South Shore Beach House

South Shore Beach House, commissioned by the Chicago Park District in 2017 to serve the South Shore neighborhood in Chicago, was completed in 2021. Located on the same site as the National register-listed South Shore Cultural Center, the Beach House takes a decidedly modern but still elegant turn, with clean, horizontal lines inspired by the lake horizon beyond, a friendly modern companion to its historic cousin.The 2500 SF structure is a seasonal building that also changes with the seasons. The parti shifts as the ever-changing dunes around the site: the lifeguard pavilion shifting forward toward the beach for optimized site lines, and a concessions/bathroom pavilion steps back, allowing views up the coastline and sharing access to golfers utilizing the also onsite South Shore Golf Course.

A floating canopy, rising out of a thoughtfully stepped back parapet detail, connects the two buildings: providing a framed view of the shoreline, a formal entry sequence to the site, acting as shelter for the 300-person junior lifeguard program in case of inclement weather. The large overhead doors, clad in a durable but warm cedar-like material, open the building daily to beachgoers and golfers alike, providing integral shading devices for the building during the hot, sunny summers, while also remaining a beautiful feature when the building is closed for the season. Concessions serve the beachgoers during the summer, but also serve the ‘turn’ at the golf course, nestled in at the 9th hole. The lifeguard pavilion, connected by but separate, is designed to be decommissioned for the season while the concessions/restrooms can remain open to serve golfers well into the fall. 

The materials are sustainable by nature: inside and out, polished and glazed exposed architectural masonry comprised of local aggregates is employed to last for generations. Designed to be 100-year plus structure like its Cultural Center cousin, the building is designed to withstand the elements during its use, and simply be hosed down when it needs to be cleaned.

Mechanical systems for the project were basically eliminated: no air conditioning, and only natural ventilation with occupancy driven mechanical assistance is employed in the lifeguard pavilion, while in the concessions natural ventilation is provided by open overhead doors. Electrical loads are limited thanks in part to bountiful natural daylighting as well as LED lighting. Low flow fixtures in the restrooms work to minimize potable water demand.

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Carefully selected materials, including bird-friendly ceramic fritted storefront glazing for the lifeguard pavilion, limited exterior lighting, coupled with exterior integral awnings provided by the operable overhead doors, this bird friendly design aims to ensure zero bird-mortality given its proximate location to the also adjacent South Shore Nature Sanctuary, 6 acres of dunes, wetlands and woodlands playing host to one of only two migratory birds preserves along Chicago’s lakefront.

The site/landscape design produces a layered, natively planted platform for the architecture, seamlessly integrating the building into dune ecology, stepping down to the beach/lakefront path. Old growth trees were saved, allowing the beach house to nestle into its dune context.

SSBH Seasonal Band