Thursday, October 29, 2009


Chicago’s First Green Museum

Krueck & Sexton’s Spertus Institute makes history in Michigan Avenue historic district

Architects Krueck & Sexton’s new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies Building in downtown Chicago recently became the city’s first “green” museum after being awarded a Silver Level LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.

The 10-story, 145,000 square foot structure is also the first LEED-certified building in the city’s Historic Michigan Boulevard District, a 12-block row of mainly late 19th and early 20th Century buildings by such seminal architects as Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Solon S. Beman and Holabird & Roche.

Among the sustainable elements that made the building eligible for LEED certification are everything from advanced “light harvesting” and heat recovery systems to such low-tech ideas as installing bike racks and a shower in order to encourage employees to bike to work. The building also has a green roof that reduces energy consumption.

“A lot of what goes into making a building green – like bringing in natural light and using energy efficient systems -- is just common sense,” said Ron Krueck. “Architects like Mies van der Rohe were green long before the term was invented. For us, green technology is a fundamental part of the design process.”

“There’s a lot of different ways to make buildings sustainable,” said Mark Sexton. “We’ve always designed buildings that are open, flexible, use energy wisely and have large amounts of natural light.”

He added, however, that “green is not a short term strategy. The real payoffs for companies and landlords come down the road in the form of fewer sick days, higher productivity and significant savings in maintenance and operating expenses.”

The LEED certification is the latest in a series of honors the building has received since it was completed in 2008. These include three AIA awards, including the highly coveted Louis Sullivan Award; the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ Excellence in New Infill Construction Award, and Interior Design Magazine’s Best of Year Award.

Spertus occupies a mid-block site at 610 South Michigan Avenue and is at the southern end of the Historic Michigan Boulevard District. The District was created in 2002 to preserve one of the city’s most important historic streetscapes.

Spertus’ decidedly 21st Century design – the elaborately folded and angled façade is composed of 726 individually cut panes of glass in 556 shapes -- was made possible by the fact that the building was constructed on what was the last remaining vacant lot in the District.

“In their day, the buildings in the historic district were some of the best, most technologically advanced, structures in the city,” said Krueck. “We wanted our design to reflect that same level of creativity and technology but in a modern vocabulary.”

The 600 block also contains the French-influenced 1908 Blackstone Hotel by Marshall and Fox, as well as two buildings by Christian Eckstrom, an architect known locally mainly for his innovative industrial and warehouse designs. The Eckstrom buildings are the 1907 International Harvester Company Building at 600 South Michigan and the 1908 Chicago Musical College Building at 624 South Michigan Avenue.

The Historic Michigan Boulevard district also includes such landmarks as Adler & Sullivan’s 1890 Auditorium Building, Solon S. Beman’s 1885 Fine Arts Building, Holabird & Roche’s 1927 Stevens Hotel and D.H. Burnham & Co.’s 1904 Railway Exchange Building.

Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton, the founders of the Krueck & Sexton, have worked together for over 30 years and have amassed a varied portfolio of high profile civic and cultural projects as well as numerous residential and commercial commissions. The firm is also noted for its innovative restoration and historic re-adaptation practice, which is focused on Modernist and other Post War buildings.

Photo Credit: William Zbaren
many thanks to architectural writer Robert Sharoff for providing the text and images!


Blogger Clairisse said...

Great article. Great designs.Nice concept. Good to hear the wonderful efforts made to ensure a more energy and healthier way of living for the environment.Having a open feel and bring in natural light was a great in building this LEED certified building. Congrats to Krueck & Sextons Institute for there LEED silver certification.Good luck on future LEED projects.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Toronto furniture said...

Hello. As a professional home stager I love architecture and design and I must say that this building is simply amazing! I love the space, light and simplicity of the place. Thank you for your post very much, when I get to Chicago I will certainly stop by!
Take care,

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

With an upcoming trip to Chicago in the works I'm grateful that you've posted on this pristine piece of architecture. With any luck the lobby is open to looky-lous.

11:02 PM  
Blogger eric said...

My pleasure... hope you enjoy your trip!

7:50 AM  

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