Zoka Zola

Pfanner House . Chicago

Zoka Zola . photos: © Roland Halbe . + archinect

The Pfanner House explores an evergreen architectural issue of architectural boundaries and the idea of an open space, and sets itself a task of opening one space to the other space.
Much was said in recent years about the Self and the Other. That would mean that in order to accept another person we do not need to expect them to be like us, not even exaggeratedly different than us, but just accept them as being Other. Other just means that – OTHER – without judgment, comparison, pretenses toward the other, without categorizing the other, (without saying ”he or she is like this or that”), but instead acknowledgement of the Other. There is a certain “COOLNESS” that is involved, in a way when we are glad of the distance and at the same time very aware of the Other.

Architecture is an ideal medium for the exploration of opening one to the other, because it has windows, doors, inside and outside spaces as its most basic elements. And although it seems an obvious way to define the problem of opening in architecture in this way, there are only a handful of historical examples (in Western architecture) of spaces truly open to other spaces – Wittgenstein’s house, mot spaces by Melnikov, some Asplund houses, some of Alberti’s spaces, and a few other – with openings which are smooth, unhindered, non-fretful, and non-tittering.
Chicago is a gridded city mostly regulated through it’s zoning ordinance, which divides city lots according to permitted uses, maximum permissible building heights and required yard regulations. The typical residential building is placed in the middle of the lot with its required front, back and side yards and enclosed with a fence. As a result the space between adjacent buildings (their combined side yard) is usually a tight and poorly defined space, back yards are small spaces trapped between the garage and house, and the front yard is used mainly as a spacer, enclosed by a fence, between the building and the street. This house is built on an undersized Chicago lot of 24.5’ x 79’ (compared to the standard Chicago lot of 25’ x 125’) zoned R5 which means that the built floor area could be 2.2 x the lot area. The house has 3000 sq. ft. including garage and exterior spaces, which is about 2/3 of its allowable building area.
The house suggests a way of urbanizing residential planning in Chicago. It is placed on a corner lot in a way that articulates yards spaces around it. There is no fence around the lot, so it is possible to walk through the site. The side yard is wide enough to form a well defined space between the two buildings and to plant 4 cottonwood trees, which will provide shade and privacy to the south side windows. The back yard is used as a garden, but it is also a potential site for a new building which could utilize the remaining allowable built area. The other means of urbanizing this lot are by opening the interior of the house to the street through its balconies, terraces and windows.

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