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Cleveland Case Study House
August 9th, 2001

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Client: SPACES Gallery/NEA Competition – One of Ten houses selected for exhibition

Principal in charge: Robert levit

Renderings: Cicada Design

Team : Carlos Lanfranco

The design for this house took shape in response to a gallery’s call for architects to reconsider, for the present, the legacy of the Case Study house experiments of Los Angeles. The conception of the house emerged from the following ideas:

The original case study houses sprang from a city-Los Angeles-that was hybrid: a city/suburb. That city’s naysayers failed to grasp the extraordinary urbanity of the suburban forms that emerged within Los Angeles’ metropolitan matrix. They failed to realize the extraordinary hold that the urban-suburban had in the imagination that would pervade all subsequent American metropolitanism. The possibility of residing within the city yet with the amenities and pleasures of the suburban pastoral is the issue that is shifting the “landscape” of new development-even in historic urban centers.

This “Cleveland Case Study House” first and foremost organizes its typical lot (50’x100’) in such a fashion as to create a checkerboard of rooms and gardens of varying qualities and social roles. The high living room is a two-way lens that looks out upon the quasi-public terrain of the front lawn and towards an entirely private garden-court towards the back of the site. The automobile–the culprit at the heart of the urban transformation–is housed within an alley-accessed garage, yet it or those hobby activities of the garage may be linked to the living room’s garden-court via a second garage door. The kitchen and dining room face into another garden space-this time a vegetable garden. These landscape spaces that flank each room are integral extensions of the social sphere of the house while sidewalls are without fenestration-thus retaining privacy in the context of urban proximity. Operable doors and shutters will allow for a highly varied adjustment of relationships between interior and exterior and of qualities of illumination and privacy. (The tall glazed openings of the living room will also allow the residents, views of the sky.

The house allows for a variety of living arrangements. The autonomy of the bedrooms (each with its own bath), and the flexible use associated with the ground-floor street-side room allows the residents many domestic configurations. This room may be used as den, bedroom, and, as an office, it precedes entry into the more private portions of the house. Such flexibility reflects, more generally, the increasingly diverse needs of contemporary urban residents.

The arrangement of the second floor bathrooms places bathtubs in key positions next to large windows (with blinds as desired) and with visual and spatial connections back to their respective bedrooms. Bathing is treated as a ritual.

The tradition of the case study is also remarkable for its attention to materials. Economy or, at the very least, the prospect of economies in construction was central to the early case studies. They elaborated upon readily available modern materials and modes of construction. The seemingly off-the-shelf quality of modern systems and their direct engagement lent the projects optimism about modernity (technical, material, economic and ultimately social). In the spirit of these past projects this proposal defines the house through simple planar geometry that lends itself to simple assembly of standardized units. The exterior cladding will be of ribbed steel, a material that re-casts the familiar scale of traditional siding in terms that directly reveal the material substitutions of contemporary technology. The cladding continues over the roof where it is perforated–acting as rain-screen protection to the roof membrane. An important strength of the scheme arises from how it organizes the site through direct and easily constructed geometr–a quality that contributes to the the house’s prototypical status.