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Architects: Keck & Keck
George Fred Keck 1895 – 1980
William Keck 1908 - 1995

The architecture firm of Keck & Keck designed modern, award-winning, affordable homes in the Chicagoland area and around the Midwest from 1935-1979

Born in Watertown, Wisconsin The elder, George Fred, known as Fred, studied engineering and architecture at state schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. Settling in Chicago in 1921, he worked as a draftsman at several offices before striking out on his own. Keck's modernist footing broadened through his contact with the Chicago Workshops, a group of artists modeled upon the Austrian Werkbund and founded by former members. This contact ultimately led to his role in the New Bauhaus, which had broad impact on design in Chicago.

In 1937, an industrial arts school broke away from the Art Institute of Chicago with the goal of training designers using Bauhaus methods. This group, with help from Keck, brought Laszlo Moholy-Nagy to Chicago as its new director. This New Bauhaus had the "old'' Bauhaus' director, Walter Gropius (by that time at Harvard), as its mentor/sponsor. And it boasted as teachers and lecturers important figures including Gropius, Alvar Alto, R. Buckminster Fuller, Henry-Russel Hitchcock, Richard Neutra and Man Ray. Keck served as architecture department head and part-time teacher at the New Bauhaus for five years while continuing his practice.

AMERICA’S FIRST GLASS HOUSE: Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair, the House of Tomorrow (1933) and the Crystal House (1934). The fair houses, built of steel framing and glass exterior walls using Chicago skyscraper construction methods, were structurally and stylistically far in advance of other homes of the period, including other concept houses displayed at the fair. The Crystal House, in particular, with its exterior truss frame, was as stunning and elegant as more celebrated steel houses designed decades later. The fair houses exposed hundreds of thousands of visitors to an entirely new kind of living, and doubtless made converts of many.

Keck Gottschalk Keck Apartments Hyde Park 1937 was an award-winning International style building, now a landmark.

Chicago-area suburban houses from 1935 – 1979
807 projects listed – houses, apartments buildings, remodels, and additions,

Following the fair, wealthy clients from Chicago's North Shore suburbs began hiring Keck to design homes for them, starting a tradition that lasted for the remainder of Keck's career. The North Shore is home to more Keck houses than any other area. While some modernists focused on their own personal vision, the Kecks focused on modern solutions that best served their clients' needs.

Keck trademarks:

  • flat roof
  • passive solar
  • indirect lighting
  • cedar siding
  • radiant heat in the floor
  • post and beam construction, (most often wood, but sometimes steel)
  • modular design
  • fixed Thermopane windows with separate operable screened vents. These vents are the most important Keck trademark – an easy way to recognize their architecture at a distance.

22 Keck houses are located in the Forest Crest Subdivision on Carol Lane and Terrace Court in Glencoe.

The Kecks created hundreds of elegant, livable houses in the Chicago area and elsewhere. Unlike more famous contemporaries, who talked about bringing fine architecture to the masses but failed to do much about it, the Kecks created houses that were affordable and came in on budget. Their mark on the public's consciousness is such that today, three decades after the firm was dissolved, North Shore real estate agents listing these houses routinely use the phrase "Keck house'' at the top of their newspaper ads.

Architects who worked for and were influenced by Keck and Keck:

  • Robert BruceTague, draftsman from 1935 - 1944
  • Ralph Rapson 1941 – 1944 (then taught at MIT)
  • Bertrand Goldberg – visited, hung around and was “tutored” by Keck
  • Stanley Tigerman – a draftsman in the office at age 19
  • Tony Grunsfeld - worked for Keck, and then went out on his own to do a vast quantity of Keck-inspired modern homes
  • Interior Designer: Marianne Willsch

For photos and more info, check out these Keck and Keck Links:
http://jetsetmodern.com/keckarticle.htm
http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/K/KeckGottschalkKeck.html
http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/caohp/keck.html

Recent article in Home Miami magazine:
http://www.homemia.com/index_content.asp
Go to Online Issues, October 2005, Architectural Gem