Dart Residential Design: Distinctive Materials, Sites and Spaces

This is the third entry in a series on architect Edward Dart by guest author, Matt Seymour

Edward Dart designed around 51 custom homes in the Chicago area during his independent career.  No two houses are the same, but they all incorporate natural materials like brick, wood and stone, inside and out.  The majority of the residences are situated carefully on their lots to allow the inhabitants to interact with nature through large windows.  Flat roofs are most prevalent, but Dart also used gable and shed roofs on several residences which coincide with distinct interior spaces.

Edward Dart House, 1956

Rear elevation of the 1956 Edward Dart House.

A notable residence from Dart’s career in the 1950s is the 1956 home that he designed for himself in Barrington, Illinois.  The house is an unconventional split level with floor to ceiling windows, a flat roof and a massive chimney constructed of rough limestone.  A detached garage is connected to the house with a flat-roofed covered walkway.  Set among towering oak trees, the house is on a gently sloping lot which allows for an exposed lower level.

A greenhouse (also referred to as a lanai) is located next to the main entrance, reinforcing Dart’s belief in bringing the outdoors in.  The entrance of the house has slate floors and the main floor areas are covered in terrazzo.  The home was featured in a 1960 Architectural Record article about architects and their own homes and the interior was summarized: “General living areas and entry are on the main level, with adult living room and study a half-flight below, bedrooms a half flight up.   A curved stair has been used to make an interesting connecting link to these split levels.”[i] The curving stairway is one of the most distinctive features of the interior.

The addition to the Dart house looks like a solid concrete block. Chunks of stone were placed in the forms along with concrete during construction, which gives the addition a more natural texture.

A few years after the house was built, Dart constructed a small one story flat-roofed addition to the east of the house.  The front elevation of the addition has a fortress-like appearance with its concrete walls and a single narrow window.  The rear of the addition has a wall of windows and a horizontal slab of concrete perched above the roof level, thus creating another level.  The concrete walls carry from exterior to interior.  The interior ceiling of the addition is covered in wood with wood beams.  The addition is an unusual Dart design, and is an example of Dart experimenting with concrete, as well as the form of a horizontal concrete slab, which can be seen in several of his later designs.

Richard Henrich House, 1962    

In 1962, Dart designed the Richard Henrich House in Barrington, which is strategically perched atop a wooded hill overlooking a lake.  The three story residence is clad completely in Chicago common brick and it has floor to ceiling windows throughout.  Verticality is stressed and can be seen in the brick piers, yet there is a strong horizontal presence which can be seen in the flat roof surfaces at different levels.

With its flat roof and vertical emphasis, the Henrich Househas the appearance of a commercial or office building.

The interior of the house is series of spaces that flow into each other and, like the exterior, both verticality and horizontality are stressed.  For example, the stairway to the upper levels is open and it leads to catwalks on both levels that are open to the space below.  The closets on the first level act as dividers because they have open space above them, again allowing space to flow from room to room.  A 1965 Progressive Architecture article commented on the interior spaces of the Henrich House: “They are, however, kept in check by strong visual axes, which give a sense of order and discipline.”[ii]  Interior floors are covered in slate and wood, and walls are clad in brick and plaster.

The house represents Dart’s views on the use of materials and space.  From the site, to the exterior massing and the interior spaces, every aspect of the house has been designed to the greatest extent possible.  The use of space at the Henrich House makes it a distinctive composition.

Edward Dart House, 1964

With its pitched roof surfaces, the house rises out of the hillside, yet remains anchored to the ground. Photo by Hedrich Blessing.

One of the highlights of Dart’s career was the 1964 home that Dart designed for his family on Dundee Lane in Barrington.  Situated on a knoll overlooking a large pond, the house stood like a monument to Dart’s concept of what architecture could be. The upwardly projecting central bay featured an asymmetrical folded roof with a side facing gable.  Protruding wings on either side of the central bay angled gently downward as though they were extensions of the hillside they were built upon.  Chicago common brick and wood shingles were the primary exterior cladding materials.

The main living space in the Dart House. Photo by Hedrich Blessing.

The interior of the home was a series of spaces that flowed into each other.  Wood posts and beams criss-crossed the large, main living space and Chicago common brick carried in from the outside.  The house was built on the foundations of a demolished barn, so it is possible that the interior space was designed with barn features in mind.  John Schlossman, who became a friend of Darts when Dart joined the architectural firm of Loebl, Schlossman and Bennett, said of the house on Dundee Lane:  “The only client he [Dart] had to please was himself and his unique attitude toward interlocking, open spaces and materials which Ed would say ‘bore the imprint of man,’ was in great evidence.”

The house on Dundee Lane could be the best representation of all of Darts architecture because it was a completely unique design that incorporated Darts philosophy on materials, site selection and the use of space.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

[i] “Six Architects’ Own Houses,” Architectural Record 128, November 1960, 167.

[ii] “Play of Volumes,” Progressive Architecture 46, May 1965, 180.

3 Responses to “Dart Residential Design: Distinctive Materials, Sites and Spaces”
  1. these buildings have some unique designs. it has a retro look too. if plenty of land is there with lot of trees then design will have more impact as someone aproaching the building have an illusion like effect

  2. Mark Dollase says:

    Great residential designs. Is there a similar analysis of his church designs?

    • Chris Morris says:

      Great question, Mark! Our Dart expert is Matt Seymour. He did a fantastic post earlier this year on Dart churches and his next post will be an in-depth analysis of a single Dart church. So stay tuned for that!

  • Contact Us

    Email Chris Enck with docomomo_chicago-midwest at cjenck@gmail.com or post comments at www.saveprentice.org
%d bloggers like this: