zoka zola architecture + urban design    1737 west ohio street   chicago IL 60622    t 312 491 9431    f 312 491 9432    info@zokazola.com

Pfanner House
1737 W. Ohio Street
Home of the Year Award of North America

The house explores an architectural concept of Opening. Not an opening that merely extends the space, or a continuously transitioning space; instead, an opening of one space to another space. We've thought and dreamt for so long in social sciences, philosophy, and our lives about being open to the other. Although architecture has always thought and rethought its question of boundaries, and has openings as one of its intrinsic elements, there are only a handful of historical references (Asplund, Wittgenstein, some Melnikov, some Bernini) with openings which are smooth, unhindered, non-fretful, non-tittering; openings of one space to the other - openings that are formed like breathing channels in healthy lungs where movements are long and smooth.

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, studio level
basement - studio level

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, entrance level
basement - entrance level

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, mezzanine level
basement - mezzanine level

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, first floor
first floor

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, second floor
second floor

1  studio   6  void   11  kitchen
2  storage   7  library   12  balcony
3  boiler   8  bathroom   13  closet
4  entrance   9  terrace   14  bedroom
5  garage   10  living room   15  laundry


  Pfanner House street view, modern red brick house, chicago corner lot

Unowned House
This house is designed not to feel owned. When a building feels owned it is impoverished, because it has a flattened relationship with the rest of the world. How are we to reconcile the desire to impress others or represent ourselves with the intent to live in a house that doesn't feel owned? The guests and the hosts of the house are treated equally in this house. The guest bathroom is a place where a guest feels alone in the center of the house, having privacy to contemplate it.
How can we build our houses which best respond to the cultural changes that take place? Why do we so easily create prisons for ourselves? Is it because a balance between security and freedom is hard to maintain? How can our houses not trap us in? As an architect of my own house how is it possible not to be housed inside my own limits? How can we let time run its own course?

Which parts of our interiors to make public is our common dilemma. This house is not exposing its inhabitant's intimacy, but its interior so that other people can inhabit it as part of their own mental space.

The landscape that one sees through the windows of the house is not purely visual and not framed selectively according to the ideas of a good view; instead, it is a reminder of what is there in its proximity - not the same space or a community.
  Zoka Zola, Pfanner house elevation, modern brick home, large windows, open, light

link to 27 photos of Pfanner House

Zoka Zola, Pfanner house site plan, chicago corner lot
    Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, studio space, high ceiling, stair case, large windows, view to outside, openess Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, view to garden   Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, stair detail, railing detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, bedroom, view above roofs, passage to staircase
House designed by a Woman
I wonder if this is a common woman's desire to open up her house. There is no distinction between treatment of men and woman in this house, but there is an intention of providing a clean, non-burdened, and non-dampened place for an encounter. This is probably more for the encounters between Peter and me than any other relationship.

  Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, kitchen, dining, view of the city, large window, stainless steel countertop   Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, master bedroom, skylight, view of chicago,   Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, living room, terrace, openess, large windows, narural light Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, kitchen detail

The house is the house of pleasure of being alive there and then. The terrace is the main space of pleasure. The bodily pleasure, social pleasure, pleasures with passage of time, pleasure with air, sun, and trees. The kitchen counter, the balcony, and the bathrooms are the places of pleasure of daily activity. The exits from the house, entrances, balcony extension, terrace, and bedroom extension are the places of daily pleasure of being around the house.
Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, terrace Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, terrace, outside room
  Orange Brick
The house is clad in orange brick, the same color as most of the buildings surrounding it. In this way the main difference between it and the other buildings--its degree of its openness--is understood more easily.

Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, exterior view in neighborhood Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, window detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, stair detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, bathroom detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, bathroom detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, bathroom detail Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, bedroom detail with skylight

Building Code
The building's section was influenced by the building code, which allows a single-family home of no more than two stories to have only one stairway, and to be frame construction. The code defines the basement as habitable space of more that 50% at level more than four feet below ground. Therefore, the whole area of garage, studio, its mezzanine, and stairs counts as basement floor, and the building is only two stories high. (in USA ground floor is called first floor)

Chicago and its Zoning Ordinance
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 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 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 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 other means of urbanizing this lot are by opening the interior of the house to the street through its balconies, terraces, and 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.
Zoka Zola, Pfanner House, longitudinal section
long section
Zoka Zola, Pfanner house, cross section
cross section



©Zoka Zola 2004

Design: Zoka Zola
Structural Engineer: Paula Price of Hutter Trankina Engineering
Photos: Doug Fogelson/ DRFP