1.4. Architectural Description
The John C. Kluczynski Federal Building has changed little since its completion in 1974 and still retains its original architectural features and configuration. It stands 562 feet above grade (42 stories) with a vertical floor to floor height of 12 feet. The building is oriented to run east-west measuring approximately 114’-10” by 226’-10”. Furthermore, it is laid out on a 28 square foot grid with a total floor area of approximately 1.2 million gross square feet.
The building’s structural system is of steel frame construction encapsulated in concrete fireproofing. The exterior is clad with steel plate spandrel panels, applied wide flange steel mullions, and aluminum-framed windows. The steel was originally painted with black graphite paint in a flat finish. The aluminum window frames are of a dark bronze anodized color and the glass had a slight bronze tint. Each structural bay is divided into six window bays that are 4’-8” wide. Windows run from floor to ceiling on the interior. At the ground level, the lobby is enclosed with large plate glass frames with painted steel. The lobby walls are recessed to create a continuous overhang; the perimeter steel columns create a pilotis effect. The top portion of the building is devoted to mechanical louvers, though the vertical rhythm of steel mullions continues to the top. The overall effect of the exterior is one of verticality and simplicity.
The main entry of the Kluczynski Building is off Dearborn on the east end and leads to centrally-located elevator banks. There are several other entry doors located along the lobby perimeter. The entire first floor is clad in plate glass and rises 24 feet high to create a monumental space. Flooring and elevator walls are of gray Rockville granite that matches that of the plaza. The ceiling is white painted plaster with recessed downlights. There are 24 elevators to serve the upper floors. The elevator cabs have been sensitively altered from their original design. Elevators are divided into three banks that serve groups of floors, such as low, mid and high rise floors.
The upper floors are devoted to federal office space. These floors are the standard 12 foot height with a public elevator lobby and corridors. Originally, these spaces were open plan with modular furniture systems. Office spaces have been modified over the years, mostly with the replacement of office cubicles and changes to floor plans and suspended ceilings. In 1973, before construction was even complete on the JCK, the GSA decided to change Mies’ original design scheme for open office space and add relocatable partitions in many of the upper floors to section off tenant spaces and create corridors. These partitions had steel frames with gypsum board panels and incorporated full height hollow metal doors. Many of the partitions still exist on a number of floors including floors 4 – 10, 27, 29, 31 – 32, 34, 37, and 39.
Alterations and Current State
Alterations to the federal building have been minimal and have not adversely affected the historic character. The exterior underwent rehabilitation in 2005, which included replacing glazing sealant and repainting the steel with a coating system that closely matches the original flat black color. The upper floor elevator lobbies and all elevator cabs have been altered. The lobbies now have granite walls. Office areas have been modified over time with multiple phases and changes in plan, new cubicles, new flooring, new lighting and suspended acoustical ceilings. Many of the upper floors have been significantly renovated, especially GSA floors.
Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. His father was a master mason, a career in which Mies intended to pursue as well. As a young man, he briefly worked as an apprentice in the trade, but soon moved to a number of different drafting jobs with local architectural offices. To advance his architectural career further, Mies moved to Berlin in 1905 to work for architect Bruno Paul. Three years later he began working for Peter Behrens, a well known German architect and mentor to other celebrated modern architects such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. In 1912, Mies left Behrens office and began to pursue a solo career. He worked mostly on small residential projects and his early works were significantly influenced by the architecture of Behrens. Mies’ work began to take on a more modern appearance following World War I and quickly developed into the modern architectural aesthetic that he is most famous for. In 1926, his career was further elevated when he was asked to direct the design of the Deutscher Werkbund’s Weissenhofsiedlung housing exposition in Stuttgart. Mies designed the site plan and one of the buildings for the project which also included designs by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens, and Bruno Taut.
In 1930, Mies was appointed director of the avant-garde Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. The school, which was founded by Gropius in 1919, became a nucleus for modernist design in Europe in the 1920s. However, by the time Mies took over, the Nazi party was becoming more powerful in Germany and its more conservative policies were at odds with the more freethinking, liberal agenda of the Bauhaus. Mies was forced to close the school in 1932 when the Nazis took over the city of Dessau.
With the Nazi party on the rise in Germany, Mies was eventually forced to leave. He accepted a position as the head of the architecture department at the Armour Institute of Technology (later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology) in 1938. In Chicago Mies was able to practice his modernist architecture freely. He cultivated a new curriculum at the school and used the architecture studios to experiment with and develop his design concepts. From the studios Mies developed the concepts of the clear span building and universal space. He also developed a master plan for the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus and designed twenty of the university’s new buildings.
While directing the architecture program at IIT, Mies also developed a private architectural practice. The ideas and concepts that were developed in his design studios at IIT came to fruition in his private practice. His designs for the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois as well as S. R. Crown Hall on the IIT campus were developed out of his concept of universal space. In addition to the smaller low rise buildings, he also designed skyscrapers. His skyscrapers were designed so the structural system was fully expressed on the exterior and utilized his two favorite building materials: steel and glass. Two of his most well known projects that took advantage of this system include the apartment towers 860 and 880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and the Seagram Building in New York. The Seagram Building also included a public plaza, a concept which Mies would further develop and utilize in later designs, including the Chicago Federal Center.
