Ravine House receives Design Excellence Award

Georgina Johnston
16 Oct 2020

The Illinois project, by Wheeler Kearns Architects, has received an award in the Distinguished Building category from AIA Chicago

The project is a synthesis of the clients’ past and future, interests, and passions; supporting their active lifestyles and personal interests while quietly engaging with nature and the ravined site. The house is conceptualised as a single, dark, rectangular volume; one corner, the garage, is broken off to create an entry courtyard. The house and garage are intentionally pulled apart to infuse a bit of the wild into daily routines. While the exterior volume is wrapped in black square-edged vertical metal siding, the courtyard is lined with a vertical rain screen of American Black Locust. Local stones, clustered plantings and swaying birch flow through this courtyard, which in essence, is dominated by nature. A singular, smooth column of Black Locust supports an entry canopy. 

Within, the heart of the home is a central volume of American Walnut. All rooms feed off this hub and are drawn to it, revolving around the warmth of the material. Here, the clients walk on continuous white oak floors. Sitting comfortably in the living room or standing casually by the kitchen island, the view drifts out through large windows to rest on the cadence of the seasons, colour spreading through the autumn leaves or dappled light on fresh snow. From the painting and spinning studio, the client enjoys the view past the courtyard birches to the raised beds of a vegetable garden that they built themselves. 

For the clients, this house is a place from which they continue to nurture their land and build strong roots. They actively restore the ravine from invasive species and personally plant no-mow meadows. They tap the onsite maples for syrup, boiled down in a fire from cordwood sourced on-site. The firepit of brick gabions is created from the rubble of a previous house on the site that burned down. The millworker who fabricated the walnut casework delivered a live-edge walnut dining table, created from a felled tree the couple rescued from their farm in Galena, Illinois.

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Design Winner
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