By Christina B. Farnsworth. Block X sits rather unobtrusively in the long early morning shadow cast by the Sears Tower, Chicago's tallest landmark. From street side, it is reminiscent of the factories and warehouses that used to make up the fabric of the west inner-city manufacturing area. Architect David Haymes designed the industrial look to camouflage the complex's secret garden--a 1/3-acre park at the heart of the five-building urban community.

The mixed-housing community answers the area's thirst for contemporary lifestyle. The development works well within its context in that it doesn't turn its back on the industrial warehouse neighborhood but rather celebrates the trend of urban housing without being trendy. "The Block X name came from an early site plan that did look like an X," says Haymes. The plan changed, but the name stuck.

Block X's two elevator buildings house 100 units and 112 parking spaces. There are also two walk-up buildings, 12 townhomes, and four penthouses. Homes range in size from 750 to 2,340 square feet and in price from $160,000 to $600,000. "Buyers," says Haymes, "range in age from 22 to 65."

Photo: George Pappageorge

The community is richly detailed and, though modern, is not stark. It uses the strong standard materials of the city with big shoulders: terra cotta colored brick, metal panels, and painted steel. The blue steel canopy is creative yet practical; it anchors the entrance but is suspended from the garage's functional ventilation shaft towers. The hard edges melt into and are softened by the lushly landscaped interior courtyard. And it is all at a high urban density of 56 dua on the 1.77-acre site.

Category: Condominiums; Entrant/Architect: Pappageorge/Haymes, Chicago; Builder: Tci, Chicago; Developer: Thrush Development, Chicago; Landscape Architect: Joe Karr and Associates, Chicago