Offset House on display in Chicago peels layers of balloon frame homes

One of the featured designs in the Chicago Architecture Biennial involves a large home taken down to the timbers:

The droll Offset House by Otherothers in Sydney addresses lot-hogging McMansions by tucking smaller homes into the flabby frames of McMansions that have been stripped to the studs to serve as balconies and porches.

And a further description from the American Institute of Architects:

One of the most striking examples here is the Offset House from the Australian firm otherothers, which tears away the derivative façades of typical suburban housing to reveal simple stick-framed structural grace. The balloon frame was developed in Chicago, and otherothers uses it to create semi-public open-air verandas.

This is the best image I could find with some further description:

Using the Sydney suburb of Kellyville as its prototype, Otherothers suggests the adaptive reuse of timber-framed suburban homes by stripping off the outer cladding (often brick), exposing the outer frame, and creating a verandah in the space between the outer and interior frames. They claim there is beauty to be found in the exposed frames. They also propose that since the verandah would now define the home’s outer border, fences would no longer be necessary and spaces between houses could become shared common areas for gardening and communing.

The design seems to shrink the interior square footage (a waste to many McMansions critics) as well as alter the private nature of single-family homes (another critique of McMansions and suburban homes). The design also seems similar to some of the buildings in the post-World War II era that flaunted their essential infrastructure rather than cover it up. The retrofitted home still takes up the same footprint and the exterior balloon frame still requires maintenance. Yet, some of the critiqued aspects of the McMansion are softened and social life might improve. I’d be interested to see this in action across a whole neighborhood…

One thought on “Offset House on display in Chicago peels layers of balloon frame homes

  1. Pingback: Transforming McMansions might offend architects? | Legally Sociable

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