Modern headquarters for centuries-old charitable fraternity

April 28, 2009 |


It is the journey to maximum service to humanity that Freemasonry, the world’s largest and oldest men’s fraternity, challenges its members to undergo through its Scottish Rite. In Bloomingdale, a new facility that honors that journey will soon usher the organization’s Chicago branch into the new century.


Design is complete and bidding has begun for the new Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago headquarters. The 62,000 square foot facility will give Freemasonry a modern face, while respecting the three-century old society whose alumni include George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Pending a successful bid, construction is anticipated to finish in 2010.


Gregory R. Klemm, Executive Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association, says, “Our hope in constructing our new home is to honor the richness of our traditions, while, at the same time, capturing the interests of today’s modern man.”


Procession and Humanitarianism

The concepts of procession and humanitarianism strongly influenced the design, according to project manager Paul Babski of Legat Architects. “These concepts become evident in everything from the organization of space to the materials palette and interior details.”


A two-story lobby/gallery, adorned with Freemasonry art and artifacts, salutes the past, present, and future of the organization and its members. Embossed copper medallions embedded in the gallery’s floor symbolize the Rite’s 33 degrees of education, and a glass wall curls around an outdoor courtyard. Ted Haug, design principal at Legat Architects, says, “As a place for tranquility and contemplation, the courtyard is a modern interpretation of the monastic cloister within the medieval cathedral.” 


Materials were selected to call to mind permanence and warmth. They include cream-colored limestone, clear and translucent glazing, and copper-colored metal panels. At night, the glass showcases the activity within, and illuminates the fly tower.


Through and Beyond

Facility components correspond to the organization’s rituals and mission. A learning center with a separate entry includes offices and classrooms for the tutoring of children with language disorders.


On the left side of the gallery, louver doors open to a 250-seat dining space that offers views of the garden and woods beyond. The gallery then leads to a meeting room, lounge, lodge hall (seats 90), and two-story preceptory (auditorium) with 250 seats. The final stop, highlighted by a large emblem signifying the 33rd degree, is the glass entry of the museum. Stairs ascend to a walkway that overlooks the gallery and leads to the library. The walkway penetrates through the glass curtain wall, creating an outdoor viewing balcony that connects to the board room and offices. Additional spaces include a retail component, fraternal offices, and a women’s lounge.


“The new headquarters of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago will be a stupendous monument of architecture”, says Klemm. “It will be a proud symbol of our dedication to humanity and service to mankind.”


Legat Architects is a leading sustainable architectural and interior design practice specializing in commercial/mixed use, corporate office, higher education, healthcare, K-12 education, and municipal facilities. It serves clients regionally and nationally from its Illinois offices (Chicago, Crystal Lake, Oak Brook, Waukegan) and its joint venture firm in Columbus, Ohio.

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