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)
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