Baker, Jack Sherman (1920-2003) | University of Illinois Archives
Jack Sherman Baker (1920-2013) was a Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois from 1950-1990 and awarded emeritus status upon retirement. Professor Baker was widely recognized for his teaching and design, and he received numerous awards and accolades during his career. In 1977, he was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and awarded the fellows' silver medal. He earned six AIA Honor Awards, nine AIA Merit Awards, and numerous other honors over the course of his career.
Jack Baker was born in 1920 in Champaign, Illinois, to Clyde Lee and Jane Cecilia (Walker) Baker. Baker graduated with honors from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture in 1943. He received a certificate from New York's Beaux Arts Institute of Design during his last year of undergraduate study. Baker then worked as an aeronautical engineer and designer for Boeing Aircraft (1943-1944) and as a topographical engineer for the Allied Forces in Italy with the U.S. Army Engineers (1944-1945). In 1945, Baker returned to the University of Illinois, where he taught entry level architecture courses while working toward his Master's degree in Architecture (1949). He joined the University of Illinois's School of Architecture as an assistant professor in 1950.
Professor Baker taught advanced undergraduate and graduate design at the University of Illinois. As a professor, Baker famously approached architecture as "one of the performing arts, an art dealing with space, movement, and light." He worked closely with Professor Margaret Erlanger and the Department of Dance to integrate performing art and architecture. Nowhere was this merging of art and architecture more evident than in Baker's loft at 71 1/2 E. Chester Street in downtown Champaign. Baker purchased the building in 1957 and transformed the former wagon shop into a living space where performance, art, and architecture melded together. Baker frequently opened this space to students and local community members, hosting seminars, dance and theater performances, poetry readings, exhibitions, and receptions. Baker's loft constituted one of the earliest examples of adaptive reuse in Champaign.
Baker maintained a private architectural design practice while teaching full time at the University of Illinois. Many of his projects were located in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area. His most notable local designs include the Erlanger House at 303 W. Indiana Avenue, Urbana; the Gillespie Residence at 17 Sherwin Circle, Urbana; and Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church at 700 W. Kirby Avenue, Champaign. Baker also drew the first designs and site plans for the University of Illinois's Japan House.
Jack Sherman Baker died on November 24, 2013 at the age of 93.
Jack Sherman Baker, obituary, News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com/obituaries/2013-12-08/jack-baker.html.
"Focus: Jack Sherman Baker, FAIA," Champaign Urbana Magazine, May 1991.