The Chicago Federal Center was one of the largest projects Mies’ office worked on and became a significant challenge in urban design. In addition to his design for the Chicago Federal Center, Mies completed other large urban planning projects, including the Lafayette Park Housing Project in Detroit and the Toronto Dominion Centre. The Toronto Dominion Centre closely resembles the Chicago Federal Center in its layout and architectural design. Both projects were in the office at roughly the same time and both were laid out on a grid with an asymmetrical massing of buildings surrounding a central plaza.
Mies continued to teach and practice until his retirement from IIT in 1958. Following his retirement from teaching, he continued to stay involved with his architectural practice. Many of his students at IIT went on to work for him and for other well respected architecture firms in Chicago and throughout the country. He also influenced the work of many other architectural practices of the time including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) and C. F. Murphy and Associates. When Mies died in 1969, his firm continued as the Office of Mies van der Rohe under the leadership of his trusted associates Joseph Fujikawa, Bruno Conterato, and his grandson Dirk Lohan. In 1975, the partners changed the name to Fujikawa, Conterato, Lohan and Associates.
Mies van der Rohe was the lead designer for the Federal Center project and his office was responsible for all phases of design. Mies himself was involved with the project and had the final say on all design decisions; however, the project was led initially by his associate Gene Summers until he left in 1965. After that, the project was led by Bruno Conterato.
C.F. Murphy and Associates
C.F. Murphy and Associates was founded in 1937 as Shaw, Naess and Murphy. Its original owners and principals included Charles Francis Murphy, Alfred Shaw and Sigurd Naess. The three partners had previously worked together at Graham, Anderson, Probst and White and were close associates of Ernest Graham. When Graham died in 1936, the three were fired and joined together to form the new firm. In the 1940s, Shaw left the firm and the name was changed to Naess and Murphy. Charles F. Murphy never had professional training as an architect; however, he had apprenticed under Ernest Graham and was an excellent businessman. The success of the firm was primarily due to Murphy’s business expertise and extensive list of client contacts. In 1957, Naess retired and the firm changed its name to C.F. Murphy Associates a few years later.
The firm’s first major project was the Prudential Building in 1955, which at the time was the tallest building in Chicago. Because of Murphy’s close relationship with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, C. F. Murphy and Associates was able to work on a number of major public building projects including planning and terminals for O’Hare International Airport, the McCormick Center, the Chicago Civic Center (now Richard J. Daley Center), and the Chicago Federal Center. The firm also designed the First National Bank Building (now the Chase Building) in a joint venture with Perkins and Will. C.F. Murphy continued to be successful throughout the 1960s and 70s with the help of talented architects such as Gene Summers and Helmut Jahn. In 1981, the firm changed its name to Murphy/Jahn when Helmut Jahn became a partner in the firm. Jahn became sole owner of the firm when Charles Murphy died in 1985.
For the Chicago Federal Center project, C.F. Murphy Associates was primarily responsible for architectural detailing and planning. They did not, however, lead the overall design of the project, which was conducted by the Office of Mies van der Rohe.
Schmidt, Garden, and Erikson
Schmidt, Garden and Erikson dates back to 1901, when Richard Ernest Schmidt joined together with Hugh Mackie Gordon Garden to form the firm of Schmidt and Garden. Before forming their partnership, Garden had previously worked for such notable Chicago architects as Sheply, Rutan and Coolidge, Howard Van Doren Shaw, Henry Ives Cobb, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Schmidt had also established his reputation in Chicago by the 1890s as a talented residential designer. Schmidt and Garden’s early work included the original building of Michael Reese Hospital and the Administration and Powerhouse buildings of the Schoenhofen Brewery in Chicago. The firm changed its name to Schmidt, Garden and Martin in 1906 when the talented structural engineer Edgar Martin joined the firm as its newest partner. In 1925, Edgar Martin was replaced by longtime employee Carl A. Erikson and the firm became known as Schmidt, Garden and Erikson. In later years, the firm designed five campus buildings for the Illinois Institute of Technology, all of which were designed to follow the Miesian aesthetic and master campus plan.
The firm of Schmidt, Garden and Erikson was primarily responsible for the mechanical engineering for the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building and the rest of Federal Center complex.
A. Epstein and Sons
A. Epstein and Sons was founded in 1921by structural engineer Abraham Epstein. The firm’s name was changed to A. Epstein and Sons when Abraham’s two sons, Raymond and Sidney, joined the firm. Although founded as engineering firm, Epstein and Sons expanded its scope over time to include architecture, especially that of industrial buildings and warehouses. Some of their early work included projects at the Central Manufacturing District and the Union Stockyards in Chicago. Because of its engineering expertise, the firm collaborated on numerous high profile projects in the post-War years including the Chicago Federal Center project. In the 1950s, the firm became one of the first to do design/build work, in which the firm was responsible for both the design and construction of a building. A. Epstein and Sons still remains in Chicago today as an architecture/engineering firm.
A. Epstein and Sons was primarily responsible for the structural and electrical engineering work on the Chicago Federal Center.