Graham Foundation

Chicago, Illinois

The Graham Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the exchange of ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture and society.  Its headquarters is The Madlener House, a landmark residence designed by Schmidt and Garden in 1902.  Since the 1980s, VHA has assisted the foundation with renovations allowing it to significantly expand its public offerings.

The building’s distinctive exterior consists of ironspot Roman brick, richly carved limestone details and an iconic entry door.  VHA assisted the Graham Foundation with a multi-phase effort of masonry restoration including cleaning, pointing and repair of damaged stone.

In the 1980s, VHA installed a collection of architectural fragments in the building’s garden.  In 2005, modifications to the garden and first floor addressed numerous accessibility shortcomings.  Related renovations to the building’s ballroom, fire escape and staircases improved life safety and assembly conditions.

More recently, VHA directed the design of a new air conditioning system.  Seamlessly integrated into the historic spaces, the variable refrigerant flow system has very little ductwork, and utilizes the attic and basement spaces for equipment. The resulting system is quiet, efficient and nearly invisible.

These subtle interior upgrades enhance the Graham Foundation’s ability to provide cutting edge art and architecture experiences within the rich historic fabric of the Madlener House.


General Contractor: Norcon, Inc.

MEP Engineer: McGuire Engineers

Photographer: Michelle Litvin, Leslie Schwartz,

James Prinz, Hedrich Blessing, Tom Rossiter