he residential design world’s equivalent of a trifecta is getting full-page project spreads in The New York Times, Architectural Digest and Elle Décor. It’s not an easy accomplishment today, as residences are featured more for their celebrity homeowners than their design significance. Yet when Chicago architect Dirk Denison’s work has been covered in these three publications (and many others), the “stars” were truly the homes themselves rather than their residents.
Chalk it up to the fact that all of Denison’s projects—which also include dormitories, galleries, restaurants and offices—have been extraordinary for their transcendental designs and the transformative impact they’ve had on their users. They’ve also been forward-thinking and inimitable—a true merger of Denison’s intuitive intellect and virtuoso design skills. “I’m passionate about producing work that’s compelling, effective and offers smart but unexpected solutions to meet my clients’ needs,” he says.
In houses, those unexpected solutions have ranged from ingenious folding layouts to lake views from every room to imaginative green roofs—even one with a veritable grove of aspen trees atop a garage. A recently completed project sports a horseshoe footprint that cantilevers over a lakefront bluff to maximize light and views, conserve the site and protect a garden in its bowl-shaped heart.
For Denison, forging solutions takes “a complex and collaborative process between client and architect that’s part rigorous problem-solving and part magic,” he explains. While every project has certain similarities, such as a relationship with its site; high-performance, flexible spaces; and an inventive mix of sumptuous materials, “no two projects are repeats. I don’t recycle my designs or details,” he says.
That makes Dirk Denison 10 Houses(by Dirk Denison and Fred Bernstein; $44.95, Actar) not only a page turner, but a definitive guide of creative ideas all can find inspirational—especially those lucky enough to have a building project in their future.