Illinois State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Ground was broken for the Illinois State Capitol building in 1868 to the design of Alfred H. Piquenard. Largely completed by 1887, this Second Empire masterpiece suffered numerous renovations throughout the 20th century that compromised its safety, function, and beauty.  Most significantly, mezzanine floors were inserted into the building's grand double-height spaces, damaging the building's aesthetics and increasing occupant loads.

Since 2001, VHA has worked to renovate and restore the building's architecture while upgrading its systems to meet current demands. This multi-phase effort has transformed approximately 40% of the building's interior, undoing the damage of the earlier renovations with new designs that blend seamlessly with the historic fabric.

House Chamber

Major remodeling campaigns during the 1970s destroyed many important public spaces throughout the Capitol. In particular, both the House and Senate legislative chambers were largely obliterated through inconsiderate renovations. Original plan elements, major architectural features and historic finishes were lost in both chambers. The images below show demolition of the original millwork and Scagliola columns.

VHA was initially retained to revise the desks and millwork to accommodate new audio/visual technology.  This project grew into a more comprehensive renovation project addressing the chamber's architecture, technology, millwork, lighting and mechanical systems.

Among the notable features restored during the work is the House Chamber's stained glass laylight.  Originally a source of natural light, the skylight was covered over long ago when mechanical systems were installed in the attic.

The original four-part design of the laylight was removed during prior renovations and replaced by an eight-part scheme.

19th century photograph showing original laylight configuration.

Photo c. 2002 showing revised configuration with no lighting above.

The restored laylight utilizes fluorescent strips above the glass to simulate daylight

The project included the restoration of original millwork, including member desks, speakers' podiums and press boxes.

Interior finishes, including plaster moldings and etched glass, were restored when possible.  Where required, new material was designed and installed to blend seamlessly with the original.

Upgraded systems include audio/visual, life safety and lighting.

P1010397 before

This photograph of the side corridor prior to renovation shows the dropped ceiling, inappropriate furniture and finishes, and the overall ad-hoc quality of the space.

The project removed the non-original elements in the corridors and restored the original volume.  New lighting, millwork, carpeting and finishes complete the transformation.

VHA's restoration of the legislative chambers was awarded the American Institute of Architects' 2008 National Honor Award for Interior Architecture.

Senate Chamber

Senate before and after

Illinois State Capitol: West Wing Renovation

The West Wing of the Illinois State Capitol is the second phase of a comprehensive renovation program for the most significant governmental building in the state. This National Historic Landmark, constructed between 1868 and 1888, represents the apogee of Second Empire design in Illinois. 

However, within fifty years of its completion, inappropriate changes to the building commenced, including the insertion of mezzanine office floors in a misguided effort to increase office capacity. 

The mandate of this project was to restore the key spaces throughout the West Wing’s four floors and basement simultaneous with implementation of new energy efficient HVAC systems, vital life safety upgrades, accessibility and security improvements, while also restoring the historic architecture.

Planning began in 2009, construction commenced in 2011, and the project completed late 2013. In 2014, the project received the AIA’s National Honor Award for Interior Architecture.

West Wing Doors

The West Wing's public entrance was insensitively modified during the 1970's with aluminum storefronts and inappropriate interior stone paneling.

Though none of the original entrance doors exist, photos of the main entrance at the East Wing revealed the intent of the Capitol's first architect, Alfred Piquenard.

The massive Mahogany doors are supported by a concealed steel frame. Automatic operators, concealed in the head, provide full accessibility. In case of fire, the doors automatically open to provide make up air for the building's smoke exhaust system.


General Contractor: Core Construction

Structural Engineer: Hanson Professional Services

M/E/P Engineer: Henneman Engineering

Lighting: Gary Steffy Lighting Design

Photographers: Tom Rossiter and Eric Hausman