Street Smart Chicago

Review: Spertus Institute

Museums, South Loop Add comments

One of the most impressive buildings in Chicago’s recent history was unveiled last week, much to the delight of organizers as well as those in attendance. After witnessing the magnificent façade of the Spertus Institute’s new facility for months, it can now be confirmed that it more than lives up to the expectations set by its challenging exterior. Designed by the highly touted Kreuck + Sexton Architects, the firm which also designed the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, the ten-story building is not only beautiful but also environmentally friendly, as it is LEED certified. The new Spertus building hosts a large green roof as well as an open-air terrace that provides visitors breathtaking views of the city. The new facility not only houses state-of-the-art classrooms but a gift shop, the Asher Library, the art museum and a kosher Wolfgang Puck café as well. In talking about the design of the building, architect Tim Tracy explains that the glass façade, in addition to its pleasing aesthetic effect, also is purposeful in that it “brings a tremendous amount of daylight in,” which illuminates nearly the entire building and generates an incredibly airy atmosphere. The design choices were an attempt to “try to connect the spaces vertically,” creating a singular flow. On the functionality side, the library houses more than 110,000 books while the Spertus Museum houses a 15,000-piece collection of Jewish-related artwork—many of which will be presented in their core collection display. The display is somewhat atypical in that the pieces will not have any labels, but instead will solely use audio tours to provide the experience for visitors. According to Spertus Museum Senior Curator Dr. Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, this decision was made in attempt to make “each piece a highlight” as labels generally “keep people from seeing things.” The new Spertus Institute is the latest crown jewel for downtown Chicago, and with so much on tap for their grand opening this Friday, the best is yet to come. (Thomas Barbee)
The Spertus Institute is located at 618 South Michigan, (312)922-9012.

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