Stuart Cohen was born 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. He studied architecture at Cornell, receiving his B.Arch in 1965 and his M.Arch in 1967. After working in various architectural offices in New York, he founded his own office in Chicago in 1972. During the 1970s, he joined the "Chicago Seven," a diverse group of architects who held a series of influential exhibitions and symposia to encourage new approaches to architecture in Chicago. He has been associated with Sisco/Lubotsky Associates (1978-81) and with Anders J. Nereim (1981-88). In 1991 he formed a partnership with his wife, Julie Hacker. He has been a visiting lecturer at various universities and is currently a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Cohen was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1985.
Cohen speaks about studying at Cornell and memorable professors, including Colin Rowe; working in several architectural offices in New York City; returning to Chicago, "One Hundred Years of Architecture in Chicago" and "Chicago Architects" exhibitions in Chicago; Stuart's role in organizing the "Chicago Architects" exhibition; the Chicago Seven takes shape; several exhibitions by the Chicago Seven and related conferences; Cohen's writings; teaching at the University of Illinois, Chicago; "Late Entries to the Tribune Tower Competition"; reviving the Chicago Architectural Club; assessing the value of the activities of the Chicago Seven.
Townhouse, "Exquisite Corpse" exhibition, Walter Kelley Gallery, Chicago, 1977. Photo courtesy of Stuart Cohen.
"So the ["Chicago Architects"] show had two motives and two objectives. Stanley [Tigerman]'s objective, and in part my objective, was to make some space, to say that there were other people here who had some legitimacy--this was not just about Mies, SOM, C.F. Murphy, and the people that they trained and their disciples. Even if it was, why should they usurp and misinterpret what was happening in Chicago at the turn of the century? By claiming parentage, it was like they were saying, "I'm Anastasia, or the lost prince. I have good blood. I'm the legitimate heir to these people and therefore I should be the one doing these buildings." We said, fine, this was not entirely the only way to see the history of early Chicago, why don't we deal with that and why don't we deal simply with the fact that there's all this other stuff that's happening at the same time that nobody pays attention to because there's been a conscious effort to suppress it. So our motives were to rewrite history and to undermine a position of power that existed for Murphy and SOM and IIT. Maybe it was not as much to undermine it as to say, "Look, it's not what it's claiming to be and it's not the only game in town." We wanted to make space for other people in other firms." (page 59)
Funding for Stuart Cohen's oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Additional funding for the electronic presentation of this transcript was provided by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.