Richard F. Friedman, a lifelong Chicagoan and Lecturer in the Historic Preservation program at SAIC, has always been interested in the built environment.
Friedman, who is a practicing lawyer at the firm of Neal & Leroy, LLC, teaches the Preservation Law course each spring. He teaches the same course – in an Eero Saarinen-designed building, he is quick to note – to law students at the University of Chicago. Although Friedman moonlights as an instructor, preservation is very much a part of his practice and personal life.
As a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Friedman considered majoring in engineering before he settled on history and political science. “Not knowing what to do with myself,” Friedman said, “I went to law school.”
“I’ve always been interested in mechanical things, and particularly how things are built, and why they were built that way. Then Carl Condit’s book on the Chicago School of Architecture changed my life.”
Friedman returned to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago (in the same Saarinen building where he now teaches), and his first postgraduate position was with the City of Chicago as the newly-established Landmark Commission’s legal counsel. In this role, Friedman served as an adviser to the Commission, drafting ordinances and attending hearings. In this way, Friedman was able to combine his persistent interest in Chicago’s history with his chosen career path.
Friedman brought his experience with real estate and urban affairs into private practice with Neal & Leroy. For many years, he maintained his interest in preservation issues as an early member of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (now Landmarks Illinois), and has proudly remained active in that organization.
In 1994, when SAIC’s Historic Preservation program was founded, Professor Emeritus Don Kalec called upon Friedman to develop and teach a course on the legal aspects of historic preservation.
Friedman’s long experience in the field has likewise offered him a holistic view of how much the field of preservation has grown here in Chicago. “Certainly developers are much more sensitive to the historic nature of their properties…and federal tax policy has allowed the redevelopment of many, many unusually large commercial buildings that might not have survived otherwise,” Friedman said.