George Fred Keck

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George Frederick Keck (1895-1980) was an American modernist architect based in Chicago, Illinois. He was later assisted in his practice by his brother William Keck to form the firm of Keck & Keck.


Keck was born in Watertown, Wisconsin, the eldest of five boys. He studied engineering for a year at the University of Wisconsin and then studied architecture engineering at the University of Illinois. Starting in the 1920s, he worked as a draftsman for several Chicago firms, including D. H. Burnham & Company and Schmidt, Garden and Martin. He started his own practice in 1926, and was joined by his younger brother William five years later.[1] George took an interest in the Deutscher Werkbund and the emerging International Style.


The Dr. Robert Hohf House, designed by Keck & Keck in Kenilworth, Illinois

Keck designed two key model structures for the Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago in 1933; dubbed the "House of Tomorrow".[2][3][4] These two structures played in key role in the development of Keck's form of modernism.[2] In 1934 he designed another model house, "Crystal House", which was directly reminiscent of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer.[5]

Keck became a pioneering designer of passive solar houses in the 1930s and 40s after realizing that the all-glass "House of Tomorrow" was warm inside on sunny winter days prior to the installation of the furnace.[6] Following this he gradually started incorporating more south-facing windows into his designs for other clients, and in 1940 designed a passive solar home for real estate developer Howard Sloan in Glenview, Illinois. The Sloan House was called a "solar house" by the Chicago Tribune, the first modern use of that term. Sloan then built a number of passive solar houses, and his publicity efforts contributed to a significant "solar house" movement in the 1940s.[7]

Keck taught architecture at the New Bauhaus School (now IIT Institute of Design). He was the head of architecture there until 1942 and appointed Ralph Rapson as his successor. Rapson also worked in Keck's office during this period, as did fellow New Bauhaus School professor Robert Bruce Tague.[8]


  1. ^ Stuart Cohen and Susan Bejamin; North Shore Chicago; Houses of the Lakefront Suburbs 1890-1940 Acanthus Press, 2004
  2. ^ a b Roth, Leland M. American Architecture: A History, (Google Books), Westview Press, 2003, p. 361, (ISBN 0813336627).
  3. ^ Collins, Judith; Nash, Al (2002). "Preserving Yesterday's View of Tomorrow: The Chicago World's Fair Houses" (PDF). Cultural Resource Management. 25 (5): 27–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-27.
  4. ^ Corn, Joseph J.; Brian Horrigan; Katherine Chambers (1996). Yesterday's tomorrows: past visions of the American future. JHU Press.
  5. ^ Prince, Sue Ann. The Old Guard and the Avant Garde: Modernism in Chicago 1910-1940, (Google Books), University of Chicago Press, 1990 p. 132, (ISBN 0226682846).
  6. ^ Boyce, Robert (1993). Keck & Keck: The Poetics of Comfort. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1-878271-17-2.
  7. ^ Denzer, Anthony (2013). The Solar House: Pioneering Sustainable Design. Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847840052. Archived from the original on 2013-07-26.
  8. ^ Blum, Betty. "Interview with Robert Bruce Tague". Chicago Architects Oral History Project.

Additional Sources[edit]