AIA Chicago Home Design Awards 1998 Home
Distinguished Building Award
Essex Live - Work Structure
Essex Live - Work Structure

Two graphic designers who wanted to build a combination live/work space on an empty lot of a busy commercial street in Chicago charged Wheeler Kearns Architects with producing a project on a budget that was about two-thirds the prevailing cost of new buildings in the area without compromising the project's scope and quality. The architect's solution was a prefabricated structure of insulated concrete grade beams, wall panels, and floor and roof slabs set atop six site-cast concrete caissons.

Rather than hiding the industrial origins of the building, concrete surfaces and welded plate connections were considered integral aspects of the design and were highlighted. Interior finishes are spartan and are highlighted by oiled fiberboard and pigmented concrete floors and gypsum board walls. On a budget one would typically associate with inexpensive materials, a space of permanence and resonance is made. According to the jury, this project does a lot with a little. One juror commented: "The exterior looks like graphic designers live there!"

Essex Live - Work Structure
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