Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929–75 Receives Prestigious Docomomo Modernism in America Award


Modern in the Middle
Chicago Houses 1929-75
Susan Benjamin and Michelangelo Sabatino; foreword by Pauline Saliga

“Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929–75, a book co-authored by Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Professor and Ph.D. Program Director Michelangelo Sabatino and preservationist Susan S. Benjamin, has received a prestigious Docomomo Modernism in America Award. The award program, now in its eighth year, recognizes and celebrates work that documents, preserves, or reuses Modernist architecture in the United States.

“The book presents 50 Modernist houses in the greater Chicago area including examples by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Stanley Tigerman, John Moutoussamy, A. James Speyer, Edmond Zisook, and John Vinci, several of whom were Illinois Tech graduates. The book’s detailed histories include information about the clients in order to show how modern social aspirations transformed the residential realm. Modern in the MIddle also examines how Chicago’s modern homes played a role in the development of the single-family home across the U.S., while helping to establish a unique Midwestern Modern design language.

“‘The histories of Chicago’s built environment that focus on the accomplishments of only a handful of architects inevitably overlook the vital contribution made by a host of architects, and their clients, in shaping the city’s distinctive residential architecture,” says Sabatino.

“The jury, chaired by Marcel Quimby, principal of Quimby Preservation Studio, bestowed Modern in the Middle with an Award of Excellence, citing the variety of subjects within the publication and calling it ‘a dynamic and engaging book that is a useful resource for the public.’

“‘The brilliant thing about Modern in the Middle is that it focuses not just on the architects and their buildings, it also focuses on the clients, the real-life women and men who took a chance and commissioned these buildings,’ says Pauline Saliga, executive director of the Society of Architectural Historians and the author of the book’s foreword. ‘Because of that more personal focus, the public can better relate to these remarkable homes, and better understand how cutting edge these designs were. These were the teams—clients and architects—who helped shape the Midwest’s own unique brand of Modern residential architecture.’

Praise for Modern in the Middle
“Modern in the Middle significantly expands our understanding of modern architecture in the Chicago area by bringing to light a number of lesser-known yet talented architects. The houses and interiors designed by IIT graduates like myself demonstrate that the Miesian legacy was more complex than it might appear at first sight.”

“Modern in the Middle looks beyond Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers to show us that this city’s residential buildings have also been paradigmatic in shaping modern architecture. The book’s scope goes beyond just “midcentury” making the “Middle” a signifier that explores Chicago’s central place in the nation’s geography and the essential role of the American middle class in defining the idea of “modern housing.” Every piece of this carefully assembled volume is insightful and still resonant in our lives today.”

“This rich and fascinating compendium places the modern houses in and around Chicago in historical and philosophical context. In addition to the descriptions not only of the houses and architects but also the crucial role of the clients, the accompanying original photographs and plans are important parts of the thorough documentation. There is much to be discovered here!”

Purchase a copy at Monacelli Press

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New book explores Chicago’s best modernist homes; One reason midcentury homes are so hot now is they embody an optimism that some people would like to recapture in this gloomy era, one of the authors said, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/31/20

New Faculty Book Details Chicago’s Modernist Homes, Many Designed by Illinois Tech Architecture Community, Illinois Institute of Technology, Andrew Connor, 2/25/20


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