By Will Bruder
Primal and cave-like the mass of this featured element glows in the west light of the room’s floor-to-ceiling glazed doors. These doors frame a view to a raked gravel courtyard punctuated by a singular sculptural tree. A view to this landscape element is shared by the public living/dining zone and sleep/dressing/bathing zone (with Japanese soaking tub and redwood shower) to the west. The kitchen is at the joint between of the public and private realms and is washed morning light.
Conceived as both home and studio, the ‘T’ plan is completed by the northern arm of the drafting studio workshop. This area offered a place for work and client meetings close to home.
Upon its completion in 1938 the house was as a simple and modest assemblage of 2400 sq ft. In essence it is a three-room open plan structure with beautiful spaces for living, sleeping and working.
A balanced composition of common “Chicago sewer brick,” exotic first growth redwood (unheard of at the time), Douglas fir and newly invented plywood planes; the house is an exquisite invention in all respects.
Influenced by the thinking of both the architects George and Fred Keck and the inventor/visionary Buckminster Fuller, whom he worked with the early 1930’s in Chicago, and driven by the forced frugality of the Depression surrounding its creation, the house was responsive to solar orientation, natural ventilation, and a direct expression of sustainable building strategies.
At the end of World War II as the cover story of the May 1947 Architectural Forum magazine (with photography by Hedrich Blessing studios), the house had already served the couple for nearly a decade. Surrounded by a maturing landscape that was designed and overseen by the noted Midwestern landscape architect Franz Lipp, a series of additions were made in 1948–50 to accommodate the birth of Paul Schweikher Jr. and the space needs of Schweikher’s growing professional studio.
The bedroom suite for Paul Jr. is inserted in the southern portion of the ‘T’ near the master bedroom. North of the existing studio a cantilevered conference room with the unexpected ceiling height of 6’3″ plays against the full north facing glazed aperture that overlooks Salt Creek. A small apprentice apartment is tucked beneath. The low wood clad garage model workshop lies to the west creating additional closure to the auto-court area while maintaining the sequence of discovery and expectation of the homes original 1937 site condition.
Each intervention reflects Schweikher’s sense of scale and proportion, while suggesting a simpler attitude about structural expression and a more minimalist use of the original palette of redwood, brick and glass. The result is a convincing harmony that does not mimic the original but enhances the quality of the whole.
In 1953 the Schweikher family moved from Illinois to Connecticut when Paul took the position of Chairman of the Yale School of Architecture (1953–57). It was indeed fortuitous for the house and for us that Martyl and Alexander Langsdorf became its next residents. Their loving and respectful occupation spans nearly sixty years. Now the worthy and generous vision of the Village of Schaumberg allows this treasure of timeless architectural value to be experienced, enjoyed and learned from by all. Its lessons are many; the experience of its poetic and pragmatic reality will give all who visit a new and different engagement with the world we have inherited.
Today, the Schweikher House is nothing short of an architectural jewel in the suburb of Schaumburg. Virtually hidden off a wooded stretch of Meacham Road, this Prairie-styled modern masterpiece is tucked away down a winding gravel driveway.Pages: 1 2