From Illinois Tech Magazine: Self Made



By Steve Hendershot

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There was no college recruitment battle for Stephen Burks (DSGN ’92). He applied to just one school, Illinois Institute of Technology, though it was more like applying to a single building: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s S. R. Crown Hall.

Burks wasn’t a globally renowned industrial designer back then, just an art-obsessed teen. As a pre-teen, he made his first solo trek on the “L” from his South Side home to the Art Institute of Chicago; by the time he finished high school, he knew both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago inside and out, along with the city’s architectural history. And Crown Hall pulled at him like a magnet, not only because he considered it to be “a temple of architectural education,” but also because he loved the building itself, and the triumph of design that it represented.

“Something about the proportions and the way the milky white glass abstracted the light was so uplifting and essential that it made an indelible impression on me,” Burks says.

But something peculiar happened once Burks arrived on campus. As he absorbed the lessons of Bauhaus and began to find his own creative voice, he moved away from the aesthetic that drew him to Crown Hall in the first place. He dropped architecture in favor of product design and the multidisciplinary design education of the New Bauhaus that would later inspire him to gravitate toward a less-heralded aspect of the Bauhaus tradition: its emphasis on craft.

Read more on the Illinois Tech Magazine website

Photo: Stephen Burks [right] (photo courtesy of Stephen Burks)