t. joseph surjan

t. joseph surjan

Chicago, IL, US



SOS Tigerman

In the film Titanic, no one cheers for the iceberg. The drawing/collage/assemblage of the same name by Stanley Tigerman appears to reenact the sinking of the ship, but it is replaced with Mies van der Rohe’s I.I.T. Crown Hall. There may be another reading of the iconic representational image. Tigerman created the artwork yes, but it was also a direct metaphor for his career trajectory in practice of architecture. Tigerman was the iceberg Chicago needed in 1978, repeatedly and continuously resurfacing up until his death in May 2019.

Icebergs are allegedly ninety percent below the surface of the water; Tigerman was the emotional and intellectual inverse of this proportion. His cold and razor edge criticism could sink any style, student or practice within the sea of architecture. In the next instant, Tigerman would flip the script, selecting another vessel to champion while keeping the former target submerged. His technique of camouflage was to appear in the form of his last opponent. Drawing and building (literally) in the same architectural style he had just slayed, Tigerman flattened many styles into representations easily copied. As icebergs do not discriminate, any buoyant object or flotation was fair game in Tigerman’s cone of vision. 

Chicago is a city of extremes, the perfect environment for icebergs to appear and disappear seasonally. Tigerman was just such a creature, regularly sited just off the shores for eighty eight years in various forms. Modernism, Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, Classicism, la de da, his formal styles are too many to count. Tigerman slipped into and out of each category easily, only the iceberg knows the temperature of the moment. What is hot and what is not in architectural bodies? The iceberg known as Tigerman was light years ahead of his time in this realm. He was so by predicting an architectural temperature change before any had been forecast in Chicago.

Tigerman in practice and academia made Chicago an architectural target for all in the public realm. He sought to create fissures in the surface of established and accepted norms. Tigerman the iceberg kept everyone on edge, alert and if willing, a beacon through seemingly dangerous waters. His experience set the tone in Chicago from 1962 until 2017, situating the city as host to the architectural world. 

Off the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of freshwater on the planet, no icebergs have been reportedly sighted since May 2019. With none on the horizon, it’s time to cheer for the iceberg. If you look closely it’s there, but very, very few are looking below the surface now a days.

Imagine a forecast in future for Chicago where the temperature is always around freezing, the city awaits its next iceberg.

It has been said that it takes at least ten thousand hours to become an expert in a particular subject matter per say; point being, the writers of this piece spent more than twenty thousand hours employed by the one and only native iceberg in the long architectural history of the city of Chicago. 

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Status: Built
Location: Chicago, IL, US
My Role: design scientist & writer
Additional Credits: S. Hjelte Fumanelli - project architect & digital modeling
Luca Surjan - creative director