“It’s not until you are in an environment that has been designed around all your needs that you appreciate every little bit”*
So says the client, summing up the home designed around the special needs of two of their three children, transcending mere accessibility to enrich the girls’ lives from childhood through maturity. The access to nature, alongside zones of privacy and retreat, support the well-being of the entire family. Throughout the home, views and spatial experiences are animated by the movement of light and seasonal changes.
The single-story, five-bedroom home is organized as a series of clusters arrayed along a 125’ circulation spine. Gaps between the clusters create three courtyards granting living spaces direct access to the out-of-doors, while roof monitors with clerestory windows bring additional light from above. As a result, sunlight enters nearly every space from dawn to dusk, creating an ever-changing play of shadow and reflection. Courtyard views offer year-round interest, as varying light and weather interact with carefully designed contemplative landscapes.
The separation of functional clusters along the circulation spine offers privacy and acoustic isolation, critical where the girls’ care and monitoring run 24/7. Its width allows siblings to roll side-by-side and is conceived as a space to experience, rather than traverse.
Exterior spaces offer a variety of sensory experiences: a low concrete wall radiates warmth, a shallow fountain allows soaking of hands, a courtyard surrounds a small lawn with a flowering tree, and a patio with a fireplace gives way to rolling grass-covered berms.
Designed to serve the immediate needs of a family of five, the home anticipates the possibility that two young daughters will age in place. This long-term perspective informed the approach to energy consumption, water conservation, indoor air quality, environmental impact and sought to address the girls’ health, comfort and well-being over the course of their lifetimes.
Downers Grove has a walk score of 43. The garage was designed to fit a specially-made bike so the girls can go through the neighborhood without the need of their van.
Rain water and surface runoff are collected in underground cistern; overflow diverted to rain gardens.