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Carl Johann Sterner (1905-1993)

Dates of Interview:

June 3, 1983

Location of Interview:

The Art Institute of Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

40 pages
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Biographical Summary

Carl Johann Sterner was born in 1905 in Chicago. He studied architecture at the University of Illinois and was awarded a Plym Traveling Scholarship that enabled him to travel and research in Europe in 1937. Sterner's career was a varied one: he worked as a real estate analyst in New York, as a project planner for the United States Public Housing Authority in Washington, D.C., and for several architectural firms, including Harwell Hamilton Harris in Los Angeles and Holabird & Root in Chicago. He was the self-appointed biographer of Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall, whose work he greatly admired. Sterner died in 1993 in Northbrook, Illinois.

Interview Highlights

Sterner speaks about school and his early work with McNally and Quinn; surviving the Depression; working in New York; working for the U.S. Public Housing Authority; working for Holabird & Root; working for Schmidt, Garden & Erickson; his opinions and comments; his interest in Benjamin Marshall.

Lobby of the Statler Hotel; Washington, D.C., 1942.
Holabird & Root, architects; designed by Carl Sterner. Courtesy of the Capitol Hilton.

Aerial view of the Chadwick School; Rolling Hills, California, 1949.
Harwell Hamilton Harris, architect; drawn by Carl Sterner.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"Finally, after a lifetime, I discovered that there is nothing in the world to compare with the North Shore of Chicago. Every big city in the world has its luxurious residential areas, but even New York doesn't have thirty-five continuous miles of old, well-kept houses, minimum traffic, no billboards, minimum population, and good commuter service. No place in the world can match it, and it took me a lifetime to understand this." (pp. 24-25)

Additional Resources

Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works by Sterner in the Department of Architecture and Design

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
Publication of this oral history in web-accessible form was made possible by the generous support of The Vernon and Marcia Wagner Access Fund at The Art Institute of Chicago, The James & Catherine Haveman Foundation, The Reva and David Logan Family Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Daniel Logan and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.