Fred Eychaner House
by: chicago designslinger
[Fred Eychaner House (1997) Tadao Ando, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In October 1991 New York's Museum of Modern Art exhibited the work of Tadao Ando, a renowned Japanese architect who had never attended architecture school or spent several years apprenticing at an architectural firm, he just taught himself what he needed to know. Ando became famous for his use of concrete and glass and creating a signature style that was all about light, space, and privacy. His early projects turned inward away from the messy chaos often found in Japan's intensely, tightly-packed cities, and it was his 1976 Azuma Row House that brought him the first taste of international recognition. Apparently while attending the New York exhibit a wealthy, intensely private Chicago newspaper printer and broadcast station owner decided to contact Ando in Japan about building a house in Chicago.
[Fred Eychaner House, 665 W. Wrightwood Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Fred Eychaner owned and operated a company that printed newspapers for small publications who didn't own their own presses and contracted the work out. He used some of his printing income to invest in a television station, which in turn brought him even more money. When the time came to build a home on a large lot on a densely-packed city street, Eychaner wrote Ando a letter in early 1992 and offered the architect his first project in the United States. It took five years to get the house built. The first contractor left when the architect and client realized that the concrete work wasn't working, the second also couldn't get a handle on the design, but a third was finally able to finesse the project to completion. Ando's aesthetic perfectly suited Eychaner's very private personality. The concrete slab, street-viewable facades gave the print and broadcast owner a perfect barrier between a surprisingly open, airy and light-filled interior living space and exposure to the public way. Divided into three sections, the separate living environments were joined together by glass-enclosed transitional areas that belied the structure's bunker-like public face.
[Fred Eychaner House, Lakeview, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The property Eychaner had purchased for his Ando house contained two exisitngs buildings with a wide yard on the east side of the plot. The 2-story single family dwelling at 665 W. Wrightwood had started-out with the address 1729 W. Wrightwood, and originally sat in the middle of a large oversized lot. When the city finished its revamp of the street numbering system in 1910, 1729 became 665 and not long after, the large lot grew a little smaller when a 3-story apartment building was squeezed into the sideyard to the west. Eychaner returned the property back to its original generous dimensions by tearing down the original house and the apartment building. But instead of locating his new home back to the middle, he used the far eastern edge of the plot of land for Ando's concrete composition, leaving room for a tree-filled, green, privacy screen to the west.