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A five-story red-brick building has stood on the north side of Emerson Street for many years. The colonial red-brick façade is well-organized and the roof is attractive, but the totality is rather plebeian. It was without enough merit to write about until recently: While nothing changed on the building itself, something changed in front of it.

A metal-frame-and-fabric canopy was added as a common element that has changed the building’s entire image.  The canopy embraces the foreground, incorporating the “no-man’s-land” and creating out of it an inviting reception area.

This is an excellent illustration of how important it is to deal with the set-back of a building.

The set-back need not be as elaborate as is the sunken garden adjacent to the Rotary building at Grove Street and Sherman Avenue.

The sister high-rise is also designed by architect George Schipporeit of Illinois Institute of Technology. It is the bank building at the northeast corner of Davis Street and Orrington Avenue that is actually on a raised platform; it has always suggested to me a less-than-friendly attitude.

On the north side of the building there ought to be something that enlivens this desert – children’s play areas, shade, benches – anything that enlivens this vacant space.

At the southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Church Street, the architect Harry Weese dealt with the front yard differently. The fact that an elegant retail store opens directly onto it makes a major difference.

David Hovey, the designer and developer of several of our high-rises, is a good example. He did not want to lose any retail footage at the southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Davis Street (his is the building with orange balconies) and placed the entrance at the rear, leading people through a relatively narrow, but lushly landscaped, walkway along the south side of the building.

Probably the most graceful entrance in Evanston occurs at the southwest corner of Lee Street and Michigan Avenue, where one enters near a bubbling fountain and charming little courtyard. It was built in 1927 by little-known architect Frank M. Cawley.

Another way to marry the apartment building to the outdoors is to bring the outdoors inside the building. Two apartment buildings built in the 1950s on the east side of Hinman Avenue, between Grove and Davis streets, did just that by cutting back the building and creating a drive-through entrance.

At the Evanston Place apartment complex on the east side of Chicago Avenue, between Church and Clark streets, the building authorities gave full approval to move the sidewalk to abut the structure, another way to join outdoors to building interior.

Anyone who believes some interesting marriage between building and front yard has been neglected may contact John Macsai through the Evanston RoundTable at editor@evanstonroundtable.com.