Crain’s Op-ed: The Case for a Museum of Architecture in Chicago, by John Vinci

Crain’s recent article regarding the demolition of another pre-Fire residence reinforces my belief that Chicago is in desperate need of a museum of architecture (“Say goodbye to this 1860s West Loop home,” Dec. 07).

“The overwhelming success of the two exhibitions now featured at the Wrightwood 659 Gallery prove that audiences are interested in Chicago’s architectural legacy. The success of “Reconstructing the Garrick” is in no small way due to the creative ingenuity of Chris Ware, Tim Samuelson (with his ability to render historical material in an engaging way) and Eric Nordstrom (who supplied material gathered from the Richard Nickel archives at the Ryerson Library at the Art Institute of Chicago).

“Exhibitions such as this are dependent on resources that, as of today, have no permanent home. Collections of artifacts such as terra cotta blocks, building fragments and ephemera need a secure facility where they can be displayed, maintained and catalogued and made accessible. Besides Samuelson’s collection of hundreds of objects, many of which are of massive in size, there is the collection of David Phillips, historical photographic negatives in dire need of archival storage and preservation. Important collections of architectural fragments owned by Nordstrom range from early wood frame house joinery to extraordinary sculptural building fragments. His collection also includes archival material from Chicago’s pioneering architects such as William LeBaron Jenney.

“While their material recognizes past achievements, an architecture museum is necessary for more recent material that may not have a home. Methods of architectural presentation rapidly change, such as architectural model makings and renderings. Today much of this material is discarded.

“Museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum and the Museum of Science & Industry are stewards of architectural material, but they are also multi-disciplined and have not made architecture one of their major concerns.

“An architectural museum can also focus on education: classes on global warming, housing and building techniques, energy efficiency and perhaps teaching building trades.

“A building of approximately 50,000 square feet or more would serve this purpose. Besides exhibition space, it would need elevator access, secure storage, preparation space for mounting exhibitions, classrooms and offices. Parking would also be essential.

“Location can be anywhere in the city, since I believe people would have multiple ways of attending. Such a facility would become a destination for schools, organizations and planned groups.

“My hope is to initiate such a project. The city of Chicago can be in the forefront to recognize such a need and should act favorably on such a project.

“Letter to the Editor by John Vinci, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects”

Read the full story in Crain’s Chicago Business

Crain’s Op-ed: The case for a museum of architecture in Chicago; The demolition of another pre-Fire residence reinforces architect John Vinci’s belief that Chicago is in desperate need of a museum of architecture, John Vinci, 12/13/21

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