The historic Chicago neighbourhood of Bucktown lies to the north of the city centre, bisected by the I-90. Shaped by over a century of immigration by Europe and Central America, it is an architecturally diverse part of town that has inevitably been transformed by 21st-century gentrification. Grand Victorian houses are mixed with contemporary structures on vacant lots, together with modern condos and all the upscale commercial trappings of a district on the rise. Now, a sharp, metal-clad house has been added to the area’s collection of domestic offerings.

Interior of House 1909 by Studio Dwell, a metal-clad house in Chicago
The ’public’ box on the first floor of House 1909 by Studio Dwell

House 1909 was designed by Chicago’s Studio Dwell Architects for a slender plot alongside a mixed bag of traditionally styled brick houses.

The architects have made the most of the site by digging down to create a generous garden level, with three terraces on the floors above. They describe the structure as a ‘series of stacked metal-clad boxes’, sub-dividing each functional component into its own area. 

Kitchen at House 1909 by Studio Dwell, at metal-clad house in Chicago
A double-height space above the first-floor kitchen in the House 1909 project

At street level is the ‘public’ box, a fully glazed living and dining area that overlooks the street, providing views right through the house.

The main staircase is enclosed by balustrades of tall frameless glass, and exposed shuttered concrete anchors the space and provides a contrast to the brick walls of the adjacent house. This level is cantilevered out above the first floors, providing shade for the glass wall beneath it. 

House 1909 by Studio Dwell

The second floor is the ‘private’ box, with only a single window to the street elevation. Two en-suite bedrooms open off a large landing, with a void through to the kitchen below.

Above this is the ‘green’ box, a self-contained ‘penthouse’ level with terraces front and rear, set back from the street to create a secluded suburban eyrie.

Staircase at House 1909 by Studio Dwell, a metal-clad house in Chicago
The main staircase with its glass balustrade

The programme was tight, even though it integrates a double garage and a generous amount of natural light from all directions. Although the materials include cor-ten steel, stone, the aforementioned concrete, and details in walnut wood, the bulk of the interior is white to maximise the spread of light.

Up on the penthouse level, where light is less of an issue, full-height sliding doors provide access to each deck, opening up the space in the summer to the views of the Chicago skyline.  

Garden at House 1909 by Studio Dwell, a metal-clad house in Chicago
The terrace on the ’penthouse’ level

Mark Peters founded Studio Dwell Architects in 2005. The small studio has won awards from the AIA and places an emphasis on rich materials and light-filled spaces, regardless of the scope and scale of the brief. §

House 1909 by Studio Dwell