As part of the firm’s desire to fill the “middle market” of residential housing options with inspiring contemporary architecture, Chicago-based practice Future Firm has designed a new 1,300-square-foot residential project, called Hem House, that has provided the city with a sustainable model for building the bedrock of successful mixed-income communities.
The design team worked with real estate developer Jacob Root to create the project with the hopes of diversifying the housing stock available to those interested in the area where new residential construction costs usually begin at $600,000.
“While there’s a very vibrant art and culture scene in Chicago, there isn’t a lot of bespoke contemporary architecture, and what exists in residential is almost exclusively very high end — so we’re hoping to help change that narrative,” co-principal Ann Lui explained. “Because Chicago residential lots are all the same size, it’s easy for people to repeat plans and end up with a lot of underwhelming architecture. We’d like to be a trend in a different direction.”
Located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, the array of brick townhouses and two-flats typify the neighborhood’s residential structures. Using a narrower footprint than that of its neighbors, the designers say they were able to create an “easily replicable model” apt for use in one of the city’s myriad vacant lots.
“This unique use of the typical Chicago 25’ x 125’ residential lot allows Hem House to be experienced as though it is on a much larger site,” Future Firm’s co-principal Craig Reschke shared. “It also allows for large windows that let in natural light but also remain private from the street.”
The home is defined by dual-stacked volumes clad in black metal siding that is typically used as a roofing material to give it the “sharp” and “clean-looking” aesthetic associated with contemporary residential design. A central entrance is tucked into the side yard, opening into a combination mudroom and laundry station followed on the right side by an L-shape kitchen and the distribution of the living areas which have been positioned to maximize light and seclusion in unison with its vibrant white gypsum board interior.
The house was completed last summer and hit the market for $399,000. It later sold and, as Darlene Dugo of the Cook County Land Bank Authority tells it, now stands as a shining example of the ways in which flexible single-family units can reshape communities by recharging disused areas.
“For too long, blight caused by decades of redlining and the 2008 housing crisis has depressed property values and economic investment in Black and Brown neighborhoods,” she said. “By reclaiming vacant lots and building affordable, beautiful community assets, Hem Development is demonstrating what is possible when we enable local architects and developers to resurrect abandoned space.”