The collector’s architect: Ron Krueck

Photo: Krueck + Sexton

The façade hangs slightly over the street, much like a cubist mirror catching and refracting light. Designed by the firm of Krueck + Sexton, the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is a celebration of Jewish culture and learning crafted out of glass and steel. As founder and partner of the firm, Ronald Krueck is an architect and champion of the arts in chicago. The interior of the Spertus is designed so that the artwork and interior are seamlessly integrated. The end result is a thoroughly modern structure that allows work and wall to flow with the design of the building.

Widely considered to be one of Chicago’s most influential and important architects, Ron Krueck is responsible for varied architectural achievements. Born in Ohio, Krueck pursued architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation in 1970 from IIT he worked at C.F. Murphy, and later at Hammond Beeby. Mr. Krueck opened his own office in 1978, later reforming with Mark Sexton as partner in 1991.

Ronald Krueck and model in Cynthia Ryba design, Mies Society 2009 Van der Vogue event, Chicago. Photo: Dan Kuruna

Krueck possesses an unusual amalgamation of qualities – having studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago for four years and working in the architecture business after IIT, he represents a synthesis of fine art and architecture. From an early age he felt the pull of glass architecture, the spirit of the work appealed to a burgeoning design aesthetic. During summers at IIT he traveled Europe extensively, absorbing the art and history around him. Krueck discussed his upbringing in an interview with the Art Institute’s Oral History Project. His parents weren’t exactly patrons of the arts – his father discouraged his artistic endeavors, but from an early age he recognized art as something he wanted, something to be pursued, respected and refined. Regarding his passion for the arts, Krueck says,

“…I don’t know where the fascination really comes from. You know, the program at the school of going to the theatre, going to the museums, doing those things, I think were very special. And if I could sort of point to anything, I think that that’s what I would point to.” (excerpt from Skolnik/Krueck Interview, pp. 7)

Mark Sexton (left), and Ron Krueck inside Spertus Institute. Photo: John Boehm

Though first and foremost an architect, Krueck is an important member of the artistic community on many levels.  The concept for the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park was devised by the artist Jaume Plensa, however, it was Krueck and his firm that provided the architectural design for the two towers.  As a professor at Harvard in the architectural graduate program and also as professor at IIT, he represents and shares a significant piece of Chicago’s architectural record. His own work as an architect open up a conversation with the evolution of the city, continuing and refining the Modernist tradition. It is only fitting that Krueck and Sexton would be selected for the restoration of Mies van der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive building. Krueck’s designs express an affinity for light and space and complement van der Rohe’s original vision. Though influenced and fascinated by Mies, Krueck’s work are by no means replications of past works. It is apparent that his aesthetics and understandings are constantly changing, keeping pace with the notions of clients and tastes.

Mr. Krueck is also a board member of the Fallingwater society, affiliated with the Mies van der Rohe Society and a committee member of the European Painting and Contemporary Art boards at the Art Institute of Chicago. These diverse artistic communities are unusual in scope, but Mr. Krueck’s sundry appreciations allow for effective participation in all walks of art and life.