Thomas H. Beeby Presented The 2013 Driehaus Prize

Midwest
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago, designed by 2012 Driehaus laureate Thomas H. Beeby. (Courtesy of University of Notre Dame)

Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago, designed by 2012 Driehaus laureate Thomas H. Beeby. (Courtesy of University of Notre Dame)

Thomas H. Beeby, designer of Chicago’s postmodern Harold Washington Library, became the first Chicagoan to accept a Richard H. Driehaus Prize over the weekend.

Beeby is one of the “Chicago Seven” (Stanley Tigerman, Larry Booth, Stuart Cohen, Ben Weese, James Ingo Freed, and James L. Nagle round out the group) who split with modernism in one of its key proving grounds during the 1970s. His postmodern historicism relies on representational imagery and ornamentation, which won him high praise from the committee that awards the top prize for traditional and classical architecture.

Public buildings used to be monumental, the group lamented Saturday at the Chicago presentation of the award in Marshall and Fox’s 1926 John B. Murphy Auditorium. Speeches by the panel repeatedly stuck up for classical forms against what they viewed as the intellectual tyranny of modernism (David Watkin, a British architectural historian who took home Driehaus’ Henry Hope Reed Award Saturday once likened modernism’s defenders to the Taliban in their rigidity).

A student of John Hejduk and Colin Rowe during his time at Cornell, Beeby delved into historical forms while at Yale for graduate school. But he said his apprenticeship began in earnest at Chicago’s C.F. Murphy, under Gene Summers.

PBS-affiliate WTTW produced a documentary about the Driehaus winner, called The Invisible Hand: Architect Thomas Beeby. You can watch the film here.

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