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Pritzker Military Archives: Jahn’s Innovative Steel Hangar Redefines Archival Excellence

In 2003, Colonel Jennifer Pritzker established the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago, dedicated to advancing public knowledge of military history and national security. The Museum's latest venture, the Pritzker Military Archives, boasts a striking design by Jahn, paying homage to both history and innovation.

Colonel Pritzker's vision led to the collaboration with Jahn, renowned for its architectural prowess, to create a state-of-the-art archival facility. Situated on a sprawling 288-acre plot outside Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Archives features a spacious hangar supported by colossal 400-foot steel trusses, evoking the spirit of WWII landing vehicles.

Notably, Jahn's expertise in below-grade storage, demonstrated in projects like the Mansueto Library, influenced the decision to relocate the archives beneath the hangar. This strategic move, driven by temperature and humidity concerns, maximized site utilization.

The hangar's layout encompasses diverse functionalities, from public exhibition spaces to photo and book restoration workshops, meticulously designed to preserve the museum's valuable collections. Innovative architectural elements, including fritted glass to mitigate UV radiation and concealed ductwork, enhance occupant comfort and energy efficiency.

Aesthetically, the hangar's bold red hue symbolizes the valor of the U.S. armed forces, while its pitched roof and strategic rainwater drainage reflect careful design considerations. Surrounding the entrance, symbolic flags pay homage to each branch of the military, underscoring the site's significance.

Collaborating with landscape architect Tom Oslund, the site's landscaping echoes WWII topography, with an elevated semicircle referencing battlefield ramparts. Plans for future development, including a gun range and a Cold War Veterans Memorial, underscore the site's evolving role in honoring military history.

In conclusion, the Pritzker Military Archives stands as a testament to visionary leadership, architectural ingenuity, and a steadfast commitment to preserving the legacy of our nation's military heritage.

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