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Obituary: Stanley Tigerman, FAIA (1930-2019) - by Dennis Rodkin

by Dennis Rodkin | Jun 04, 2019

Stanley Tigerman, a noted Chicago architect whose career spanned more than 60 years and whose buildings included the playful and the compassionate, died Monday at age 88. 

Tigerman, a Chicago native who spent nearly all his life here, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Architect magazine reported Monday, citing Margaret McCurry, his widow and, since 1979, his work partner. Two years ago, the couple closed their firm’s Wells Street office and resettled McCurry’s practice in their Lake Shore Drive apartment, with Tigerman working as a consultant. 

Among the hundreds of projects he designed, Tigerman’s best known in Chicago may be the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie. Finished in 2009, the building tells the story of hope at first glance, with one side gray and the other white, suggesting the journey from darkness into light, but it is far more layered and complex as visitors pass through. The design includes an entry that resembles those on some of the Nazis’ death camps, Architect magazine explained in 2010, and toward the end of the path through the building, a brightly lit Hall of Reflection has a dozen cubes for seating, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

Of his use of white in the latter part of the museum experience, Tigerman told the magazine’s Ed Keegan at the time that “white is about hope.” In the death camps, he said, “they made art, they played in orchestras. If you’re alive, there’s always hope.”

His many other buildings, designed either alone or in partnership with McCurry, include:
• The Anti-Cruelty Society’s pet adoption center (1980), whose facade on LaSalle Street is an abstracted face of a big-eared puppy.
• An 18-story Uptown apartment building (1981) where the stacked balconies topped by curved windows look like enormous classical columns. (Formerly called Pensacola Place, the Hazel Street building is now called the Montrose.) 
• Distinctive houses in Highland Park; southwest Michigan; Aspen, Colo.; and other locations. 

Tigerman also was an architecture educator. He directed the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1985 until 1993, and in 1994 he co-founded Archeworks, a Chicago-based design school centered on socially conscious projects. Tigerman and co-founder Eva Maddox retired from the school in 2008. 

Tigerman was bound up with Chicago from his earliest days, not only born and raised in Edgewater, but, according to an online biography, the winner of a “beautiful baby” contest at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933.

He graduated from Senn High School. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he graduated from the Yale School of Architecture in 1961. His early professional experience included apprenticing for Chicago modernist architect George Fred Keck and assisting architect Milton Schwartz during the design of the Executive House hotel on Wacker Drive (1958), now called the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront. He also worked on the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs as a junior designer at Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

  Stanley Tigerman designed the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

Later, working on his own, Tigerman’s designs included a glassy, modern two-story Arby’s restaurant near Water Tower Place (it no longer exists) and a colorful house shaped like a hot dog in Harvard, Ill. Larger projects that came later include the Chicago Bar Association building built in 1991 on Plymouth Court in the Loop and the 156,000-square-foot Pacific Garden Mission, a facility for the homeless built in 2007 on Canal Street. 

The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin wrote of the latter when it opened that it “is full of light and hope, especially in a sun-filled courtyard punctuated with a serene, gently curving prayer chapel. Throughout, (Tigerman) demonstrates a laudable attention to the inner world of the residents as well as the outer world they inhabit.” 

The first building Tigerman designed and completed while practicing on his own is a three-bedroom house in Blackberry Township, 50 miles west of downtown Chicago in Kane County. Built in the early 1960s the house is typical of its era—low and boxy—but with a purple front door and a few other flourishes. “I loved doing it,” Tigerman told Crain’s in 2014. 

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