Shoptalk: Legat At 50

West Loop architecture firm Legat has been around for half a century.  There’s probably nothing we can say about it that they can’t say better themselves, other than “congratulations,” so here’s the press release they sent over:

 

Legat Architects celebrates fifty years past, prepares for next fifty

[Chicago, IL] – A string hung from Joe Legat’s drafting table when he launched Legat Architects from a spare bedroom of his Waukegan, Illinois home in 1964. Attached to the string was a piece of sandpaper that Joe used to sharpen his pencils to a chiseled point. Back then, architects lettered everything by hand.

1379397_10153450295560438_1065410926_nThat’s a far cry from the real-time 3D imaging that the firm uses today, but it’s a testament to the firm’s origins. Though Legat Architects has opened four more Illinois offices and worked in twenty countries, Joe Legat’s legacy of responsive client service and employee empowerment remains at the firm’s core.

This summer, Legat Architects ushers in its fiftieth anniversary by honoring its past and celebrating its “Next 50.”

With, Not For

A Western U.S. community that was struggling with the design of a new facility invited Legat Architects to share its collaborative design process. The firm engaged with community leaders and the local architect during a five-day workshop. The resulting design met the budget and the program. Today, the building is a symbol of community pride.

This success has repeatedly played out with the firm’s projects. “Our process starts by listening and learning, then we sketch with our clients,” said Patrick Brosnan, Legat’s president/CEO. “Clients’ views, values, mission, and history influence a design solution that we develop together. Legat creates a vision with our clients, not for them.”

This focus on community-based design that elevates experiences has built the firm’s reputation. A few examples:

  • Tinley Park Oak Park Avenue station: listed among the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) “Best Places in Illinois”
  • Wilmette Public Works expansion and renovation: received an Honor Award, the highest form of recognition from AIA Chicago; one of the nation’s first public works facilities to achieve LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC)
  • ABC7/WLS-TV State Street studio renovation and video sculpture: reinvigorated Chicago’s iconic State Street; also honored with an AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Award
  • Chicago City Hall green roof: helped the city launch a sustainability initiative that led to Illinois’ number one ranking in LEED green buildings
  • The Village at Victory Lakes: one of the first continuing care retirement communities to offer a full spectrum of senior environments, while highlighting its natural surroundings
  • Good Shepherd Hospital birthing center: set a Midwestern precedent for consolidation of birthing environments
  • Hyatt Place Harper Court: first new hotel in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood in fifty years; named by TripAdvisor as one of Chicago’s “greenest hotels”
  • College of DuPage Homeland Security Center: a Midwestern epicenter for training regional, state, federal, and military law enforcement and emergency personnel
  • Niles North and West High School STEM labs: research and critical thinking labs that set the bar for STEM spaces in Illinois and beyond
  • University Center of Lake County: one of the nation’s first multi-university facilities, houses 19 colleges and universities under one roof
  • Hubble Middle School: one of the first schools in Illinois to achieve LEED for Schools Gold certification for its sustainable advancements

Growth to Benefit Clients and Employees
In the early nineties, a building owner in Cook County had a dilemma: it needed to make renovations to thirty of its aging facilities, but there were no architects nearby capable of achieving its tight timeline. So Legat Architects opened a new studio nearby to manage and design that project. The job, totaling over one hundred million dollars in construction and stretching over seven summers, finished on time and under budget.

The firm repeated that strategy to open offices in each of Chicago’s major counties (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry), as well as a Quad Cities office in Moline, Illinois.

Brosnan said, “Not only does our multi-studio structure give clients the convenience of a local architect, but it also lets our employees work for a major firm close to home and allows us to select from a larger talent pool.”

Each quarter, all the firm’s studios gather at a Legat-designed facility for a “Thursday Night Learn.” Employees celebrate accomplishments, talk about trends in design and technology, and discuss the firm’s future.

The “Next 50” Campaign
Legat Architects will host five community-based pro bono long-term planning workshops.
“We’re celebrating a half century of successes,” said Brosnan. “But we’re also looking to the next fifty years of working with our clients and our communities. To give back to places where we live and work, we’ve set aside $50,000 in employee time to invest in community design and planning initiatives that would not otherwise occur.”

The first outreach effort was in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. The village wanted to create a vision for its future, but, like many communities, it lacked funding. Legat Architects, which has several employees who live in the village, donated community planning workshops and created graphics that show a more sustainable downtown business environment. To build community support for its master plan, the village displayed the graphics on its website, as well as in major public and commercial buildings.

Dan Ungerleider, Clarendon Hills community development director, said, “The conceptual public spaces developed and refined during the workshop will certainly have a positive influence on the downtown’s environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability well into the future.”

Legat Architects will also continue to support educational and social outreach efforts. In the past five years alone, the firm donated over $300,000 toward foundations and scholarships supporting students and adult learners seeking to better themselves and contribute to their communities.

What do the next fifty years hold for Legat Architects? “Greater mobility, visualization through technology, and a continued focus on innovative design and sustainability are just the beginning,” said Brosnan. “Ultimately, it’s about helping clients and building owners use these tools to improve user performance and better connect with their communities and with the next generation.”

About Legat Architects
Legat Architects is one of few Chicago-area employee-owned architecture and interior design firms. Its seventy employees average sixteen years with the company. The firm’s portfolio includes commercial/mixed-use, corporate, healthcare, higher education, PK-12 education, transportation, and municipal facilities.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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