FEATURE VIDEO: Gertrude Lempp Kerbis: Modern Architect, A Short Film by Karen Carter

Rotunda Building, O’Hare Airport, Designed by Gertrude Kerbis, Photo Credit C.F. Murphy and Associates
Rotunda Building, O’Hare Airport, Designed by Gertrude Kerbis, Photo Credit C.F. Murphy and Associates

Gertrude Kerbis was a groundbreaking architect and was one of the first women at the forefront of Chicago architecture working the modern style during the 1960s.

She studied with Mies van der Rohe at IIT in Chicago. She later worked with Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and at C. F. Murphy before opening her own architectural firm, Lempp Kerbis, in 1967. One of the first women architects working in the modern style, Gertrude Kerbis, studied with Mies van der Rohe at IIT in Chicago. Kerbis was a founding member of Women in Architecture and received the AIA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

This short film produced and directed by Chicago-based filmmaker Karen Carter details the life and career of groundbreaking Chicago architect Gertrude Lempp Kerbis. The film was created for the AIA Chicago when Kerbis received the 2008 AIA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Gertrude Lempp Kerbis: Modern Architect (VIDEO) by Karen Carter, 2008

Preservation Chicago suggested Gertrude Kerbis’s Rotunda Building at O’Hare Airport to be considered for Chicago Landmark Status in an effort to recognize, appreciate and protect this important historic building and the trailblazing architect.

The Circular Rotunda Building at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was designed by Gertrude Kerbis during her time at C. F. Murphy Associates. It was built in 1962 and is structurally unique with more than one mile of steel bridge cable integrated into its complex program as terminal, concourse, and restaurant facility. It is largely intact today; however, it’s largely faded from public use due to the closing of the original restaurants and the difficulty of accessing the building beyond modern security.

It is one the few remaining elements of O’Hare’s “Jet Age” design and represents C.F. Murphy’s contributions to this important airport design, in one of the world’s busiest airports.

Unless there is a greater appreciation for this iconic building, there is concern that it could be lost the massive $8 billion O’Hare modernization effort getting underway.

A few times per year, the City of Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks welcomes ideas and suggestions from the public for potential future landmark buildings and districts. Preservation Chicago looks forward to these opportunities to elevate well deserving, underappreciated Chicago historic assets into the conversation.

By ordinance, Chicago Landmarks must meet at least two of the seven criteria for designation, as well as the “integrity” criteria. The seven design criteria include Outstanding Heritage, Significant Event, Significant Person, Exemplary Architecture, Significant Architect, Distinctive Theme, and Unique Visual Feature.

Additional Reading
Gertrude Lempp Kerbis: Modern Architect (VIDEO) by Karen Carter, 2008.

Preservation Chicago Landmark Suggestion for Rotunda Building

Preservation Chicago Landmark Suggestion for Jackson Park

Landmark Illinois Rotunda Building Most Endangered 2017

Gertrude Kerbis, groundbreaking architect, dies at 89, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune 6/15/16

Chicago Modern: More than Mies, “Jet Set” Modern in Chicago: The Rotunda”, by Nate Lielasus, 1/29/12


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