Logan Center Kilnhouse

Architecture Firm(s): Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

Owner:  University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Category: Under 5,000 square feet (category 3)

woodtinarch.com

Born from a collaboration of architects, students, and administrators, the Logan Center Kilnhouse contains the ceramic kilns employed by the University of Chicago’s visual arts department in a most utilitarian object: a shipping container. With full glazing at both ends, the container also functions as a transparent tube that showcases the art-making processes within.

On the university’s downtown campus, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts is a hive of creativity that consolidated the previously discrete disciplines of visual arts, film, music and theater. The kilnhouse sits adjacent to the center, on a gravel platform near the center’s sculpture studios and woodshops. The site was originally intended to host appropriately-scaled objects and activities rather than meet practical needs. Both durable and attractive, the kilnhouse is obscured from the street by low-slung hedges and flowering trees. Its corrugated steel exterior will weather over time, lending the project a pleasing patina.  

“The crispness of the container module with its open ends, and the simple detail execution, is a great compliment to the larger adjacent visual arts building and landscape. For a student design/build project, this one was well executed.” - Jury comment

To realize the university’s larger goal of providing students with firsthand experience in envisioning and building their own workspace, the team created a process that dissolved the conventional barriers between stakeholders and provided a multidisciplinary learning experience for all contributors.

After two years of continued engagement with more than 50 students, the team and faculty co-led a series of “How to House a Kiln” courses focused on site selection, code considerations, and materiality. Students were a constant presence throughout design and construction, assisting with everything from mocking up spaces to hanging drywall.

Inside the space, the kilns are contained within a projecting bay, allowing for plenty of room to work around them. When stowed away, the space can host exhibitions and critiques along a 40-foot presentation wall. As a structure, the container’s tight environmental envelope fosters extremely efficient systems. The kilns themselves provide heat, with supplemental heaters available when needed. A dedicated exhaust system draws in fresh air while forcing heat out, while the taller buildings and vegetation around it provide ample shade.  

“We thought this use of a shipping container was one of the first reasonable uses we’d seen in a long time. The focused involvement of the students throughout the process is to be commended.” - Jury comment

Additional information

Engineer - MEP: dbHMS

Engineer - Structural: Enspect Engineering

General Contractor: WoodTin Build

Jury

Melissa Harlan, AIA (Jury Chair), Christner Inc., St. Louis, MO

Mark English, AIA, Mark English Architects, San Francisco, CA

Meryati Blackwell, AIA, ASID, LEED, Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, AR

Upali Nanda, PhD, HKS Research | Faculty Taubman U Mich., Ann Arbor, MI

Brian Korte, AIA, Clayton & Little, San Antonio, TX

Image credits

Logan Center Kilnhouse

Mike Schwartz

Logan Center Kilnhouse

Mike Schwartz

Logan Center Kilnhouse

Mike Schwartz

Logan Center Kilnhouse

Mike Schwartz

Logan Center Kilnhouse

Mike Schwartz