Moss Revitalizes Classic Edgewater Four Plus One


Our redesign of the 5411 Winthrop  for Flats Chicago breathes new life into a classic example of Chicago’s Four Plus One apartment blocks.  moss’s aim is to restore the building’s iconic 1970′s drama and glamour.  The tired tan brick has been updated in dark grey and the angular concrete awning is highlighted with bright green, drawing you in to the updated glass entry.

Before we delve into our updates, a little history …

The Four Plus One in Chicago

The Four Plus One is an apartment type (or at least a name) unique to Chicago, identifiable by their structure – four stories of apartment units stacked over one ground level parking area, tucked under the building footprint. These buildings were pervasive in the Edgewater area during the 1960’s and 70’s and still have a strong presence in the north side, lake-adjacent neighborhoods.  They’ve gotten a bad rap over the years for both having parking visible from the street (unsightly) and for not having enough parking to meet the demand posed by their efficient stacking of units.  Read all about their background on controversy in this excellent and detailed article by Forgotten Chicago.


Avenue Motel via Forgotten Chicago

A Distinguished Modernist Heritage

To moss, Four Plus One apartments, like our latest project on Winthrop, represent a link with a distinguished architectural lineage.  The resemblance to exuberant modernism of 1960’s hotel design (above) is clear.  So is the heritage of classic West Hollywood “Dingbat” houses, which filled the entire lot space and stacked squared off living spaces over street access parking.  The platonic ideal of this concept is Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye which elevated living to a literal higher plane and maintained an open ground plane below which gave access for cars to circle under the building.


West Hollywood Dingbat via L.A.Places


Villa Savoye, via Ville-Poisse.fr

Our Approach:  Updated Entry with an Eye on Chicago’s Past

At Flats Winthrop 5411, the parking is masked by the front of the building (a response to the public dislike of exposed parking) and the facade is energized at ground level by undulating concrete awnings which we’ve highlighted with a new paint job.

DSC02985 copy

DSC02978 copy

The light-filled entry is clean and spacious, encouraging tenants and guests to sit a moment on the elongated leather sofa and check out the series of black and white photos of the neighborhood during the 1970’s.  The series is the work of Chicago photographer, Bob Rehak, profiled on the far wall.  The entry provides access to the common corridors and fitness room.

DSC03000 copy

DSC03007 copy

Before and After: Entry

The new paint job, detailed window guards and glass entry door update the historic design in with modern sensibilities, breathing new life into the building and ensuring that it will remain a valued part of the neighborhood during the decades to come.

IMG_1960 copy

DSC02970 copy

Before and After: Street View

The street approach was updated with a new wooden fence which uses strong horizontal lines to delineate space and anchor the building.

5411 Winthrop Parkway

DSC02992 copy

Inside the Units: Function and Flexibility

Decades of interior finishes were stripped away, exposing the concrete and masonry walls, and then updated with new, energy efficient appliances, simple, effective cabinetry and minimal trim details to allow new tenants to stamp each unit with their own personal style.  The units have been completely reorganized to maximize open living space while creating “micro-space” sleeping areas for beds in nooks or small bedrooms.  A variety of different unit types are available (from Smart One Bedrooms to a ground floor Townhouse unit which has access to a small patio) encourage a diverse tenant population to mix in the building.

This show unit is furnished by CB2 to demonstrate well designed potential layout and showcase sleek, chic and functional style.

DSC03025 copy

DSC03036 copy

DSC03031 copy