Case Study 1875: Cold Climate Skin
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- Wheeler Kearns Architects
- Consultants James Carpenter Design Associates, New York; Thornton Tomasetti, IBC Engineering, Enspect Inc., Waukesha, Wis.
- Division Residential
- Location Chicago, IL
- General contractor Norcon Inc.
All-glass window walls that, when open, leave no threshold—no visible barrier at all between indoors and out—would suit the client's desire for a fluid relationship between indoors and out, but in Chicago's harsh winter climate, would they become profligate wasters of heating energy? As if to up the ante, the architect even wanted both panels of glass at a corner to slide away and leave no corner support for the mass above. The solution devised by the architect and engineers for this supremely contemporary home required a bronze company to develop its first-ever thermally broken door system, with lightweight structural aluminum tube framing inside a finished bronze cladding. Although they weigh 1,100 pounds each, the top-bearing glass doors, 10 feet 6 inches tall and 9 feet 2 inches wide, now glide smoothly open and closed in any weather, their slim drive grooves protected by inconspicuous trenches just outside and the very conspicuous cantilevers of the concrete second story overhead. Jurors found the doors a pleasant surprise and an "innovative solution" that makes the entire structure come together with precision and beauty.