Arthur Shigeo Takeuchi

Arthur Shigeo Takeuchi

Arthur Shigeo Takeuchi (June 16, 1931 - October 28, 2022), architect, pupil of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and former faculty member of the College of Architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology dies at 91.

For Chicagoans, Takeuchi’s most familiar work is probably the Chicago Civic Center, now known as the Richard J. Daley Center. Takeuchi represented Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) as Assistant Chief Architect on that project.

Takeuchi was born in Seattle, Washington on June 16, 1931 as the youngest child of Kojiro Takeuchi, editor and publisher of The Great Northern Daily News in Seattle, and Koto Masuda. His father died when he was only two years old.

Takeuchi was attending the Beacon Hill Elementary School in Seattle when, in the spring of 1942, with less than two-weeks’ notice and no due process, he and his family were ordered to report to internment camps in remote parts of the country due to their Japanese ancestry. This was a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, issued in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. The family was forced to leave their dog with a neighbor and abandon their property, which included their Beacon Hill house and large printing presses and typesetting equipment at the newspaper office in Seattle. Like other Japanese American families at the time, they were only allowed to take what they could carry, first to Camp Harmony in Puyallup, Washington and then to Minidoka in Idaho.

Unsurprisingly, the internment experience was prominent in Takeuchi’s boyhood memories. He often recalled how the camps were not ready when the internees arrived. "When we got off the ancient train, armed guards fore and aft, window shades always pulled down from Puyallup, where we were temporarily interned … we step[ped] off into a foot of volcanic ash in the middle of nowhere in the south-central Idaho desert. A large family was assigned to one large room in a tar-papered barrack, a small family to one small room. Toilets, showers, mess halls were remote. When it rained, the fine ash turned the ground into muck for which no one was prepared! The inmates in time built sidewalks with stones and sand so that we would not have to constantly battle the muck."

Takeuchi was released from the Minidoka concentration camp on September 19, 1944. Internment, he wrote, was "a terrible experience for all, especially for the [first-generation] isseis who lost nearly everything, if not truly everything. When it was all over, they did not have the energy to pick up the pieces and start over!" He, his mother and grandfather headed to Chicago and stayed with relatives at Frank Idaka's boarding house, a local produce vendor, in Hyde Park on 49th and Lake Park Avenue. Late for the school year, Takeuchi got off to a rocky start as an eighth grader in the fall of 1944. He attended class for only one morning because his teacher angrily demanded, "Why didn't you bring pencils to class?" The teacher later apologized, but Takeuchi refused to return, so they travelled to White Oak, Georgia to stay with an uncle who ran a lettuce farm. There, he attended a rural school in a wooded area with other Japanese American children. However, his mother sensed her son's poor educational prospects there and soon returned to Chicago. They found temporary housing at a downtown hotel arranged by Takeuchi's eldest brother Richard. Upon discovering that the cost amounted to forty-two dollars a week, his mother quickly checked the family out of the hotel, and Richard found them a studio apartment on 54th and Kimbark Avenue with a pull-out "Murphy" style bed. Richard, who would later become editor of the Chicago Sun-Times Magazine, lived in an apartment on the North Side while his mother, middle brother Austin and Takeuchi lived in Hyde Park at 5439 Kimbark Avenue, a building which has since been demolished.

Takeuchi attended Hyde Park High School beginning in 1945, travelling to Georgia during the summers to work on the lettuce farm. In 1948 he won First Prize in the Architectural Drafting division of Scholastic Industrial Art awards. Following graduation in 1949, he attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, earning his Bachelor of Architecture degree and later his Masters in Architecture degree (B.ARCH '54, M.S. ARCH '59) under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Takeuchi’s architectural studies were interrupted in late 1954 when he was drafted into the army for the Korean War and spent the harsh winter of 1954 - 1955 in Arkansas. In early 1955 Takeuchi suffered ear pain from the cold during machine gun training, which at the time was conducted without ear protection. Basic training left his hearing permanently damaged, leading to a lifelong struggle. He was released from the army three months early to attend graduate school on the G.I. Bill. During his student years at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Takeuchi worked many late nights. From 1956 - 1959, he was a draftsman and field superintendent at the office of A. James Speyer. In 1958 – 1959, he worked as an architect and consultant for Herbert S. Greenwald. At Greenwald's office, he worked on the H.S. Greenwald Penthouse Apartment, Commonwealth Promenade in Chicago, and the Metropolitan Corporation of America New York Office at the Seagram Building in New York, NY.

