Durand Art Institute, built as the Lake Forest Art Institute Club, has been described by architectural historians as a “stunning” version of the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. Durand’s front facade faces the First Presbyterian Church, at the request of its pastor, Reverend McClure, who became president of the College in 1897. From the corner of Deerpath and Sheridan Roads, Durand looks much as it did when it was completed in 1892. Although its steeply pitched gable roof is now made of gray slate, replacing its original red, Durand still links the College campus with the community.
Looking like a cross between a medieval church and a castle, Durand is constructed of red sandstone, the large blocks roughly finished in a way that suggests great age. The round recesses filled with sandstone and limestone blocks romantically suggest the façade evolved and changed over the centuries. All this, along with the arched windows, the finials on the roof, and the battered buttresses, recall Romanesque church architecture. But this is a temple of art, originally designed like the Art Institute of Chicago completed the same year, to combine an art exhibition space with a large auditorium.
The recessed main entrance is a work of art in itself. Its red sandstone arches gradually get smaller, drawing one’s eyes to the focal point of the door. Notice above the main entrance the owls (symbols of wisdom) standing upon paintbrushes and palettes, symbolizing the combinations of scholarship and art. Above the arches, the name of the primary donor, wholesale grocery magnate Henry C. Durand, is engraved in letters intertwined with leaves and pinecones in a style reminiscent of medieval manuscripts.
“Durant” in French means “during," and the family’s adopted motto (featured on a needlepoint family crest hanging in one of the classrooms) is “Endurant j’espère," or “Enduring, I hope." Hopes to endure have been realized by this building, which has played an active role in college and town life since 1892.
Text by Ashley Ware '08 for ART 349 - Lake Forest College as Cultural Landscape
Photo captured June 25, 2017.
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