Chicago-based Woodhouse Tinucci Architects (WTA) takes a classically authentic and responsible approach to architecture. Their philosophy on sustainable design, however, isn’t your typical eco-friendly formula. For WTA, sustainability is about creating buildings to last several lifetimes by using natural materials with proven track records of longevity and applying decades of expertise in architecture and space planning via thoroughly studied best practices on durability.
Two projects in Illinois that capture WTA’s approach to sustainable architecture: the Morton Arboretum Vistior Center and the DuSable Harbor Building for the Chicago Park District.
The Morton Arboretum Visitor Center features natural materials, including woods represented in the Arboretum’s collections, gently weathering lead-coated copper, and local fieldstone salvaged from a predecessor building. A low-slung restaurant pavilion expands toward the lake through a 140ft-long sheath of floor-to-ceiling frameless glass, wrapped around the building to offer a panoramic view into the natural world. Structured and meticulously designed to showcase the varied views of the Aboretum’s horticultural collections, the Visitor Center elicits an “inside-out/outside-in” sensation of being outside and in nature. Completed over ten years ago, the Visitor Center appears merely months old, speaking to WTA’s uncanny ability to create buildings that are long lasting and truly sustainable.
Another prime example of WTA’s tactful approach to sustainable architecture is the new LEED Gold Certified harbor building between Lake Shore Drive and DuSable Harbor on Chicago’s urban lakefront. Designed with flexibility and durability in mind, the Harbor building offers food concession, park restrooms, a harbor office, retail store and boaters’ locker rooms and is built for year-round use. The surrounding park’s lawn folds up and over the building’s top to make a roof that’s really “green” and ensures not a single square foot of precious lakeside parkland is lost. From the park, the building completely disappears as a gently ramped hillside that slopes up to make a grassy viewing platform for enjoying the boats and fireworks displays on the lake. Yellow-painted panels of corrugated perforated metal glide open on stainless steel tracks or flip up like awnings in the summer to reveal the building’s amenities—and then close to protect them when the boating season is over.