After nearly a year of restoration work, Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House is set to reopen to the public in June 2018. The building is owned by the Elmhurst Art Museum, located in Wilder Park in suburban Chicago. As reported by the Daily Herald, Berglund Construction is completing the $400,000 restoration with the guidance of Elmhurst-based Heritage Architecture Studio and the Elmhurst Art Museum’s Executive Director, John McKinnon. The initial objective of the multiphase restoration plan is the removal of a 1990s corridor addition. Originally located on Elmhurst's Prospect Avenue, the structure was purchased by the Elmhurst Arts Museum in 1992 and was moved to its current location in Wilder Park in 1994. Following the migration, the McCormick House was physically connected to the museum through the construction of an addition. The extension, a series of pavilions connected to the McCormick House via a corridor, was designed by Chicago-based firm DeStefano + Partners, who won the 1998 Design Excellence Award from AIA Chicago for the project. While this addition facilitated movement between the two buildings and was in keeping with Mies’ original design, it obstructed views of his spartan and elegant façade. The one-story McCormick House, composed of glass and steel set upon a concrete slab, was built in 1952 for prominent Chicago inventor and magnate Robert McCormick Jr. and his wife, Isabella Gardner. According to the museum, the McCormick House was meant to serve as a prestigious suburban dwelling for the McCormick family as well as a prototype for prefabricated middle-class homes assembled with the same mass-produced materials, a real-estate project envisioned by McCormick Jr. The large-scale modular development scheme never came to fruition due to a lack of popular suburban amenities, such as air conditioning and a basement. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, former Executive Director of the Elmhurst Art Museum, Jenny Gibbs, stated that the restoration is intended to establish the McCormick House as a freestanding destination and gallery space, elevating it to a status similar to the Mies-designed Farnsworth House 40 miles to the southwest.
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The last five families were moved out of the Harold Ickes Homes at the end of March, one of the latest clusters of high rise public housing the city is clearing as a part of the Chicago Housing Authority's "Plan for Transformation." Dozens of highrise towers have been demolished across the across the city, opening vast tracts of land for mixed-income and in some cases mixed-used development. While few would dispute that the large-scale warehousing of the poor in these projects helped to create major urban problems, the nearly total erasure of these areas seems as blunt as the urban renewal tactics through which they were originally built. Designed by SOM in the 1950s, the buildings reflected the architectural, planning, and sociological thinking of the day. Arguably the Plan for Transformation reflects the thinking of the last 10 to 15 years in public housing: New Urbanism. Chicago architects DeStefano + Partners proposed a contemporary reuse and reimagination of the Ickes Homes in a masterplan that called for making the buildings more sustainable and better integrated into the neighborhood. Their plan called for reducing the amount of parking space, adding green roofs, restoring the street grid, and adding infill buildings to bring the complex closer to the street. They also advocated reskinning the buildings to break up their massing and improve energy efficiency, as well as adding rain gardens and solar canopy's over the remaining parking areas, among other features. The plan was strong enough to win the firm a 2009 AIA award, but it didn't change the Housing Authority's decision to call off the wrecking ball.