“The Chicago Architecture Foundation to Move, Change Name” by S.M. O’Connor

After twenty-five years in the historic Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (C.A.F.) is moving to One Illinois Center at 111 East Wacker Drive, near Wacker’s intersection with Michigan Avenue, where it will open the Chicago Architecture Center (C.A.C.) on Friday, August 31, 2018.  [For the purposes of engaging with the public, the Chicago Architecture Foundation will be the Chicago Architecture Center the way the Chicago Historical Society engages the public through the Chicago History Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences engages with the public through the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.]  They are moving from a building designed by D.H. Burnham & Company to a building designed by The Office of Mies van der Rohe[1] that opened in 1970.  Due to the latter’s death, his partner Joseph Fukijawa oversaw its completion.  Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) was Director of Works for Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and co-author of The Plan of Chicago (1909).  Not only did his firm design the Railway Exchange Building, but its offices were on the fourteenth floor, and he was one of the owners of the building.  A German immigrant, Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) was already a famous Bauhaus architect when he received an appointment to head the School of Architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology, which became the Illinois Institute of Technology (I.I.T.).  Van der Rohe designed twenty buildings on the I.I.T. Campus in Chicago, including S.R. Crown Hall, which is considered his masterpiece.  He also designed the Chicago Federal Center complex of buildings; I.B.M. Plaza (now AMA Plaza) at 330 North Wabash in Chicago; 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments (twin apartments towers) in Streeterville; Farnsworth House (a weekend retreat in Plano, Illinois); and numerous other buildings.  Further, the famous architect Dirk Lohan, who designed the former McDonald’s Corporation Headquarters Campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, John G. Shedd Aquarium’s Oceanarium, and the Adler Planetarium Sky Pavilion, is his grandson.  For fans of van der Rohe and Modernism, this is great news, but for fans of Burnham and every other style of architecture, this is a questionable decision, but either way it is convenient for the Chicago Architecture Foundation because the Chicago Architecture Center will occupy 20,000 square feet in One Illinois Center above the dock for Chicago Architecture River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises.   [This site is also historically significant because it corresponds with the southern perimeter of Fort Dearborn (also known as Old Fort Dearborn).]  Chicago’s First Lady Cruises boat dock on the Chicago River is at 112 East Wacker Drive.  Thus, by moving into 111 East Wacker, the Chicago Architecture Foundation will be consolidating operations that until now have been eight blocks apart.  [Currently, a one-and-a-half-hour-long cruise costs $45 for daytime cruises and $52 for Twilight Cruises that begin at 7:30 p.m.]  Founded in 1966, the Chicago Architecture Foundation served almost 690,000 people in 2017 via eighty-five docent-led tours, as well as exhibitions, lectures, educational programs, and online tools.

Ian Spula, Programs Operations Specialist with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, stated, “Chicago is rightly known as a city both knowledgeable and proud if its architecture.  For more than 50 years, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has showcased the city’s architectural innovations to Chicagoans and visitors.  But we senses we could do more to inspire people to discover why design matters.  We also felt that because Chicago has played such an important role in modern architecture that it deserved to have its own architecture center, along with approximately 100 other cities in the world that already have one.”

“We can’t wait for people to visit the CAC and experience how Chicago architects have influenced the world through their innovation and vision,” stated Lynn Osmond, the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “We’ve engineered a stimulating an immersive space where visitors can have fun discovering Chicago’s groundbreaking architecture – and appreciate its profound impact on the world.”

The Chicago-based architecture and design firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GGA) designed the interior of the Chicago Architecture Center.  It is comprised of custom-designed spaces devoted to tour orientation, education about design, public programs, and almost 10,000 square feet worth of exhibits that the Chicago Architecture Foundation developed in partnership with Gallagher & Associates, a museum planning and design firm with offices in New York City, San Francisco, Singapore, and Silver Spring, Maryland.

