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Architecture of the Spertus Building

Architecture of the Spertus Building

Spertus Institute's building, designed by Krueck Sexton Partners, named one of Illinois' 200 "Great Places"

The Illinois Council of The American Institute of Architects (AIA Illinois) has named Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, designed by Chicago-based Krueck Sexton Partners, as one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places. Read more about this award >

The recognition comes as Spertus Institute and Krueck Sexton Partners mark ten years since Spertus moved its headquarters to 610 S. Michigan Avenue and began presenting its important range of programming within the walls of the building's innovative design.

Spertus Institute by Krueck Sexton Partners

The faceted glass façade of Spertus Institute’s Michigan Avenue facility offers a window into worlds of Jewish learning and culture.

Designed by the award-winning, Chicago-based Krueck Sexton Partners, the building is innovative and environmentally sustainable. Inside, interconnected spaces create relationships between programmatic areas while the building's one-of-a-kind, ten-story faceted window wall provides spectacular views of the Chicago skyline, Grant Park, and Lake Michigan.

Spertus Institute by Krueck Sexton Partners

About the Window Wall 

The window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes. It beckons visitors to enter and explore the educational and cultural offerings within.

Like the surrounding buildings, which were built in a period of architectural innovation just after the Chicago fire, this building is forward-looking in its design and use of materials, while maintaining respect for its important setting. In fact, the average size of each of the façade's individual panes of glass is consistent with the standard size of the windows in the buildings up and down Michigan Avenue. Furthermore, just like the bay windows on its 19th- and 20th-century neighbors, the faceted façade brings light into the building and expands the sweep of the views enjoyed from inside. 

This emphasis on light echoes the Spertus logo, a flame accompanied by the biblical phrase yehi or, Hebrew for "let there be light," symbolizing both physical light and the light of learning.

Technology and Design

The geometry of the façade is unique because the surface tilts in three dimensions, resulting in panes of glass that are parallelograms rather than rectangles. Advancements in material engineering and research allow an insulated glass unit and a 1" silicone joint to be the only two components keeping wind and moisture from entering the building. The lightness of the wall and absolute minimal use of materials offer great efficiency and sustainability.

Spertus InstituteHow Do You Wash Those Crazy Windows?

Every year Spertus hires a window washing company to clean the beautiful glass facade. Our building is 10 stories 161ft tall. It's a great photo opportunity for passers-by to witness the delicate dance of the washers.

Watch now

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Glass Façade Technical Details

Window Wall Size
161' tall (10 stories) x 80' wide

Glass Size
726 individual pieces of 556 shapes with a typical size of 4'-4" x 7'-0"

Glass Specifications
1.375" insulated unit with 0.375" low-iron outer lite (single pane) of glass, a 0.5" air space and a 0.5" laminated interior lite made up of two 0.25" lites laminated together

Glass Coatings
Interior surface of the outer lite of glass has a low-E (low emissivity) coating and a 40% ceramic frit pattern made up of 0.125" white dots

Glass manufactured by Viracon of Owatonna, MN

Arcadia of Northbrook, IL

Will Shepphird of Shepphird Associates of Los Angeles, CA Structure

Custom Shaded Aluminum Mullion
Spans 14' on floors 1 through 8 and 21' on floors 9 and 10

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental stewardship is embodied in the Jewish tenets of bal tashchit or “do not destroy or waste” and tikkun olam or “repair of the world.” Through sustainable design and energy-efficient operations, the new Spertus honors these concepts as well as Chicago’s green initiatives.

The building’s glass façade uses a high-performance coating, a fritted dot pattern, and internal shades to control heat gain and glare. A 6,700-square-foot green roof (planted with special vegetation) manages storm water, absorbs air pollution, and keeps the building cool in the summer, helping mitigate the urban heat effect, a phenomenon that causes the city to be 2 to 10 degrees hotter than nearby rural areas.

Through measures including high performance lighting and demand-based ventilation, the building achieves a 29% reduce in energy consumption, resulting in 550 tons of avoided CO2 per year. Water-saving fixtures are used throughout, and healthy materials, high-efficiency air filtration, and special humidity controls provide quality indoor air for the welfare of visitors, students, and staff, as well as preservation of the Institute's collections.

SilverThese organizations were useful to Spertus as we realized this project: