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Uptown Mural Reunites Famous Architect With His 'First Tall Building'

 Stanley Tigerman is depicted in a new mural at the Boardwalk Apartments, 4343 N. Clarendon Ave., in Uptown.
Stanley Tigerman
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UPTOWN — The Boardwalk Apartments in Uptown was the first high-rise building that world-renowned architect Stanley Tigerman designed in a long, combative and acclaimed career.

Artist Elise Glickman moved to the Boardwalk, 4343 N. Clarendon Ave., about three years ago. Like many others in the neighborhood, and even in the building itself, she didn't know about its ties to Tigerman.

When she discovered the 82-year-old was behind the simple but elegant modernist design, Glickman said she was excited — and inspired to create a work of art to make Tigerman's influence hard to overlook.

Glickman painted a 16-panel mural that depicts Tigerman's stoic visage just outside the building gazing through one of the windows and into an apartment unit. She composed it according to a grid, just as Tigerman designed the Boardwalk, which is covered in square windows subdivided into rectangles according to the Golden Ratio. Tigerman quotes about the building, and his wishes to be buried at Uptown's famous Graceland Cemetery, are painted on a few of the panels.

 Stanley TIgerman's other Uptown building, Pensacola Place Apartments.
Stanley TIgerman's other Uptown building, Pensacola Place Apartments.
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"My goal was to try to convey the essence of the building and his design philosophy," Glickman said, looking lovingly at her artwork last week right before an opening reception in the lobby. "It should be read almost like a window — or a window within a window, like a play within a play. Mr. Tigerman, being the fabulous architect he is, he couldn't part too far from his beloved Boardwalk building."

Jim Grant, 58, said that when he moved to the building "at least 20 years ago," he was attracted to its "classic style and flare." He had no idea that a famous architect designed Boardwalk until recently, however, and said the discovery has already made living there "rather exciting."

Last Thursday's unveiling of the mural brought Tigerman to the Boardwalk for the first time since 1974, the year it opened. The 82-year-old architect, theorist and educator acknowledged he has a special affection for "the first tall building I had ever done."

"I tried to do it as well as I could," Tigerman said in his unhurried, raspy voice, sipping a Diet Pepsi while sitting a few feet from the mural in the lobby. "I love the building. The building is as well done as any building I've ever done, frankly."

The Boardwalk was Tigerman's first and last finished project inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the modernist master and leader of the "International Style" who adopted the motto, "less is more." Mies rejected ornament in his designs, instead seeking beauty in industrial simplicity, exposed frames, clean lines, clear glass and open floor plans.

Tigerman spent the rest of his career rejecting modernist convention. He was a key member of the Chicago Seven (this Chicago Seven, not that Chicago Seven), a collective of postmodern architects who emerged in the '70s in opposition to Mies' followers, or "imitators" as Tigerman would say.

Known for an eclectic style, Tigerman is responsible for the facade of the Animal Cruelty Society building, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie that resembles a concentration camp, and a variety of other works including housing projects in Japan and Germany and across the United States.

"I've never had a signature style. My work has changed, not only over time, but given the particularities of clients," Tigerman said.

Tellingly, the only other Tigerman building in Uptown, Pensacola Place Apartments, which was built in 1981 at 4334 N. Hazel St., has an eastern facade similar to the Boardwalk's minimalist grid-like exterior — but Pensacola's less subdued western face reads like "an essay in pop architecture," as described by the American Institute of Architects in a 2004 guide to local architecture.

Lines implied by "semicircular balconies are intended to suggest the shafts of gigantic columns that culminate in huge Ionic volutes — a visual joke," according to AIA. The design element is a playful nod to classical Greek architecture and a subtle deconstruction of the "less is more," doctrine.

Tigerman, a partner at Tigerman McCurry Architects along with his wife, Margaret McCurry, a member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame, still has projects in the works.

And Tigerman said he "would be delighted to do more in Uptown," but that it's unlikely.

“I’m nearing the end,” said the architect, who plans to make Uptown his final home.

Tigerman and his wife already have burial plots reserved in Graceland Cemetery, where Mies and an array of other local architectural greats were laid to rest.