Famed Chicago Architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton Pick Their Favorite Works From the Artnet Galleries Network
The award-winning architects also share their thoughts on the future of sustainability.
Ever since their breakout 1981 Steel + Glass House presented an elegant challenge to the post-modern architectural norms of the era, Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton have been at the center of Chicago’s architecture world. Their award-winning practice, Krueck + Sexton, consistently pushes the boundaries of the built environment while driving the national conversation.
Besides Ron’s status as a collector and art philanthropist—and his designation as “the collector’s architect”—art has always played a role in Ron and Mark’s practice. They once designed an apartment for a client who wanted to “live within a painting,” and Mark has a rich background in design, including long-term advisory involvement at his alma mater—the Illinois Institute of Technology, the home of of Mies van der Rohe and Modernism—where he was recently elected to the Board of Trustees.
We sat down with Ron for an extended interview to hear his thoughts on sustainability and how art and architecture can work together. Further below, we also interviewed both the architects about their favorite artists, movies, and dinner party menu items.
You once designed an apartment for a client who wanted to “live within a painting.” What was that process like, and how did you translate art into architecture?
Ron: It’s interesting that you focus on this design. Once a client opens the door with a statement like that, realities seem to disappear, and one is given an empty canvas. Functions needed to be suppressed. Light played a major part in the solution, and I remember a critic referencing László Moholy-Nagy’s Light Space Modulator. I guess [the client] ended up with more of a sculpture than a painting, but it was a good ending.
Your firm has made major strides in sustainable architecture. How do you make it an essential part of the process, and how can the architecture industry move toward making sustainability the norm, not the exception?
Ron: Hopefully, it’s ingrained in the process, like in so much work today. It’s important to establish this criteria with the client initially. And it’s also really about ingraining the concept in the minds of the young architects who come to work in our office. It’s become a fundamental attitude for this generation, and there is great hope. They insist that we explore solutions.
Have you ever had clients ask you to design a space where they can display art, and how do you approach that as an architect?
Ron: At the Illinois Institute of Technology, this was always one of the initial space studies that was developed by Mies van der Rohe. It was considered a spatial amplifier, almost like an exclamation mark or a period at the end of a sentence. It was almost essential for Mies.
We have had only one client who wanted to integrate art into his home, but he had no art. In that case, the spatial solution was worked on as a complete composition in itself. He asked us to help him find works for three major walls, and we found an 18-foot [Gerhard] Richter, a 22-foot [John] Chamberlain, and a shaped [Tom] Wesselmann lips canvas for a wall that he didn’t want a rectangle on. He has since added works to this initial foundation.
Do you think your training as an architect impacts your approach to collecting art?
Ron: As an architectural student, one develops their visual senses in terms of proportion, scale, space, speed of a curve, or surface. Having one’s eyes tuned in this way is a marvelous gift, so yes. However, art is another world. For me, it’s a world of dialogue and abstractions, and I approach it as an observer. For me, there is usually an immediate response. The work has to sparkle and have joy. The works we buy have continued to give us that immediate happiness, and I have continued to mature with them.
Ron and Mark’s Favorite Things
Ron: Ellsworth Kelly
Mark: Lucio Fontana
Dinner party menu items:
Ron: Dover sole
Ron: The Seagram Building, New York
Mark: The John Hancock Building, Chicago
Ron: Art Institute of Chicago
Ron: La Grenouille
Mark: Les Nomades
Ron: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Mark: Once Upon a Time in America
Pieces of furniture:
Mark: Pace Gallery
Works at the Art Institute of Chicago:
Ron: Henri Matisse, Bathers by a River (1909–17)
Mark: Gerhard Richter, Woman Descending the Staircase (1965)
Ron and Mark’s Gallery Picks
Mirror (Magenta Apple mix 2) (2018)
Switch (Salvage) (1984)
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