THE HERBERT BRUN FARMHOUSE
The Herbert Brun farmhouse is one of the the last vestiges of the 19th century at the edge of Crystal Lake Park in downtown Urbana, IL-where 50’s split levels and urban renewal projects have meagerly attempted integration with the surrounding city . Beginning in summer 2013, Design Draw Build Lab was commissioned to create a private sanctuary for client/resident Susan Parenti to compose music, create works of theater, and engage in private contemplation away from the many social gatherings that take place in the historic farmhouse. The client also sought a space to showcase and honor the 10,000 volume personal archive of noted University of Illinois Professor Herbert Brun. DDB set the carriage house-scaled, 1,250sq/ft addition in a diagonal relationship with the existing farmhouse, extruding the scale, proportions, and facade, creating an entirely original, united aesthetic. In plan, a series of vertical private spaces with sitting room, bedroom, and second story balcony are wrapped around zig-zagging semi-public social spaces including kitchen, spa, studio, and outdoor porch for staging theater productions. Inside, the house has layers of repurposed elements including a suspended staircase made of reclaimed old-growth Douglas fir, 60s’ refinished metal and mahogany cabinets, and numerous historic Urbana windows and doors which unite the private and public spaces at the center of the structure.
Because the old to new diagonal axis created by the addition established a new spatial ordering to the site, DDB created numerous diagonal relationships among materials, space, view, and light. Most importantly, they subtracted the two opposite diagonal corners of the addition with two matching curved thermopane-mahoghany windows reclaimed from the Opel Residence designed by Charles Gwathmey in Shelburne, VT (demolished in 2010)- reorienting the site with the client’s beloved outdoor garden. At $140/sq/ft, DDB was able to deliver a sophisticated, multi-faceted addition by limiting the footprint of the building, stacking programmatic needs and managing construction through a hands on design/build approach, with a result that best served the wide-ranging desires of a creative and cost-conscious client.