bertrand goldberg's heimbach house
Early housing by BG.
Located in Blue Island, Illinois, the Heimbach House (1939-40) is one of Bertrand Goldberg's earliest residential experiments. Designed when he was just 26 years old, the unconventional house is a product of intersecting influences- the architect's European education (he left Harvard to attend the Bauhaus in 1932 and briefly worked in the office of Mies van der Rohe) and his Chicago pedigree (born and raised). A machine-like stack of brick boxes and glass walls, the Heimbach House is often described as International Style, but its highly personal and inventive approach to space seems more reflective of a young architect still trying to find his way- a reconciliation of sorts between the formal tenants of his Bauhaus training and the pragmatic demands of his Midwestern home.
Commissioned by Dr. Aaron Heimbach for his small family, the streamlined steel-framed house is a highly personal design, one that Goldberg carefully tailored to the young family's (very specific) needs. Since Dr. Heimbach worked out of his home, the first floor of the residence had to accommodate a thriving medical practice AND the family's shared domestic spaces. Located on the southwest corner of the house, Heimbach's office contained a string of rooms dedicated to complete medical services, including a reception area, examination room, X-Ray space, and laboratory. Accessible by a separate, more private entrance, the family's spaces- living room, dining area, and kitchen- stretched along the north side of the house, almost pinwheeling off the carport. Just above the main level, a stepped back second floor served the family's private spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms, maid quarters, and a second living room with a large roof deck), an arrangement that offered division between quiet domestic life and the bustling office below. Prizing the client's demands over any formal allegiance to style, Goldberg's design for the Heimbachs was practical and efficient, a provocatively modern home informed by the human experience and a desire to make buildings that worked for everyone.
As strikingly modern as the Heimbach House might seem for something built in late 1930s, Goldberg's design was not (at least initially) well-received by critics. Architectural Forum questioned the home's "ponderous brick tower" and lamented the unusual number of steps from kitchen to living space. But however clumsy some of these components may look or feel (especially in comparison to the architect's later work), the Heimbach House should be viewed within the context of Goldberg's early potential. It's a design that shows the young architect's imaginative mind at work- his interest in new technology, innovative forms, and unique spatial configurations on full display. More importantly, the Heimbach House, along with his other small house commissions, set the stage for the large-scale housing projects- Marina City, Raymond Hilliard Homes, and River City- that would come to define Bertrand Goldberg's visionary career.
When Dr. Heimbach died in 1980, the home passed to owners that made a number of changes to its original design. But in 2004, new stewards began restoring the house, an extensive project that took nearly four years to complete. You can read more here.
And read more BG on claass HAUS here and here.
Image at top:
Heimbach House, view from the street showing chimney. Hedrich-Blessing photograph (1939). Available at bertrandgoldberg.org.
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