Chicago Cenacle

Walking around Lincoln Park on a beautiful fall day yesterday, I snapped these photos of the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center. The complex is one of my favorite "anonymous" pieces of architecture in the city.

Actually, according to the AIA Guide to Chicago, the complex was built in 1967 and designed by Charles Pope. The Guide goes on to say that the Cenacle is, "an example of the warm side of clean, quiet modernism in brick."

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The building complex is set back from the east-west street Fullerton, the parking lot located between the sidewalk and building's main entry. While this decision can be seen as unfortunate, it does lessen the impact of the two tall and long brick volumes (as the AIA Guide proclaims). The setback also puts the complex on display, an unencumbered view available with the open expanse of parking.

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The two housing blocks are oriented perpendicular to each other, each short end a blank wall that finds relief through brick patterns. These two blocks also frame the main entry and the chapel behind. The brick vocabulary is continued through each element, the wing walls of each volume also a consistency in the design.

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Overall the complex has a human scale that makes it inviting and an unobtrusive piece in the relatively low-scale neighborhood.

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Another effective architectural device is the projecting brick verticals, not only for their function of reducing direct sunlight but also for the interesting facade pattern created.

The Cenacle Retreat is located at 513 W. Fullerton, one block west of Clark.


  1. There is lovely stained glass in the main chapel (abstract not traditional) inside - you're welcome to look around if you like. There are stained glass tours that come around the city and stop at the Cenacle periodically. This building replaced the original ones from 1920 when the sisters first came to Chicago.


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