, a more private family garden off the kitchen, and a sun-seeking sky garden on the third level.

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The kitchen, which stretches across the back of the first floor, is open to both internal and external living spaces.

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The dining and living areas are fully visible from the kitchen, but a partial height, enclosing wall shields kitchen mess from the living spaces.

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The stair from the first to the second level gives more than vertical transit – it’s an alternate way to experience the space and views. The landing makes a great vantage point, and would be fun during a party.

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The second level has a studio open to living below, and the master bedroom suite adjacent. A sliding door panel offers privacy or wide-open access.

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From the studio, the skylit double height space reveals wide open views of the social garden and the neighbors’ houses beyond.

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An axonometric view shows off the house’s sky garden and skylight to the living room. While the home’s clean modern composition contrasts with the neighbor’s more traditional pitched roofs and double-hung windows, its massing is similar, along with its front porch.

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I adapted the Garden House’s design from a housing prototype designed by French/Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the 1920’s. Its 2,400 square feet are organized in a simple, modular way, keeping the house open to future needs and desires. I created all the drawings and renderings in this post.

Unitrin Insurance Headquarters

I designed a full floor of offices for the executive and legal departments of Unitrin Insurance. This was located in the Unitrin Building, a 40-story tower located at the intersection of Chicago’s State Street and the Chicago River. Unitrin built this building in 1960, and have proudly occupied it ever since. Elements of this office buildout recall the building’s exterior to honor the company’s history and stability, but also to give the customers and executives who visit this floor a little reminder of where they are.

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Upon arriving in the floor’s elevator lobby, the visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to the glowing wall at the end of the reception lobby. This glazed wall is free-standing, and combines artificial light with daylight.

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The reception desk, to the right of the entrance, features raised mahogany millwork, with a Cherokee white marble transaction counter, the same stone as used for the exterior of the building.

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Looking across the reception desk, the relationship of the glass sign wall with the windows can be seen. There’s another window behind the glass wall.

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The reception area had many design alternatives. We started with a simple, streamlined modern approach. This was seen by Unitrin’s project management team as in keeping with the building’s streamlined, minimalist aesthetic. I provided rendered three-dimensional views to facilitate speed and comprehension of the space.

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More detail was tried, but the top executives still weren’t falling in love with their space. I suspected that a more traditional approach would be appreciated, so I prepared three distinct treatments for millwork, and had the alternates priced by a couple of local millwork fabricators.

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Scheme C was full-on traditional, and given the amount of wood and detail, it was no surprise that it was the most expensive. But it was the scheme that the executives loved, so we proceeded with it.

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Traditional millwork was used throughout the floor, including the boardroom kitchen (above). The black granite counters match the black granite at the base of the building.

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Three dimensional renderings were used throughout the project to study form and materials. In yet another homage to the building’s exterior image, the existing painted metal elevator doors and frames were clad in stainless steel. The doors were etched with vertical bands in the same number and proportion as the exterior elevation of the executives’ beloved tower.

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This work was completed while I was an employee at Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. I provided complete project design, development and construction management services.

All drawings, renderings and photographs in this post were created by me.