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Photo by VHT Studios

Mapping Stanley Tigerman’s diverse Chicago work

He was one of the godfathers of Chicago architecture

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Suburban Village
| Photo by VHT Studios

Known as one of the godfathers of Chicago architecture, the influential, outspoken architect Stanley Tigerman passed away on June 3, 2019. He was 88.

He was known for his postmodern works, like the Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and architecture that rejected the status quo, like the playful Children’s Advocacy Center. But the architect refused to be classified and restricted to a certain style. He also designed a Miesian apartment building in Uptown (although he was highly critical of the Mies legacy later on) and built the Gothic-referencing Chicago Bar Association downtown.

After receiving a degree in architecture from Yale in 1961 and then working under architects like George Keck and Harry Weese, Tigerman left Skidmore, Ownings, & Merrill in 1964 to start his own practice in Chicago. It later became Tigerman McCurry Architects which he ran with his wife and partner, Margaret McCurry, for decades. The firm is credited with 390 projects and 175 built structures.

Tigerman’s work is infused with irony, wit, and humor. Take for example his flashy parking garage on Lake Street that looks your entering under the grill of giant Rolls Royce, or the Highland Park house he designed to look like a box of animal crackers. Tigerman said his Jewish faith played a large role in his design philosophy, and a notable later work, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, gave him a chance to honor his religion.

He was an iconoclast and rebelled against the industry’s Miesian obsession by forming what was known as the Chicago Seven. Later on in 1994, Tigerman and designer Eva Maddox founded a design lab Archeworks on the idea that design should serve all.

Here we take a look at 15 works from Tigerman and his firm Tigerman McCurry Architects.

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Boardwalk Apartments

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This was Tigerman’s first high-rise project built in 1974. Mies van der Rohe’s earlier work inspired the design of these apartments. The tribute can be seen in the square grid and solar bronze glass. It’s worth noting that later in life the architect railed against the Mies legacy.

Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

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During an interview, Tigerman explained why the 1976 building was so vibrant, “The last thing people who are legally blind see before they go totally blind is bright colors bathed in light.” He also meticulously designed the interior with features like fixed furniture so that its visitors could easily navigate. Today, the building is now used as a bank.

The Pensacola Apartments

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The 18-story apartment building in Uptown, now known as The Montrose, was designed in 1981 by Tigerman McCurry Architects. The stacked, round balconies and round windows on the front of the building are meant to mimic six Ionic columns.

Self-Park garage

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This bright blue parking garage built in 1986 is shaped and detailed like the grill of an enormous Rolls Royce.

Juvenile Protective Association

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This project was for the headquarters of a nonprofit that provided services to families and abused children. On the inside, it felt like a “miniature village,” with details like a skylight and offices designed like tiny houses with French doors and open windows, the firm said. The building won a distinguished building award in 1986 from the Chicago Chapter of AIA.

The Anti-Cruelty Society

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Look closely, the unusually shaped windows around the facade of this pet adoption organization outlines a puppy dog’s face (imagine the dome-shaped window as the nose). The ’80s building was designed to highlight the organization’s focus on saving animals.

555 N. Michigan Avenue

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There’s a Tigerman McCurry building on Michigan Avenue too. Built in the early ’90s, the Gap retail store has a stepped limestone facade—a mix of Neo-gothic and modern classicism.

Suburban Village

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This home was designed in collaboration with his wife and partner, Margaret McCurry. The property, built in 1990, gets its name from the interconnected cylinders, rectangles, and wedges arranged like a village around a winding central hallway. And it’s for sale.

Photo by VHT Studios

Chicago Bar Association

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The design of this 1990s building honors Mies’ Promontory Apartments and Eliel Saarinen’s Tribune Tower. The Gothic style is meant to blend with historic neighbors like the Fischer Building, Mies’ Federal Center, and the Rookery.

Four Seasons residence

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Originally this home was designed in the mid-90s for an older couple who had a museum-quality collection of drawings and French Art Deco furniture, though the modern white walls and stainless steel are timeless. The residence sold last year for $4.4 million.

Images by Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

Archeworks

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Archeworks was a design lab that Tigerman founded with designer Eva Maddox in 1994 on the idea that good design should be for everyone. The building is small and gray, and most distinguished by the quotes painted around the exterior. Most recently, the organization’s work has focused on educating high school stuents from the South and West sides.

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More to come... Analog messaging.

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Chicago Children's Advocacy

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This building houses protective child services plus state and city agencies. Rather than a bland institutional office, Tigerman McCurry chose to focus on the child. The character is cheery and features two playgrounds—one for activity and also a serene, landscaped area for conversation. The design won a number of awards in the early 2000s from the state, construction organizations, and Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Burnham Station

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Another tribute to Mies, these South Loop apartments were built in 2001. The firm deemed this tower: “Mies building-as-a-wedding-cake.”

