Robert Benson: “The most important thing about the General Service Administration’s 11 West Quincy Court is the dimension of vitality and lightness it contributes to the Chicago Federal Center. The building is adjacent to Mies van der Rohe’s Everett M. Dirksen US Courthouse, which was built at a time when it was important to architecturally convey that the government was efficient and bold.

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Robert Benson is the design director at 4240 Architecture in Chicago. Photo: Samantha Simmons

“In contrast, we created a luminous, engaging entry using light and color to project an inviting, open, democratic government.


Once just a solid wall, the façade of 11 West Quincy Court now is covered in windows that let natural light in and allow building occupants to see adjacent structures, including the historic Monadnock Building and the rest of the Federal Campus.

“From small touches like the LED-lit colored glass panels creating a warm welcome in the new Quincy Court entrance, to major changes, including the installation of a custom curtainwall with about 500 new insulated glazing units, light itself became the project’s key material.”


Like the exterior curtainwall glass, the lobby’s colored panels are etched with a pattern meant to invoke Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Four Directions, a public artwork on the building’s west wall. The yellow glow in the background is actually a reflection of the opposite wall.


To maximize daylighting without sacrificing performance, the architects installed three-part glazing units with 5/16-inch exterior low-iron glass, a half-inch airspace filled with argon, and a quarter-inch tempered Starphire glass coated with low-E PPG Solarban 60.


The digital frit in the high-efficiency glazing is actually tiny lines of text, which repeat the nation’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

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The north façade’s sloping curtainwall is meant as a symbolic and actual counterpoint to Mies van der Rohe’s modern Everett M. Dirksen US Courthouse to the west.


An early sketch from the architect’s notebook shows the influence of the artwork Lines in Four Directions, a pattern which can be seen throughout the building.

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