Energy Efficient Architecture in Chicago and the World Shared in Peter Land Retrospective

Peter Land at Harvard

British-born architect Peter Land has taught at Harvard and here in Chicago for over four decades at the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which recently hosted a retrospective of his work and pedagogy.

Land is an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects and attended London’s Royal Academy School, where his graduate studies garnered a Gran Prix for urban design. He also earned degrees from Carnegie Mellon and Yale, where he was field director of an inter-American graduate program in urban and regional planning at the National University of Engineering in Lima, Peru, in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Those drawings and models are part of this exhibition in the lobby of the Mies van der Rohe-designed S. R. Crown Hall building. While in Lima, Land also directed the UN’s Experimental Housing Project, PREVI, a 450-unit, low-cost, high-density housing neighborhood. Devised by native and international architects selected from a competition, the structures also incorporated earthquake resistance, plus new designs and technologies like passive energy.

PREVI experimental housing project in Lima, Peru

Land was also a leader in 1999’s Architecture with Technology International Symposium. In addition to receiving IIT’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1978 and 2016, he was a NEA Distinguished Designer Fellow in 1988 too.

In Chicago, Land created and implemented a “sun machine” to evaluate the solar performance of a building or a group of structures, combining astronomy, geometry, geography and architecture to ascertain any new building’s environmental impact, to preserve or improve living, working and recreational spaces.

Peter Land’s “Sun Machine”at 50 E. Chestnut St., Chicago

The two outer walls of the exhibit display dozens of drawings and renderings of prominent student work of proposed buildings (often, collaborations Land begins in the classroom continue into real-world practice). Drawings feature Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome-inspired linked constructions, and innovate mixed-used skyscrapers with residential and commercial use, intertwined with energy generation and green spaces. One student’s wind turbine integrated energy tower is reminiscent of Shanghai’s World Financial Center, nicknamed “The Bottle Opener” for its open top.

Perhaps Land’s most timely legacy in the time of climate change is his early and ongoing support of the self-powered built environment. His work and his teaching stress that in a world of diminishing fossil fuel resources, architects need to address energy conservation, renewable resources and efficient building modes, underscoring that “the built environment must become ultra-efficient in its use and conservation of energy.”

The Peter Land: Retrospective exhibit ran at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s S.R. Crown Hall, 3360 S. State St. The opening reception on April 2 featured remarks from College of Architecture Dean Michelangelo Sabatino, along with Land’s former students Matthew Berglund and Ron Kwaske, who talked about their teacher’s influence on their work.

Upcoming College of Architecture events include the Preservation Challenges of Modernist Structures Symposium on April 21, and an Open House on May 10-11.

Other IIT news includes Professor Scott Mehaffey being named executive director of van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House on the Fox River in Plano and Masters’ graduate Virgil Abloh being named Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director.

Peter Land at the Illinois Institute of Technology, in the lobby of the Mies van der Rohe-designed S. R. Crown Hall building.



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Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a Chicago freelance writer, cultural factotum and activism concierge. She jams econo.

One comment

  1. That’s cool that he helped to make buildings more energy effect to make them better for the environment. I would think that would be a good way to reduce pollution and also save some money. I am thinking about starting a business and building a building for it, and I’ll have o talk ton an architect to see how I could make it energy efficient.

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