May 7th 2019

John Kriegshauser to Retire After 29 Years at Illinois Tech

Talk to John Kriegshauser for even just a few minutes, and you can sense the scale of his passion for making things. He refers to himself as an “oxyacetylene kind of guy” when discussing the art of welding, and is champing at the bit to build new furniture for his own home. “It’s a way of life, making things,” he says.

It’s that passion for making that Kriegshauser has brought to Illinois Institute of Technology’s architecture program as both the manager of the college’s model shop facilities and an instructor since his start at Illinois Tech in 1991. Now, with 29 years under his belt, Kriegshauser will be retiring from his post as Materials Lab supervisor at the end of the 2018–19 academic year, though he will stay on as an adjunct associate professor.

Kriegshauser came to Illinois Tech after a career as a shop instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute followed by eight years as a self-employed furniture maker. Initially, he was hired to manage the model-making facilities at Illinois Tech but was shortly thereafter given the opportunity to teach about materials, construction, and 3D visualization.

“The senior faculty here at IIT would say, ‘We train the eye, the mind, and the hand.’ The way it was set up was I was going to be training the hand,” says Kriegshauser, when thinking back on his beginnings at Illinois Tech. “Working in a studio environment was not part of my formal education in economics. I came out of an environment where you would hear the lecture, read the book, and then take the test, you know? Then I worked in an art school and that was really freeform. But architecture was somewhere in between.”

To hear Kriegshauser tell it, the shop and model-making programs at Illinois Tech in the early ’90s were significantly different than they are today. He describes a smaller program with fewer resources. He also says larger groups of students would rigorously undertake group model-making projects, which also were far more literal. Kriegshauser says that at that time, though, there was a growing desire for more individual projects that emphasized more conceptual ideas. His experience in hands-on making has been instrumental in bringing student ideas and lofty architectural concepts into the physical realm in his decades-long time at Illinois Tech.

“The studio was focused on stimulating the imagination, but I could tell that for some there was a real skills gap,” he says. “Not everyone could read a drawing, and few knew how to make anything, and I wanted to be comprehensive in terms of materials, each of which has a unique personality and working characteristics. They’re not fully represented by an abstract line or a cube on a drawing or screen. At the end of the day, the technical part of it is in support of the conceptual part.”

Ultimately, Kriegshauser’s efforts grew the model-making program from a more peripheral asset to a core component of the College of Architecture’s curriculum. “When I came on, I thought I could really pull this together for the college. So, I feel like I have made a contribution, and the shop has grown. I’m very proud of that,” he says.

“He has introduced every incoming student to tools and techniques and the accompanying safety practices, rarely taught at such a comprehensive level in other architecture programs,” says Associate Professor Catherine Wetzel in reflecting on Kriegshauser’s time at Illinois Tech. “Beyond having a great staff and a machine well oiled, John is the one you want on your team when undertaking that project just beyond your reach.”

That, ultimately, seems to be the most rewarding aspect of Kriegshauser’s career at Illinois Tech: “I’ve enjoyed working with the students whose projects all head off in different directions and helping them solve their problems along the way. When the studio projects are due and the rush is on you feel like one of those guys who plays chess with 10 people at once.”