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Works 10 x 15 inches and smaller

Identifier: 1
From the Collection:

The Robert Philip Gordon papers consist of the output of the professional career of architect, urban planner, artist, and Illinois Institute of Technology graduate Robert Philip Gordon.

The papers are divided into five series, some with multiple subseries, and maintain topical divisions identified by Mr. Gordon. Series 1 (Architecture), 2 (Artwork), and 4 (Planning) demonstrate the different types of work Mr. Gordon performed over the course of his career. Series 1 (Architecture) and 4 (Planning) are sub-divided by type and organized by date, which allow researchers to follow the trajectory of Mr. Gordon's career over time. Series 2 (Artwork) is primarily organized by material size and subdivided by process and subject. Series 3 (Biography) is organized by topic, and Series 5 (Publications) is organized by publication type.

Highlights of the Collection include architectural plans and drawings for residential and commercial buildings, planning narratives in both draft and final forms, planning sketches and drawings, and artwork done in a variety of mediums. Many works in the Artwork series relate to architecture and planning projects, particularly images of Chicago parks and streetscapes.

Series 1: Architecture Series 1: Architecture is divided into six sub-series: Architectural Artwork, Commercial Buildings, Furniture Design, Public Buildings, Residential Buildings and Slides. Within each sub-series, projects are arranged chronologically in folders that contain drawings, images, and assorted planning documents related to the rspective assignment.

Materials within the Architecture series illustrate Gordon's career trajectory from the 1970s forward, and show the influence of Mies' teachings in all of his assignments, whether larger commercial buildings or small residential renovations. Many assignments demonstrate Gordon's willingness to work outside the normal framework of his contemporaries. The Jones-Icosa "dome" house illustrates the extremity of his creative approach to residential architecture, while an emphasis on creating affortable urban housing demonstrates his willingness to find solutions to socio-economic problems through architectural development. Though many of the architectural assignments represented in this collection are the result of Gordon's personal work as principal of the firm Robert Gordon Associates, other assignments are the result of collaborations with architects, such as R. Bruce Johnson, Michael B. Rosen, and George Schipporeit, or as a sub-contractor for development companies, such as Macondo Corporation.

Series 2: Artwork Artwork is arranged by size into five subseries. Each subseries is subdivided by process, subject, and date. The collection exhibits a wide range of processes including watercolors (some with acetate and marker overlays), hand-colored laser prints, pen and ink line drawings, etchings and etching plates, and specialty processes such as serigraphs and viscosity prints. The viscosity prints were made with William Stanley Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris, France and are a result of mixing different color inks unique to Hayter and his studio. Many of the etchings, including the images of baseball and baseball parks (Subseries 3, Box 17) were made at Anchor Graphics with David Jones.

Gordon's travel internationally and in the continental US and his daily life in Paris, France and Chicago, Illinois are the primary subjects of his artwork. Subseries 1 contains over 1,000 drawings of his time in Europe and elsewhere and was the basis for his first book, Perspecive Drawing (2008). Gordon's original inventory to the Papers (Series 3, Box 20, Folder 3) includes a detailed listing of subjects contained in these drawings.

Of particular interest to those studying urban affairs and politics are the sketchbooks (Subseries 1, Boxes 12 and 13) containing drawings made by Gordon during meetings of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Landscape Committee, 2000-2011.

Finally, there is a great overlap between the artwork contained in Series 2 and the drawings and sketches contained in Series 4 - Planning, particularly in regards to watercolors and drawings of Chicago parks. It is nearly impossible to divide Gordon the artist from Gordon the architect and planner, and this is particularly evident in his artwork.

Series 3: Biography Series 3: Biography consists of five folders containing information specific to Gordon's professional career. These include copies of awards, degrees and licenses, and a variety of promotional services. The series also includes an assortment of photographs of Gordon and his co-workers, both on-site and in his offices. Of primary use to researchers, the series also includes a short autobiographical essay and the inventories Gordon created prior to donating the archive to Illinois Institite of Technology. These inventories served as the starting point for the arrangement and description of the collection during processing.

Series 4: Planning Series 4: Planning is subdivided into two sometimes-overlapping subseries; Urban Design and Planning and Landscape Design and Planning. Projects in each subseries are organized chronologically. All of the projects are Chicago-based except for three done in France in 1992. The documents include planning narratives (drafts and published reports), sketches, and renderings. The 2004 plans for Dearborn Station Plaza (Subseries 2, Box 22, Folder 6) include correspondence between Gordon, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Alderman Robert Fioretti and a window into the politics of urban planning.

Gordon's first major planning job with the City of Chicago was the 1965 Comprehensive Plan for Chicago. Many of its ideas realized in the city's Museum Campus and in Millennium Park. The 1965 plan involved both city officials and community leaders and was Gordon's entre into Community Planning. The 1968 document "Alternatives for Planning - Kenwood/Oakland" is an example of a new type of planning known as "advocacy planning." Advocacy planning - the intersection of urban streetscapes, housing, the natural environment, and the community's needs - became the basis of all of Gordon's planning projects as a part of the Chicago Planning Department and as an independent architect.

The series is particularly strong in plans for Chicago's Grant Park and lakefront, including streetscapes for surrounding areas, overall views of the Park, and plans for individual parks within the greater leandscape such as Seven Gardens, Solti Garden, and Queen's Landing. Gordon's interest in Grant Park led him to co-found, with Bob O'Neill, the Grant Park Conservancy.

Series 5: Publications Series 5: Publications includes a variety of materials related to or authored by Gordon. The series consists of clippings of Gordon's own articles about design and assorted sports topics; Periodicals that contain reference to Gordon's work; as well as a set of illustrated, self-produced bound booklets. The series also includes eight copies of the Hyde Park Kenwood Voices, a neighborhood newspaper edited by Gordon.

In addition to formally published works, one box of this series contains original manuscript materials related to Gordon's two books, Perspective Drawing: A Designers Method (2008), and Residential Design Studio (2011).


  • Creation: 1963-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-2010

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Research

Collection Size

From the Collection: 13.5 linear_feet (29 boxes, 10 flat files and 4 oversize items)


Part of the Paul V. Galvin Library. University Archives and Special Collections Repository

35 West 33rd Street
Chicago IL 60616
(312) 567-5993

Paul V. Galvin Library

35 West 33rd Street | Chicago, IL | 60616