Walter Netsch (1920-2008)


Biography forthcoming

Inland steel building (1958)

30 W. Monroe Street, Chicago

The Inland Steel Building is one of modern architecture’s most epochal structures. The first Chicago high-rise built after the Great Depression, Inland Steel was the paradigm for SOM’s principle that high-rise form at its best does, indeed, follow function. Inland Steel changed the way towers are constructed, and helped transform American office culture during the second half of the 20th century. The building consists of a 19-story office tower and a 25-story service tower. A one-story unit that contains auxiliary facilities is attached to the service tower. The 19 floors of the office tower, each with an area of 10,200 square feet, have no interior columns, and therefore these open floor areas allow maximum flexibility in the arrangement of offices and work rooms. The framing is structural steel. Girders, 60 feet long, span the whole building and support the beams and decking. Frames and mullions of the curtain wall are stainless steel, glazed with tinted laminated glass and paneled with porous concrete and insulated stainless steel sheets. (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Regenstein Library (1970)

1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago

Of all the modern builidngs the University of Chicago has constructed since it gave up on Collegiate Gothic back in the 1930s, only one – the Regenstein Library -- has the weight and authority of those earlier structures. Constructed on an axis with the original 1912 Harper Library, the Regenstein is a virtuosic display of graduated concrete voids and solids that at times suggets natural rock formations and at others a melting gothic cathedral. (Walter Netsch, the architect, was the inventor of what he called “field theory,” a design method that allowed for almost infinite complexity in the design of floorplans and surfaces and which is reflected in the Regenstein’s ever-shifting voids and solids.) Although often described as Brutalist, the structure has moments of surprising delicacy. The building, which houses 4.5 million volumes, has seven floors, two of which are below grade. Total square footage is 577,085 square feet. The cost was $20,750,000. In 2011, the architect Helmut Jahn completed a $42 million addition on the building’s west side that houses 3.5 million volumes under an elliptical dome.