Architect Bruce Goff said he threw out all preconceived notions of what a building should be when he started a project. The Myron Bachman house, at 1244 W. Carmen, proves his point. This was a typical 1890-vintage two-story wood house before Goff remodeled it in 1947 into a combined family residence and recording studio.
Goff was an internationally regarded architect known for tailoring his buildings to each client, often using common materials in unconventional ways. For the Bachman House he used corrugated aluminum sheeting. While in the navy during World War II, Goff had transformed a corrugated aluminum Quonset hut into a shimmering silver camp chapel. After the war, the sheeting was plentiful and inexpensive–perfect for the Bachman House.
Goff streamlined the old roofs and exterior walls by covering them with angled planes of the aluminum sheeting, giving the outside a prismatic effect, its facets changing as the sun moves across the sky.
The rectangular windows were replaced with irregularly shaped openings filled
with both clear and rippled glass.
Goff used common brick for the ground floor walls. Most architects of the period wouldn’t use such a humble material on a building’s face, but he reveled in its earthy richness, letting excess mortar squish out of the brick joints.
Goff didn’t intend for the Bachman House to be futuristic. He saw no point in creating something for an undefined future, or for the irrelevant past. Borrowing a line from Gertrude Stein, Goff said he designed his buildings for “the continuous present,” mirroring the evolving realities of its time, place, and occupants. It certainly worked well here: in 1992 the Bachman House was designated an official Chicago landmark.
Sadly, a corrugated aluminum doghouse in the backyard built by the Bachman’s young son became a victim of the proverbial wrecking ball.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Bob Thall-Commission on Chicago Landmarks.