The List

(page 5 of 10)

SPERTUS INSTITUTE OF JEWISH STUDIES (late 2007)
Krueck & Sexton Architects
610 South Michigan Avenue

The site: a rare vacant lot on a historic avenue. The client’s objective: up-to-date modernity with a respectful nod to the past—hardly a simple mandate, but an opportunity for architectural distinction, or better. Enter Krueck & Sexton, who competed for the commission by designing a striking glass exterior of many facets, symbolic of what Spertus calls its “multifaceted programming.” The sculptural effect corresponded with complexity and asymmetry inside: floor “windows” open lower areas to light in surprising ways.

It wasn’t quite Piranesi’s weightless puzzle of open space, but Krueck & Sexton’s early schemes were impressive enough to land them the job. And it wasn’t until the partners went back to the office that Mark P. Sexton asked Ron Krueck, “Just how are we going to do this?”

Both partners had studied at IIT, an early pioneer in the architecture of glass, transparency, and the way light affects design. To start, they knew the right glass had to be devised: around an inch thick to eliminate waviness, low iron to maintain transparency, “fritted” with white ceramics to reduce glare, and laminated to muffle street noise. Then they worked with engineers to securely mount 720 panels of varied size and irregular slope.

Such details seem small, but the results loom large. Abundant, cool light fills the spaces, which extend back on the long, narrow footprint. And the façade reflects a vivid play of clouds—a pleasure for any client, but particularly suited to this one. “Openness and light are fundamental to Jewish tradition and thought,” Sexton says. That glass and open space are fundamental to modern design more than made the project an ideal client-architect match.