Breaking the Box
The common critique against most mid-century high-rises is that they’re basically boxes.
The unique balconies at The Malibu, with their corners sliced off, have a semi-hexagonal shape that adds an element of sculpture to what would otherwise be a monolithic facade. Their shape is echoed by the porte-cochere, which welcomes visitors arriving by automobile, and also by the face of the garage, which welcomes residents arriving home.
To further break up the box, Belrose specified visible structural columns of white concrete, which provide either contrast or visual relief (take your pick) to the brown brick used in most of the facade. Decorative white concrete appliques are used to add interest to the lower three levels. In the entry courtyard, they help break up what would otherwise be a rather boring expanse of plate glass, and also help break up the space between the garage doors.
Unusually Spacious Units
Inside, the defining characteristic of The Malibu is space. Like its Dunbar-built neighbors, The Malibu was built from the beginning as a condominium. And one way Dunbar and Belrose ensured that people would buy into this new concept (literally) was to give them as much space as they might have in a small house of the era. Thus, Malibu floorplans range from over 1,000 square feet for one-bedrooms to over 1,700 square feet for the largest two-bedroom units. These sizes are larger than most you’ll find along Sheridan Road, whether built before or since The Malibu.
Private outdoor space was also deemed a necessity. Thus, every outer room in a Malibu unit has access to a balcony where you can barbeque, grow plants, or simply relax.
The Comforts and Independence of Home
What’s more, Malibu units are built to be homes in a way that rental apartments aren’t, For example, each is self-contained, with its own heat, air-conditioning, and hot water heater. Per Dunbar practice, each unit has a central, forced air system (a marked contrast to the hotel room style heater-air conditioner units used in some other early condos).
For the same reason, Dunbar made Malibu kitchens large and fully equipped, with wood cabinets, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and electric stoves with upper and lower ovens—none of which were commonly found in rental apartments of the 1960’s. Most kitchens, in fact, have space for a breakfast or dining table.
Dunbar also included a few luxury touches. Bathrooms had color-coordinated fixtures and tiles (though many owners have remodeled since). Doorknobs are fluted—a distinctive late ‘60’s touch. And many areas within units were originally equipped with then-fashionable recessed lighting.
“Leisure Living,” Populuxe Style
To ice the cake, so to speak, The Malibu was built for “leisure living,” as Dunbar’s press releases put it. As a result, we have amenities including a heated pool, a party room, an exercise room, and men’s and women’s saunas, none of which you’ll find in former rental buildings.
The luxury (for the time) and amenities of The Malibu can be seen as a part of the “Populuxe” era in American design. Regardless, by the time The Malibu was built, many of these features had become elements of a formula for Dunbar. Today, you’ll find the key elements of the formula (the balcony access, the swimming pool, the self-contained, owner-controlled heat, air conditioning, and hot water) in nearly every new condominium built in Chicago. It’s another one of the ways The Malibu set a standard.