Due to Greenwald's untimely death in a plane crash in 1959, Takeuchi found himself without a job. He found work as a project architect at Skidmore, where he became responsible for the design of several office buildings. The Central Motor Bank in Jefferson City, Missouri, won an award from the American Institute of Architects, and the BMA Tower in Kansas City, Missouri, won awards from both the American Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Steel Construction. As Assistant Chief of Design on the Chicago Civic Center project, Takeuchi collaborated with Jacques Brownson of C.F. Murphy Associates and was responsible for the building's unprecedented wide structural bays intended to house over one hundred twenty courtrooms along with numerous elevators to service the offices and courthouse. Takeuchi was initially devastated when he was given the assignment, and the many difficulties posed by the project meant that the partners were reluctant to be involved. The three buildings were redesigned into a single building with a plaza, which would later become the site of the celebrated sculpture by Pablo Picasso. Over the years, Takeuchi shared many stories with his family, friends, students and colleagues about the unexpected twists and turns entailed by the numerous challenges of the project.

Bruce Graham of SOM subsequently invited Takeuchi to work on the John Hancock Center and later the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower). But Takeuchi elected to open his own architectural firm with Louis Johnson, also a former Mies pupil and Walter Peterhans's right-hand man at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Takeuchi & Johnson Architects opened in the Rookery Building, later moving to 37 S. Wabash Avenue. In 1965, as the Illinois Institute of Technology's architectural program grew in national prominence, Takeuchi was recruited to teach by George Danforth, head of the architecture department. That was the beginning of a distinguished teaching career at IIT. Takeuchi established his own firm in 1970. Projects included the Central Bank corporate headquarters, Central Bank West, a branch facility, as well as its expansion, renovation work on the Central Motor Bank in Jefferson City, Missouri; preliminary studies on the Charles Bronfman Residence in Montreal; the P.B. Lambert Apartment in Chicago; preliminary studies on the Stenn Residence in Chicago; alterations to the Central Trust Bank; the Wendell Smith Elementary School (formerly the Gately Park School) on Chicago's South Side; and the Modular Schools Program, a prefabricated, rapidly erectable system for the Public Building Commission of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education. He also worked on preliminary plans and cost studies for the Republic of the Philippines of Prefabricated Plastic Houses for Warm-Humid Countries; preliminary phase studies for the Bank Headquarters Building in Jefferson City, Missouri; and renovation work for the Malcolm X College Curtainwall. He served as Consulting Architect to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago, designing for the latter the Gunsaulus Hall for European decorative arts including glass and chinaware, ceramics, gold and silverware and medieval armor.

Takeuchi was a Finalist in the Minnesota II, National Terra-Tectural Competition, 1976; Premiated Runner-up, The Plateau Beaubourg, (Pompidou) Centre International Competition, Paris, 1971; Co-finalist, University of California Art Center Competition, Berkeley, California, 1965; Co-winner, 3rd Prize, Enrico Fermi Memorial Competition, Chicago, 1957. He was a Visiting Professor for the International Architectural Seminar at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan; Co-Coordinator of the Hilberseimer 100 - Plus Concordia and Co-Chairman of the Hilberseimer 100 - Plus lecture/Symposium for the Graham Foundation in Chicago; member of the Mies van der Rohe Centennial Planning Committee as well as member of the WTTW Channel 11 Community Advisory Board. His alternate plan for the Bear's stadium at Soldier Field was featured on WTTW's Chicago Tonight and all other local news media. His work has been cited in numerous publications. He held U.S. and European patents for the reverse slope seating tier system for stadiums and underground airports. Takeuchi was the recipient of numerous teaching awards at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he served twice as interim dean and taught for fifty-four years until his retirement in 2019. His students, from around the world, have also won awards and established successful architectural and teaching careers of their own.

Takeuchi played the cello, had a deep appreciation for classical music, and enjoyed reading and watching films by Yasujiro Ozu. He was good friends with other Mies students such as John Heinrich, architect of the Lake Point Tower in Chicago, as well as the architect/artist Alex Corazzo. He continued to work with and visit his mentor and colleague, Alfred Caldwell, in Bristol, Wisconsin, whose house he helped build as a student, until Caldwell's death in 1998. Takeuchi was registered in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri and New York and was certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

A resident of Hyde Park, Chicago, IL for the past 78 years, Takeuchi died at home on October 28, 2022. His siblings Richard, Beatrice and Austin are all deceased. He is survived by his wife, Toki; daughter Tokiko Catherine Takeuchi; and son Edward Kenji Takeuchi. The Illinois Institute of Technology is planning a memorial service in the spring of 2023.

A private service was held on November 7, 2022 at the Midtown Funeral Home, 3918 West Irving Park Road, Chicago, Illinois 60618.

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