Nov 12th 2019

College of Architecture Alumnus Wins ARCC King Student Medal

When Daniel Whittaker (M.S. ARCH ’15, Ph.D. ’18) was in junior high school, he and his parents restored a home built in 1912 in Duluth, Minnesota, by an iron ore mining and real estate magnate, Marshall H. Alworth. For Whittaker it kicked off a fascination in historic buildings and how construction methods and technology have evolved over time.

That fascination is what inevitably brought Whittaker to Illinois Institute of Technology for both his Master of Science in Architecture and his Ph.D. degrees. His doctoral dissertation, “House Museums in Chicago: A Re-Examination of Motives, Origins, and Transformations of the Institutions,” has earned him an Architectural Research Centers Consortium King Student Medal for 2019.

Whittaker’s dissertation stemmed from both his interest in historic homes and his work as the owner’s representative for Wrightwood 659, an exhibition space located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Whittaker worked with Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, who designed the space, which retains the original 1930s masonry façade of the building it occupies.

“Being that the project involved creating a new private museum next door to an existing house whose owner wishes it to not be demolished—like so many past historic Chicago institutions—it was placed upon me to do comprehensive research about all of the successes, failures, and foibles of other foregone institutions,” Whittaker says.

The dissertation examines new narratives surrounding four famed historic house museums in Chicago: the Henry B. Clarke House, Chicago’s oldest surviving house; Henry Hobson Richardson’s Glessner House; Richard E. Schmidt and designer Hugh M. G. Garden’s Madlener House; and the Frederick C. Robie House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School icon.

Whittaker’s research comprised traditional archival work, as well as exhaustive interviews with Chicagoans who have long championed the adaptive reuse of older residential architecture, revealing new narratives about the social, political, and economic battles fought to save historic residential architecture in Chicago.

Having successfully defended his dissertation, Whittaker is now a senior lecturer in architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.