Spertus Institute 13.02.08

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726 pieces of glass make up the 49 metre facade of the new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, and 556 of those pieces have different shapes. Designed and built by Chicago-based architect Krueck + Sexton, the institute stands out against the 19th century masonry buildings that line Michigan Avenue.

“When these buildings were built they were considered progressive for their time,” says Timothy Tracey, associate principal of the firm. “We embraced this concept of forward thinking and made a modern building of our time. But there were definitely clues that we took from these buildings, such as proportions and scale. We’d like to think that we were sympathetic to the surrounding neighbourhood, while having a voice of our own.”

The facade is the most characteristic element of the Spertus Institute, a complex that includes a college, museum, theatre, library and cafe. It is composed of folded glass panes, which jut out at different angles, giving the glass wall a three-dimensional quality. More light enters the open atrium through a skylight. “The old institute was very internally oriented, so with this new site we wanted to emphasise the connectivity of space that was lacking in the old building. We wanted to expose the internal space to the surroundings, especially because there is such a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and Grant Park,” explains Tracey.

Sustainability has played a key role in the construction of the institute. “As a practice, that’s one of our goals,” says Tracey. “The materials we used are primarily sustainable, and the furniture was selected with green principles in mind Overall, the building achieves a 29% reduction in energy consumption.”

images William Zbaren


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