The Art Institute Celebrates Chicago’s Own: A Tribute to Stanley Tigerman (1930-2019)

Robert Somol, Director, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago

On 18 October, the life and times of the late architect Stanley Tigerman was celebrated in full force, co-hosted by the Art Institute of Chicago and Tigerman’s wife and business partner Margaret McCurry and family. Within the Rubloff Auditorium, members of the architecture and design community, Jewish clergy, friends, and family honored Tigerman’s life; beautiful recollections shone a light on his childhood experiences, professional relationships, and enduring friendships.

Art Institute President James Rondeau introduced the tribute and, along with Architecture and Design Curator Zoë Ryan, extolled Tigerman’s long-standing relationship with the museum. But it was Rabbi Brant Rosen who captured the essence of the young Stanley Tigerman. His unconventional paternal grandfather had emigrated to Chicago from Hungary, independently studied the Talmud (Jewish law and theology) with rigor, and became Stanley’s closest cross-generational companion. The grandfather’s death left 8-year old Stanley with a lifelong spiritual sensibility, a love of music, and a great appetite to experience life on his own terms.

Eva Maddox, Co-Founder Archeworks

Tigerman counted among his friends and colleagues the glitterati of the architecture and design community. Memorial speakers included Robert A.M Stern, Peter Eisenman, Robert Somol, Eva Maddox, Jeanne Gang, John Ronan, and Frank Gehry. Each presenter took the attendees to places and events with uncensored candor, recalling both comedic and contemplative moments. The chronology of Tigerman’s expansive and meaningful life recounted his years as a Yale student, a practicing professional, the co-founder of an alternative architecture and design school, a collaborator, a mentor, and a friend. The stories resonated with Stanley’s character of generosity, wit, grit, and an enduring passion to not only teach, but to inspire future creative leaders. The author of many books, Tigerman penned his own hilarious autobiography in 2011, Designing Bridges to Burn, about challenging the conventions of the architecture profession.

Tigerman was keenly involved and supportive of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.  As part of Chicago Biennial 2019, Volume Gallery presents Tigerman Rides Again, through 2 November 2019, an exhibition of the architect’s last 28 drawings before his passing.

As if chuckling from the Great Beyond and clearly having a creative hand in his own memorial, Tigerman “left” the attendees with party favors—vintage self drawn “DIRTY POST CARDS” social commentary on suburban vulgarity, from his participation in the 1976 Venice Biennale.  A parting gift from a heartfelt gathering seemed like a “thank you” of sorts. So we must also now say, “Thank you, Mr. Tigerman,” for sharing your experience and your wisdom with those of us in the architecture and design community. As an architect, theorist, educator, mentor, social advocate, artist, and critic you made our city and world a better and more fulfilled place. Thank you for leaving a legacy that encourages continuity of change and fosters the passing of the baton. And thank you for the great post cards.