German architect Josef Paul Kleihues has designed a building of cool, quiet distinction for the Museum of Contemporary Art. The new museum seems likely to become a major architectural asset in a city where design accolades are not dispensed casually. . .
—Paul Gapp, architecture critic Chicago Tribune
. . .the city’s best new building in years!
—Peter Plagens, art critic Newsweek
The interior of Mr. Kleihues’ museum is probably the most viewer friendly in the country. The galleries on each floor of the five-story building branch out from a central glass atrium, a spacious, sunlit space affording views of Lake Michigan while guaranteeing that we never lose our bearings.
—Deborah Solomon, art critic Wall Street Journal
The MCA was the first project in the United States by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, and the first building made specifically for MCA Chicago’s use since the institution’s founding in 1967. With almost seven times the square footage of the museum’s previous facility, the MCA has space to install temporary exhibitions and works from the collection simultaneously.
The building also gives the MCA a terraced, outdoor sculpture garden; a museum store for books and design objects; a café and special events area; a 15,000-volume art library; and the Mayer Education Center, incorporating studio-classrooms, a space suitable for symposia and performances, and a 300-seat theater.
About the Architect
After many years of buildings that denied Chicago’s architectural traditions, Berlin-based architect Josef Paul Kleihues has designed the handsome new Museum of Contemporary Art using the past as the foundation for an inspired essay in design.
—Cheryl Kent, architecture critic, Architectural Record
In May 1991, following a 12-month search and the review of more than 200 nominations, the MCA announced the selection of Josef Paul Kleihues to be architect of the MCA’s new home. Kleihues’s design—his first project in the United States—combines his poetic rationalist style with respect for the functions of the building. The design is sensitive to the tradition of modern architecture in Chicago and conveys both a clarity of structure and spirit of innovation. Kleihues’s previous museum projects include the Museum of Prehistory in Frankfurt (1980–86), the Civic Gallery and Lütze Museum in Sindelfingen (1987–90), and the recent project for the Berlin Museum of Contemporary Art, an adaptive reuse of the old Hamburger Bahnhof train station. Among his numerous other designs are the Berlin-Neukölln Hospital (1975–82) and the Quartier Park Lenné in Berlin (1976–77). From 1979 to 1987 he was director of the Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin IBA.
Kleihues was born in Westphalia, Germany, in 1933. He studied at the Polytechnics of Stuttgart and Berlin, graduating in 1959. The following year, he went to Paris on a scholarship to the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In 1973 he held the chair of architectural design and theory and in 1986 he served as chair of design and urban planning at Dortmund University. From 1986 to 1991 he was Irwin S. Chanin Distinguished Professor at the Cooper Union in New York, and in 1994 he was appointed professor at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf. Kleihues passed away in September 2004.