It is a major honor for an architect’s work to be published in book form, and Cohen and Hacker, an Evanston firm, has recently been so honored with the book “Transforming the Traditional: The Work of Cohen & Hacker Architects.” My admiration of the book, and naturally of their work, is also colored by the fact that Stuart Cohen was my colleague at the UIC School of Architecture and Julie Hacker was my student.
All the buildings shown in the book are homes, 14 of them new houses and 6 remodelings and additions, or, as the architects call them, “transformations.” All are on the North Shore; all are beautiful and impeccably crafted.
Each house – besides being totally functional – is an investigation of an architectural “language,” and, within the constraints of the particular language, it is imbued with invention. The vocabulary of this language shows a keen understanding of architectural history from the classical of antiquity to 18th-century London, from Palladio in the Renaissance to Le Corbusier in the 20th century. One can see in Cohen and Hacker’s work a special admiration of the 19th-century work of Lutyens and Voysey in England, as well as of Howard Van Doren Shaw in the United States during the early years of the 20th century here in Chicago.
The admiration of the work of these historical antecedents is not expressed through imitation. Rather, the historical is transformed to meet the client’s program, the peculiarities of the site and the architect’s need to invent a new order. All this is done with devotion to the smallest detail. Nothing is left to accident, all is solved impeccably and, in the book, is illustrated with Stuart’s handsome ink sketches.
My favorite is the “Stucco House” (1991) in Glencoe. It is a house that looks inward to the private gardens, with a façade all of glass. Facing the street is an embracing stuccoed façade, given scale
by the rhythm of dormer windows.
The book is published by The Images Publishing Group, Australia, and is available at Barnes & Noble, Border’s and Amazon. Do not miss it.