written by:
photos by:
January 23, 2009
Originally published in Small Wonders

When it comes to material originality, this former tavern in Chicago’s trendy Bucktown neighborhood pulls out all the stops. Case in point? Colorful pieces of broken LPs are visible in the glass aggregate flooring of the upstairs master bathroom—-which the architects made from the pulverized remains of old vinyl records.

The structure boasts a roof garden replete with turbines and solar panels, as well as fifteen geothermal wells sunk underground.
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Games and toys await in the entryway.
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The floor of the master bathroom sparkles with the remains of pulverized LPs.
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Renovated tavern in Chicago
Natural light filters in through a series of apertures, including a clerestory window above the kitchen area. Just below, a Ligne Roset chair rests on the terrazzo floor.
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The stairs are made of reclaimed timber.
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A rainwater catching system irrigates the rooftop garden, which also has a dining area and grill.
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The former warehouse's roof is decked out with thirty solar panels.
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wis tavern building house exterior
The structure boasts a roof garden replete with turbines and solar panels, as well as fifteen geothermal wells sunk underground.
Wis Tavern Building

Gut-renovated by local firm Wilkinson Blender Architecture, the house is also comprehensively green. Its noteworthy design features include the use of reclaimed timber salvaged from the original roof structure; a roof garden, complete with wind turbines and easily maintained solar arrays; and 15 geothermal wells drilled into the ground beneath the basement. A quiet bank of electrical converters now blinks in a cellar control room, tracking each one of these renewable inputs.

What’s more, the architects used a South Chicago bulk recycling firm, Recycling Services Incorporated, to process as much as 80 percent of construction waste generated during renovation. All of these steps have made this the first LEED for Homes Gold-certified house in Illinois, and only the eighth such residence in the United States.

The spacious home, complete with guest bedroom on the ground floor, is owned by husband-and-wife record producers Frank and Lisa Mauceri. The house also doubles as their office.

Entering, you step into what first appears to be an arcade or public fun room, complete with a videogame console, robotic toys, and a regulation Ping-Pong table—-but this is where the Mauceris go to work. A paperless work surface off to one side rests in indirect light beneath a canopy of artfully misused sound-dampening textiles. Found throughout the house are framed, original hand-drawn illustrations that first appeared in 1950s science-fiction magazines, as well as autographed posters from the giants of American skateboarding.

It’s once you get up onto the roof, however, that the excitement begins. Walking past the upstairs kitchen, with its lavender cabinetry offset by fiery orange Panelite doors, you take one final flight of stairs—-and discover that the roof all but hums with green building technology.

Overlooking an open fire pit, two recliners, and a patch of wildflowers is the building’s most visually distinct feature: a pair of wind turbines, turning smoothly inside their bright orange steel frames. Built by Bil Becker of Aerotecture International from his own proprietary design, the machines are more like “spinning, sculptural artworks,” Lisa says. Each one is “like a DNA helix constructed out of plastic,” Frank adds. “On a Friday night, the waiters at the restaurant across the street spend as much time answering questions about what’s happening on our roof as they do talking about the restaurant’s menu.”

The Mauceris’ turbines literally set a legal precedent for the city of Chicago. Before this renovation, the Windy City’s building code allowed no variances for turbines in its residential height restrictions. But an official (and permanent) update has been added to the books.

The turbines were also designed to be visible to birds, preventing the winged creatures from flying into their spinning surfaces. After all, the last thing the homeowners need is to find themselves harming local wildlife in the name of being green.

If making their house as sustainable as possible was the Mauceris’ way of greening their record company—-ironically named Smog Veil Records—-then the results so far spell success.

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