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SHINGLE HOUSE (2006)
Cohen & Hacker Architects
Modern architecture can be defined in many ways, but one enduring mark is that it makes the complex look simple. That describes this traditional-looking house in Glencoe. From the street it appears to be a stone-and-shingle-style cottage. But a deceptively spacious interior reveals an architect who early on read Le Corbusier.
Stuart Cohen, who is now in his 60s, might not have expected that he would be designing high-end suburban homes at this point in his career. But he never wanted to be pigeonholed as just another modernist either. Cohen, another member of the Chicago Seven, had, after all, instigated the Chicago Architects, the 1976 “counterexhibit” that thrashed the then-conventional view that Chicago architecture was steel frames, big windows, and little more.
On the contrary, explained Cohen and Stanley Tigerman in the Chicago Architects catalog. Chicago has always been diverse, connected at deep levels by a taste for pure design and rejection of superficial ornament. Decades later, Cohen has decided to take this aspect of the Chicago effect to heart, and while few advanced architects choose to go his route and work with richly traditional forms, it is not hard to see these lessons in Glencoe.
The house fits into the neighborhood, otherwise a collection of traditional single-family dwellings. “We wanted a cottage,” said the owner (and now professional builder), Larry Lagrotteria. “But we also wanted space.” The house doglegs with two wings. The pitched roof is modestly scaled, with a clue to a major second floor in the oversize dormers.
Inside, the spaces truly “move,” as architects like to describe an interior that flows from one zone to another. Here the floor plan is composed less with walls than with subtle markers. Symmetrical bookcases define the family room, which is itself separated from the living room by a see-through fireplace and from the kitchen by a long granite counter. Spaces overlap, so the room you’re in depends essentially on what you’re looking at. That’s Mies, Corbu, even Frank Lloyd Wright. But Cohen does it with millwork and molding, his indispensable visual cues worthy of a Virginia mansion.