Unit 2808 – Vladimir Radutny Architects previously completed a few apartment renovations in the Mies Van Der Rohe buildings across the street, the 860/880 Lake Shore Drive towers, where they employed various visual strategies for organizing space. In this intervention they were interested in exploring a thickness of a line, and how it can transform to become both a physical and visual connector within a small space. The articulation of domestic functional elements and the material choices were highly curated to reinforce the initial conceptual strategy. Layered with the existing outward views towards the city and the lake the space echoes the mastery of the architecture that it exists within.
Architizer chatted with Vladimir Radutny, Founder of Vladimir Radutny Architects, to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Vladimir Radutny: Our inspirations typically come with answering a question. In this case it was how to consider this specific space while achieving all the client goals with our design interests in mind. This is a project that is a dwelling for a couple desiring an urban sanctuary as their second home. We responded by freeing the interior from visual obstructions towards the skyline and created vantage points that did not previously exist. We tried to reduce the intervention to as little as possible while retaining all the functions and practicality of living in a high-rise apartment in place.
What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?
Subtlety of how we through of the elements throughout, where one can sit or move through this small space and observe the surrounding as one cohesive thought. Visual illusions are employed throughout, reflectivity creates connections between architectural elements and the spaces they support. Shelves disappear and reemerge behind the delicate walls, creating a backdrop for everyday living things. Black floating lines organize the primary living space and become thinner as they elevate vertically above the floor plane. The acute and precise craft highlights satisfaction, pride and individual accomplishments which is so important and are mutually shared between all involved.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
Given a tight construction budget to renovate an apartment in Mies-designed building was an opportunity and challenge. Thus, we had to take on the role of architects, owner’s rep, project coordinators and occasional builders, making this project a true example of made by “labor of love.”
What drove the selection of materials used in the project?
The play of visual continuity is employed throughout, where reflectivity creates illusions and connections between architectural elements and the spaces that they support.
The east wall separates the bathroom as well as hides the primary storage. Its white reflective surface captures the city and pulls the light further into the space. Once the white reflective separation ends, an absorbent material surface takes over on its opposing side. This change in material and texture is meant to evoke a greater sense of intimacy towards the more private areas of the apartment, while also forming a visual dialogue with the palette used inside the main room.
Where the opaque wall terminates it gives way to layers of fabric, echoing nature’s transition of water meeting sky. The curtain “wall” filters light and creates privacy as needed, allowing one to fully open the apartment towards the lake.
What is your favorite detail in the project and why?
The integrated door pulls of the floating kitchen volume, the transformation of what is perceived as a volume is composed of layered planes. It’s where the planes overlap and slip is where the pull articulation occurs.
How important was sustainability as a design criteria as you worked on this project?
As with all of our work the intent of being sustainable is desired. In this specific project, most materials are locally sourced. The renovation inherently improves the water and energy use, simply because of the technological advancement of fixtures, appliances and their performance.
In what ways did you collaborate with others, and how did that add value to the project?
In this project we collaborated internally only, where we did not have a need or resources to hire outside consultants. However, in our internal conversation and iterative design process the outcome resulted in a very satisfactory client.
How have your clients responded to the finished project?
Every time the clients are in town there is continued conversation of the wonderful moments or details that are noticed or were not experienced before. Driving long distances for a weekend stay to enjoy the comfort of the space and leaving to go back to their primary residence I am told is somewhat difficult as they look forward to coming back soon. Sharing the project stories, images and space with friends and family, while being very supportive for us, truly speaks volumes of project’s importance in their lives.
What key lesson did you learn in the process of conceiving the project?
How uneven the existing conditions are, even in a Mies designed building…tight tolerances are extremely challenging to achieve, doable, but not as easy as one would anticipate.
How do you believe this project represents you or your firm as a whole?
I think it’s a perfect snapshot of who we are at the moment. As we believe in Architecture as an art form with capacity to not just alter space, but to change perceptions, feelings and habits. Our work exemplifies the cohesion of spatial logic and consideration of light as a foundation in crafting the “unexpected.” For us, pragmatic requirements and budgetary constraints are imperative to the overall design equation that enables the transformation of our ideas into built work.
How do you imagine this project influencing your work in the future?
Hopefully more work will come from it, in various scales and places.
Is there anything else important you’d like to share about this project?
We are very proud of the results for both ourselves, the clients and the people involved making it a reality.
Fanny Hothan and Ryan Sarros
For more on Unite 2808, please visit the in-depth project page on Architzer.