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Curtain Call

When the architect Rodrigo del Canto built a new house in Old Town, he linked two transparent towers and let sun-yellow curtains fly—magical realism in motion

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T

he sight is improbable enough to bring a passerby to a full stop and entrancing enough to keep him there, gazing skyward as long curtains in a sheer sun-yellow fabric flutter and twirl gracefully in a soft breeze. Suspended from a rooftop cable that spans the U-shaped courtyard of a new three-story burnished-block house in Old Town, these balletic sentinels shimmer across from a reflective entrance of glass and steel.

“I’ve always wanted to have outdoor curtains-as they did in Roman times, as they do in Venice at the Piazza San Marco,” says Rodrigo del Canto, the designer and owner of the house and the managing principal of the Chicago firm Macondo Corp Architects & Planners. “This is the equivalent of having the sea in front of you because the curtains move and they dance with the wind and they’re really beautiful.” (On buffeting days, to prevent them from sailing onto the roof of the house, they are tied just above their ground-level hems or secured to a fence or the columns flanking the courtyard; in the winter, they are removed and stored.)

Producing this visual reverie seems natural for an architect who named his firm Macondo after the fictional town in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the acclaimed novel by the Colombian Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez. Originally from Chile, del Canto earned degrees in engineering, architecture, and urban design and planning in the United States and in Europe before moving to Chicago in 1977. After working for several small firms and serving as the deputy commissioner of economic development for the City of Chicago during the administration of Mayor Harold Washington, he founded his own firm in 1991.

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