Between the Montrose and Damen stations on the CTA's Brown Line, commuters can catch sight of a curious thing: a silver Airstream trailer perched on the roof of a building. It's been there since 1989, when architect Edward Noonan and his wife, Eve, had the vintage recreation vehicle they'd bought on the cheap hoisted via crane to crown 1807 W. Sunnyside, the home of Ed's design cooperative, Chicago Associates Planners & Architects. The architect had considered building an apartment on the roof. The trailer, he decided, was a more playful addition.
"It's like a penthouse," Ed says, "but joyful." The Airstream is always unlocked, giving CAPA employees a place to eat lunch, hold a private meeting, or just step away from their desks and enjoy views of the skyline and the lake.
The space is also used for special events and Noonan family get-togethers. One day some years ago Ed was showing the roof to a person interested in renting it for a function. The Airstream's door happened to be closed and Ed observed the trailer "moving around a little strangely." With the Airstream a-rockin', Ed didn't bother knockin'.
"Somebody was having some kind of lunchtime fling in there!" Eve says.
This past October, more than 1,400 people toured CAPA's roof and the Airstream during the Chicago Architecture Foundation's two-day Open House Chicago event. The Noonans, now in their 80s, say the rooftop has always been a little nook of calm for them in the city, and they were excited to finally share it with the public.
"We are in love with that silly trailer," Eve says.
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