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Spertus Institute named one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places

Spertus Institute named one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places

Spertus_AIA_SaganSpertus_AIA_BlessingSpertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Krueck + Sexton Architects, Photo by Kendall McCaugherty © Hedrich BlessingSpertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Krueck + Sexton Architects, Photo by Dave Burk

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, 
designed by Krueck + Sexton Architects, named one of
Illinois' 200 "Great Places"

Selected by AIA Illinois in honor of the state's bicentennial

[Chicago] – 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 Architects, as one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places.

To commemorate the Bicentennial of Illinois statehood in 2018, AIA Illinois convened a selection committee of architects and officials to name the 200 Great Places in our state. The list of Great Places emphasizes the collective sense of place created in cities and towns as well as buildings designed by individual architects.

Nominations came from architects from all parts of the state and were selected by AIA regional chapters. Contenders were weighed against criteria including the AIA’s “10 Principles of Livable Communities,” recognizing architecture that is publicly accessible, pedestrian-friendly, designed on a human scale, and fosters vibrant, community-centered public spaces.

“Separately and in total, our 200 Great Places are more than just examples of good or even great design — they are a testament to humanity’s need to shape their environment in a way that is often both pleasing and thought-provoking,” said Kim Kurtenbach, AIA, architect with BLDD Architects and 2018 AIA Illinois Board President.

The design of the Spertus Institute building, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, is innovative and environmentally sustainable. Inside, interconnected spaces create relationships between programmatic areas — connecting classrooms for the Institute’s graduate students to spaces for public lectures, film, concerts, and exhibitions. The building's one-of-a-kind, 10-story faceted wall of windows provides spectacular views of the Chicago skyline, Grant Park, and Lake Michigan.

The window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes. Its transparency reflects Spertus Institute’s commitment to offering learning opportunities that are "rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all.”

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.

“We’re delighted Spertus Institute has been selected for this honor,” said Krueck + Sexton Architects’ Founding Principal Architect Mark Sexton. “We created the building's design to reflect the innovation of the space, Spertus’ programs, and the people that occupy the building. The architecture truly reflects Spertus Institute’s open-to-all mission. The building was designed for the people.”

Spertus Institute President and CEO Dr. Hal M. Lewis, a prolific writer and popular teacher on leadership, called the building’s recognition as a “Great Place” its own lesson in leadership. He said, “We teach how innovation in the face of obstacles can drive excellence. Our colleagues at Krueck + Sexton did just that. Faced with a range of constraints, including a tiny narrow lot and a nonprofit client with a fixed budget and immeasurable dreams, they created a building that beautifully serves the needs of our constituents and community.” 

Those interested in great examples of architecture and design from across Illinois can visit the 200 Great Places website,, and Instagram account, @ilgreatplaces. More about the Spertus Institute building can be found at, marking the building's tenth year. 


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Images at left

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Krueck + Sexton Architects

Photo credits, images left to right:
Photo by Nicholas Sagan, Courtesy Spertus Institute. 
Photo by Kendall McCaugherty © Hedrich Blessing.
Photo by Kendall McCaugherty © Hedrich Blessing.
Photo by Dave Burk.