Pauline Saliga, Executive Director of the Society of Architectural Historians, stated, “The Chicago cultural community congratulates the Chicago Architecture Foundation on its plans for the Chicago Architecture Center. [It] will enable CAF to expand its innovative and immersive programs that help everyone understand the value of well-conceived design in architecture, landscape design and urban planning.  Designed by the rock star architectural team of Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, the Chicago Architecture Center will open a new chapter in CAF’s 52-year history of delivering informative and inspirational public programs.”

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s popular exhibit the Chicago Model Experience will be enlarged from 1,300 model buildings to 3,000.  Its new home will be the Chicago Gallery on the ground floor of the Chicago Architecture Center.  The Chicago Architecture Foundation stated “the Chicago Gallery will tell the story of how Chicago became the epicenter of modern architecture… A film and interactive light show illuminates the Model to show Chicago’s early growth and rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire.  The gallery also highlights the city’s most notable architects, its diverse neighborhoods, its unique residential architecture and innovative current projects.”

The expanded Chicago Model is inspired by the model of London at New London Architecture (N.L.A.) in London, which employs light, color, and sound projected projections to depict infrastructure, transit, parks, and growth patterns of the city center.  Pavillon de l’Arsenal Center for Architecture and Urbanism in Paris is another source of inspiration for the establishment of the Chicago Architecture Center.  At the same the Chicago Architecture Foundation is creating the Chicago Architecture Center, the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen is moving to a new home designed by OMA, the Dutch architectural firm founded by famed architect Rem Koolhaas.

The exhibit Building Tall will be in the second-floor Skyscraper Gallery.  It will feature forty-foot-tall windows that overlook the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge and “supersized scale models of famous skyscrapers from Chicago and around the world.”  One of these models will be a forty-foot-tall model of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Tower, which will be the tallest building in the world when it is finished in 2020.  From the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s description, these models seems like the bigatures, very large miniature scale models Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop fabricated for The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy (1999-2001).

Antony Wood, Executive Director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, stated, “Architecture has always been a part of Chicago’s DNA.  As the birthplace of the skyscraper, and a real-world laboratory for more than a century of architectural breakthroughs, the city deserves a pantheon in a prominent location to celebrate this craft.  Personally, I’m most looking forward to the incredible two-story ‘Skyscraper Gallery’ showcasing innovations in tall buildings from across the globe.  All of us at CTBUH are thrilled to be a part of the CAF’s next chapter.”

Eric Rogers, Program Manager of Open House Chicago, stated, “The new Chicago Architecture Center will be an exciting first stop downtown during Open House Chicago.  After learning about Chicago’s rich architectural legacy and taking in the expanded Chicago City Model, visitors will have the chance to explore iconic buildings, some just steps away.  The new CAC will be a terrific gateway to explore the city year-round, and especially during Open House Chicago!”

Students and families will be able to get hands-on experience in the 700-square-foot ArcelorMittal Design Studio.  The Chicago Architecture Center will also have the custom-designed Joan and Gary Gand Lecture Hall.  Gary & Joan Hand are sponsoring the audio-visual and acoustical elements of the Chicago Architecture Center, including the Gand Lecture Hall.  Musicians and business owners, the Gands discovered they shared a mutual interest in architecture on their first date, which was a tour of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in west suburban Oak Park, Illinois.  Their company, Gand Music & Sound, designs and installs audio systems in facilities ranging from churches to Buddy Guy’s Legends, as well as the enormous portable sound systems for concerts.  In 2004, they established Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond, a non-profit organization that provides tours, lectures, and educational programs devoted to what is now called Mid-Century Modern architecture and design.  Joan Gand sits on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Chicago Architecture Center members will receive unlimited free access to the C.A.C. year-round; free tickets to over sixty-five walking tours; a buy-one-get-one-free river cruise perk; parking, store, and program discounts; and early access to the C.A.C. the last week of August.  Individual memberships are $80, Dual memberships are $110, Friends & Family memberships are $180, Deco memberships are $300, Beaux Arts memberships are $550, Sullivan Society memberships are $1,000, and Burnham Society memberships are $1,500.

David Whitaker, President & Chief Executive Officer of Choose Chicago, stated, “Architecture is one of the key pillars (pun intended) of Chicago’s story and it needs to be told in an experiential way.  The Chicago Architecture Center will provide a stage for our architecture so visitors can experience it up close and personal.  A visit to the Center will allow our visitors to note, anticipate and experience the richness and vastness of Chicago architecture during their stay.”

Brian Bannon, Commissioner & Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Library,  stated, “Great cities are defined by their rich civic life and the public spaces they nurture.  It doesn’t happen by accident.  It requires a community’s consensus that architecture matters.  The Chicago Architecture Center will keep the Chicago consensus alive by drawing hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans and visitors to discover Chicago’s awe-inspiring architecture.  It will provide a vital public forum, much like the Harold Washington Library and three new branch libraries being built today, where communities can gather to learn and to debate what kind of city they want to build.”

Michelle Morales, Chief Executive Officer of Mikva Challenge, stated, “We have been impressed with CAF’s strategy of including youth perspective and input into their design work.  We are excited for the future of CAF and the Chicago Architecture Center.  Having a place to call home – a center that will respond to the innovations in design and architecture – will only further strengthen the relationship between city planning and architecture and the young people it impacts.  At Mikva Challenge, we are excited to continue our partnership with CAF and to ensure that young people’s voices are always included.”

Late last year, Barry Sears, who joined the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Auxiliary Board in 1992 and subsequently became a C.A.F. docent, pledged to fund the Chicago Architecture Center’s docent and volunteer library.  Around ten years ago, he and two friends on the C.A.F. Auxiliary Board established the docent and volunteer library.  Mr. Sears began his association with the Chicago Architecture Foundation in the 1970s when the C.A.F. was searching for descendants of former Prairie Avenue residents.  After he went on several architectural tours of New York City organized by the C.A.F., Sears led the C.A.F.’s first foreign architectural tour of London, which ended with him becoming the C.A.F.’s special tours consultant.  For approximately twenty years, Sears both planned and led C.A.F. tours in distant cities.  Such efforts caused the American Institute of Architects to grant him an Honorary A.I.A. membership in 2011.  These days, he is back to leading to walking tours of our own fair city.

“We want to be the first stop for visitors to Chicago and a return destination for locals looking to better understand and appreciate their city, through our programs and exhibitions,” stated Ms. Osmond.


[1] In 1975, Mies can der Rohe’s grandson, Dirk Lohan, and partners Joseph Fujikawa and Bruno Conterato changed the name of the firm from The Office of Mies van der Rohe to Fujikawa, Conterato, Lohan & Associates, shortened to FCL Associates, Inc.  Seven years later, Fukijawa left to form Fukijawa, Johnson & Associates, Inc. with Gerald Johnson.  In December of 1985, after Conterato retired, Lohan changed the name of the firm to Lohan Associates.  It had 120 employees in Chicago and another twenty in Dallas.  In 2003, Lohan departed Lohan Caprile Goettsch to form Lohan Anderson with Floyd Anderson.  In 2015, Blair Kamin reported in the Chicago Tribune that Lohan and Anderson were closing their firm Lohan Anderson, which had ten employees in an office in the Equitable Building at 401 North Michigan Avenue, and they would head a new branch of Wight & Company, with ten employees at 211 North Clinton Street.  Wight & Company was an architecture, engineering, and construction firm with offices in Chicago and west suburban Darien, Illinois.  They had recently designed the new Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library.  Lohan and Anderson would become principals in Wight & Company.  The new branch was to be called the Lohan Studio.  Today, Lohan Anderson is an architectural practice in partnership with Wight & Company.

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