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Robert Philip Gordon papers, 1963-2010

Identifier: 038.01.07

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


Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Research

Collection Size

13.5 linear_feet (29 boxes, 10 flat files and 4 oversize items)


The Robert Philip Gordon papers consist of the output of the professional career of architect, urban planner, artist, and Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago) graduate Robert Philip Gordon. Materials include architectural sketches and plans, planning documents for urban and landscape projects, clippings and publications, and an extensive collection of original artwork.

Biographical Note

Robert Philip Gordon (b. 1940) studied Architecture (B.Arch., 1963) and City and Regional Planning (M.S., 1967) at the Illinois Institute of Technology during the time of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig Hilberseimer, and Alfred Caldwell. Of his instructors, Gordon says, "Mies taught us to look at details, Hilbs taught us to look at the big picture' and Caldwell reminded us that the landscape is the context for all of our work."

Gordon's graduate studies occurred during the time of the Viet Nam Conflict, and he wanted to do a Thesis on the Mekong River Valley. Instead, Hilberseimer advised him to "do something he said was more difficult; the Southside of Chicago." The resultant work is his 1967 thesis titled Chicago: Southside Replanned, which became the foundation for some of his later professional work.

Gordon's professional career was primarily conducted in Paris and Chicago. In Paris, he worked with Stanley William Hayter at the famed printmaking studio, Atelier 17, and managed design for the EuroDisneyland Project. While living in France, photographs of buildings he designed in Chicago were exhibited at the 1983 international exhibit "150 Years of Chicago Architecture" in Paris.

In Chicago, Gordon worked on city planning projects under three Chicago mayors, Richard J. Daley, Harold Washington, and Richard M. Daley, and served on various civic committees including Mayor Richard M. Daley's Landscape Advisory Task Force from 2000-2010. (See Boxes 12 and 13 for related drawings.)

Gordon spent much of his career designing single-family residences, townhomes, and mid-rise condominiums as well as commercial buildings. In 1970, he founded Robert Gordon Associates, Architecture/Planning. Returning to IIT, he taught in the School's Department of City and Regional Planning. Today he also serves as a Graduate Thesis Adviser for Architectural Studies and Interior Architecture at Columbia College (Chicago), and as a consultant to the Grant Park Conservancy, which he co-founded. He has authored two books, Perspective Drawing: A Designer's Method (2008) and Residential Design Studio (2011), both published by Fairchild Books.

For more information, see Robert Philip Gordon's autobiographical account in Series 3: Biographical Materials (Box 20).

Gordon Timeline

Receives a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture from IIT.
Works for Holabird & Root as a draughtsman.
Begins work with the Department of City Planning for the City of Chicago.
Works on the first comprehensive Plan for Chicago since the Burnham Plan of 1909.
Receives Master of Science - City and Regional Planning degree from IIT. Master's Thesis is Chicago: Southside Replanned.; thesis adviser, Paul Thomas.
Teaches in IIT's Planning Department.
Works with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and produces the community planning document "Alternative Plans for Kenwood-Oakland," a new type of community planning document known as advocacy planning.
Starts architectural practice, Robert Gordon Associates.
Contributes artwork to the Paris exhibition and book, "150 Years of Chicago Architecture".
Moves to France and spends time focusing on making art. Works with William Stanley Hayter at Atelier 17, in Paris, to learn and produce viscosity prints. Spends time in living and creating in San Francisco, California.
Teaches at the Paris-American Academy of Beaux Arts.
Teaches at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco.
Back to Paris, serves as Design Manager, The EuroDisneyland Project near Paris. 2000-2010: Serves on Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's Landscape Advisory Task Force.
Founds, with Bob O'Neill, the Grant Park Conservancy.
Instructor and Thesis Adviser at Columbia College (Chicago).
Publishes "Perspective Drawing: A Designer's Method" (Fairchild Publications).
Publishes "Residential Design Studio" (Fairchild Publications).

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged in five series:

Series 1: Architecture Subseries 1: Architectural Artwork Subseries 2: Commercial Buildings Subseries 3: Furniture Design Subseries 4: Public Buildings Subseries 5: Residential Buildings Subseries 6: Slides

Series 2: Artwork Subseries 1: Works 8 x 10 inches and smaller Subseries 2: Works 10 x 15 inches and smaller Subseries 3: Works 13 x 18 inches and smaller Subseries 4: Works 16 x 21 inches and smaller Subseries 5: Works 24 x 36 inches and smaller

Series 3: Biography

Series 4: Planning Subseries 1: Urban Design and Planning Subseries 2: Landscape Design and Planning

Series 5: Publications


Mr. Gordon, an alumnus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago), donated his papers to the IIT archives in 2011.

Related Material

Additional materials related to Robert Philip Gordon housed in UASC include the following:

His 1967 thesis, Chicago: Southside Replanned. 1967. Call No. Thesis.ST3404

Residential Design Studio, Published ca. 2011. Call No. ARCHIVES.NA7115.G672011

Perspective Drawing: A Designer's Method, Published ca. 2008, Call No. ARCHIVES.NC750.G632008

Exhibit catalogue containing his drawings: Chicago, 150 ans d'architecture, 1833-1983 (Chicago, 150 years of architecture, 1833-1983). Published ca. 1983. Paris: Paris Art Center. Ca. 1983. Call No. ARCHIVES.NA735.C4C394x1983


Armstrong-Johnson, Chicago, IL, processed this collection under the supervision of Catherine Bruck, University Archivist, 2011.

Armstrong-Johnson used inventories provided by Robert Philip Gordon at the time of acquisition as the starting point for the arrangement and description of the collection. Original copies of Mr. Gordon's inventories are included in the collection, Box 20, folder 3 (Series 3).

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