Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
 by: chicago designslinger

[Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (2012) Tod Williams Billie Tsien, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the late 1990s the University of Chicago began talking about building a new building - an arts center. The project would require a facility that housed the departments of visual and performing arts and all the space required to fulfill the needs each discipline. Theaters, galleries, classrooms, workrooms, studios, all sharing a single building that included something tall - a towering statement of some sort. Nearly a decade later, and after the University selected five architectural firms to compete for the commission, a U of C alumnus called and offered to donate some money, to help defray the cost of construction. When asked if he'd like to donate a theater or gallery, he said neither, just $35 million in cash to pay down the estimated $110 million cost. It was one of the largest single donations the school had ever received - and certainly the largest for their arts program - so the new building was named for the donor and his wife, David and Reva Logan.

  [Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 89-year-old philanthropist was the personification of the American dream. It all began when his Lithuanian Jewish parents came to the U.S. in search of a better life for their children. They settled in Logan Square - not named for the family - one of Chicago's many Slavic-speaking immigrant communities, and Logan's parents set-out to provide their children with a superior education in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Mrs. Logan took the long view, college was the goal, and to that end she sent her young son to the nearest school she felt would give David the education he needed to gain admittance into a top-notch university. That it happened to be the neighborhood Catholic school didn't bother her one iota. A good education was a good education. David worked hard, got into the prestigious University of Chicago, earned a Bachelor's degree, and two years later in 1941, a law degree. That same year he married fellow U of C student Reva Frumkin.

  [Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Logan opened a private practice, moved into real estate investment, and as managing partner of Mercury Investments became a very wealthy man. He went on to use his wealth to lend financial support to causes and people he believed in. He made the donation to the University in honor of his wife of 58 years, and in memory of his mother, who probably never could have imagined that her dedication to her son's education all those years before would provide him with success beyond her wildest dreams.

  [Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One month after Logan made his donation the University announced their choice of architect, Tod Williams & Billie Tsien. The husband and wife team's original scheme underwent a few alterations before construction began, but the cost-cutting measures never included the removal of a tower. The University had made a leap across the wide green expanse of the Midway Plaissance decades earlier, but the south campus always felt cut-off from the main campus and the tower would serve as a prominent visual marker. The building is far removed from architect Henry Ives Cobb's Gothic Revival, limestone-covered campus across the Midway. But in a nod to Cobb, Williams and Tsien chose stone to cover some of their surfaces, but instead of Cobb's cool grey Indiana variety, they chose a warmer Missouri stone, without a gargoyle in sight.

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