Photo by VHT Studios

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

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Tigerman’s work was greatly influenced by his Jewish faith, and this project is one of his most well-know later works. He designed the stark building after winning the commission with just a single sketch on a napkin, according to the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. The museum, which opened in 2009, has a linear path, so visitors can’t turn back, but exits facing east towards Jerusalem.

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

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This Hyde Park bookstore built in 2012 has a maze of bookshelves, colorful carpet, and a fireplace embedded with a glass bookcase. The co-op was founded in 1961 and when it wanted to relocate, sought out Tigerman’s firm to design somewhere people could get lost in the stacks.

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Boardwalk Apartments

This was Tigerman’s first high-rise project built in 1974. Mies van der Rohe’s earlier work inspired the design of these apartments. The tribute can be seen in the square grid and solar bronze glass. It’s worth noting that later in life the architect railed against the Mies legacy.

Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

During an interview, Tigerman explained why the 1976 building was so vibrant, “The last thing people who are legally blind see before they go totally blind is bright colors bathed in light.” He also meticulously designed the interior with features like fixed furniture so that its visitors could easily navigate. Today, the building is now used as a bank.

The Pensacola Apartments

The 18-story apartment building in Uptown, now known as The Montrose, was designed in 1981 by Tigerman McCurry Architects. The stacked, round balconies and round windows on the front of the building are meant to mimic six Ionic columns.

Self-Park garage

This bright blue parking garage built in 1986 is shaped and detailed like the grill of an enormous Rolls Royce.

Juvenile Protective Association

This project was for the headquarters of a nonprofit that provided services to families and abused children. On the inside, it felt like a “miniature village,” with details like a skylight and offices designed like tiny houses with French doors and open windows, the firm said. The building won a distinguished building award in 1986 from the Chicago Chapter of AIA.

The Anti-Cruelty Society

Look closely, the unusually shaped windows around the facade of this pet adoption organization outlines a puppy dog’s face (imagine the dome-shaped window as the nose). The ’80s building was designed to highlight the organization’s focus on saving animals.

555 N. Michigan Avenue

There’s a Tigerman McCurry building on Michigan Avenue too. Built in the early ’90s, the Gap retail store has a stepped limestone facade—a mix of Neo-gothic and modern classicism.

Suburban Village

Photo by VHT Studios

This home was designed in collaboration with his wife and partner, Margaret McCurry. The property, built in 1990, gets its name from the interconnected cylinders, rectangles, and wedges arranged like a village around a winding central hallway. And it’s for sale.

Photo by VHT Studios

Chicago Bar Association

The design of this 1990s building honors Mies’ Promontory Apartments and Eliel Saarinen’s Tribune Tower. The Gothic style is meant to blend with historic neighbors like the Fischer Building, Mies’ Federal Center, and the Rookery.

Four Seasons residence

Images by Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

Originally this home was designed in the mid-90s for an older couple who had a museum-quality collection of drawings and French Art Deco furniture, though the modern white walls and stainless steel are timeless. The residence sold last year for $4.4 million.

Images by Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

Archeworks

Archeworks was a design lab that Tigerman founded with designer Eva Maddox in 1994 on the idea that good design should be for everyone. The building is small and gray, and most distinguished by the quotes painted around the exterior. Most recently, the organization’s work has focused on educating high school stuents from the South and West sides.

View this post on Instagram

More to come... Analog messaging.

A post shared by Archeworks (@archeworks) on

Chicago Children's Advocacy

This building houses protective child services plus state and city agencies. Rather than a bland institutional office, Tigerman McCurry chose to focus on the child. The character is cheery and features two playgrounds—one for activity and also a serene, landscaped area for conversation. The design won a number of awards in the early 2000s from the state, construction organizations, and Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Burnham Station

Photo by VHT Studios

Another tribute to Mies, these South Loop apartments were built in 2001. The firm deemed this tower: “Mies building-as-a-wedding-cake.”

Photo by VHT Studios

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Tigerman’s work was greatly influenced by his Jewish faith, and this project is one of his most well-know later works. He designed the stark building after winning the commission with just a single sketch on a napkin, according to the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. The museum, which opened in 2009, has a linear path, so visitors can’t turn back, but exits facing east towards Jerusalem.

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

This Hyde Park bookstore built in 2012 has a maze of bookshelves, colorful carpet, and a fireplace embedded with a glass bookcase. The co-op was founded in 1961 and when it wanted to relocate, sought out Tigerman’s firm to design somewhere people could get lost in the stacks.