A Conversation With...
Architects Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker
Letting the space tell the story
Julie: One thing we ask before designing a space is “What is the story we are trying to tell?” Pella’s story, at its core, is providing high-end windows and doors. We then ask ourselves, “How do we align that narrative with the space we have?” In the case of Pella, we found our answer almost immediately because the showroom space had all these glorious windows to work with.
Stuart: We also played off an older Pella tagline – “viewed to be the best” – because we wanted to focus on the spectacular views. The architecture of the showroom is really conceptualized as a background for the 20-foot-high windows, which bring in all this natural light while allowing Pella’s windows to be mounted in front of them.
Julie: Continuing with the idea of focusing on the views, we created a sort of “Pella Main Street” down the center of the showroom floor with various rooms off of the “street.” Stepping into each of these rooms through Pella doors provides a different view.
Great relationships lead to great design
Julie: The first step to any project is understanding our client. With Pella, we understand that, like us, they are doing more than designing for homes; they are designing for individual people. That personal relationship brings forward many issues where we have to combine our voice with the client’s needs and wants. Working closely with our clients to combine our two visions leads to a beautiful compilation of design efforts and gets the client their desired home design.
Taking cues from the location
Stuart: We always want what we add to space to look like plausible extensions of what was already there. The Pella Crafted Luxury Showroom worked in a similar way. It had to do with the character of the space: large rows of columns and high windows. So we looked closely at how to get people moving through the space in a natural manner. We took our cues from those aspects.
Julie: We’re not architects that are style-bound. We thought the best way to show the traditional and contemporary styles in this space was to use more abstract architecture. Keeping it simplified and using white as our main color, we transformed the space into more of an art gallery or a museum, making us the curators tasked with framing and displaying the windows.
Synthesizing spaces and style
Julie: Our work tells a story of the relationship between styles. We enjoy revitalizing a space by synthesizing modern spaces with extremely traditional detail and form. Our work is always concerned with the existing vocabulary of the house we are remodeling or adding on to. In the case of new construction, we look at the context of the surrounding buildings or site to give us visual cues for the house we are designing.
Stuart: By a modern space, Julie is referring to what’s become known as an open or free plan. Our houses have spaces that are open to one another – open glass, open doors, open living spaces – with grids of windows melding 20th century modern and traditional.
Stuart: My favorite old house in Chicago is the Glessner House on 18th Street and Prairie Avenue. I also enjoy the city’s revitalized commercial buildings, such as the Illinois Athletic Hotel. The entry and lobby spaces of the hotel are phenomenal. For me, every building is an idea, a story – it’s not just a picturesque assembly of pieces.