The Erlanger House was designed by Jack Baker in 1964 for his client Margaret Erlanger, a University of Illinois dance instructor. The house was designed to fit Ms. Erlanger's needs as a dance instructor. The plan was open to allow for performances during social gatherings. The exterior of the Erlanger House is rather irregular for the neighborhood but it manages to blend nicely into the area. The home was designed in the International Style. Key stylistic features included in the Erlanger House include a simple, unadorned façade; no decorative detailing at the cornice, and around doors and windows; a restrained material palate using only brick, steel, glass, and wood; rectilinear geometry; a flat roof; and windows made up of large panes of glass with metal casements that are flush with the wall surface. The façade of the Erlanger House is bare and simple, with no extraneous decoration or ornamentation. The building is built of a buff Chicago common brick. The house is symmetrical and the front façade has a large brick cube in the center flanked on either side by floor-to-ceiling slits of glass. The entrance is not obvious, as it is not placed on the center axis.
Although the Erlanger House appears simple and lacks ornamentation, Jack Baker was purposeful and intentional in his simplicty. Empahsizing the qualities of materials was important for Baker and he emphasized them whenever possible. In this design such a consideration is evident where the glass meets the brick. The brick continues through the glass as if the glass doesn't exist. On the interior, the large cube transitions into a courtyard that brings natural light into the primary living space. This courtyard also balances integration with the site with privacy, a necessary balance in this relatively dense neighborhood. The interior living space and the exterior courtyard space inside the cube are only separated by a thin pane of glass. The transition between the interior and exterior space is seamless; the spaces elegantly flow together to become one, connecting interior domestic space with the outdoors. A sunken conversation pit sits adjacent to the private courtyard in the living room. The rear facade of the house consists of a large sheet of glass which provides the majority of the light in the house. Jack Baker designed the house to require little maintenance as per Erlanger's wishes. The careful placement of windows allows for passive heating and cooling, minimizing the energy consumption. There are no windows on the east and west sides. When Ms. Erlanger died in 1975, the house was bequeathed to the University of Illinois School of Architecture.
The Erlanger residence, at 303. W. Indiana, was the first of a number of homes in Champaign-Urbana designed UIUC Architecture professor Jack Sherman Baker. Baker, who was born in Champaign in 1920, designed this house for noted UIUC dance professor Margaret Erlanger. Located in the Von Doran section of Carle Park, the house is notable for being designed for privacy and low maintenance. The narrow profile of the townhouse was designed to preserve privacy within a neighborhood with large adjacent homes. As with the Garvey House, the Erlanger House was a node in the Champaign-Urbana avant-garde scene during the mid-1960s. Sal Martirano, the long time resident of Garvey House, was a close associate of Erlanger. Famous choreographer Merce Cunningham, and his long time partner, avant-garde composer John Cage, frequently stayed at the house. Cunningham was the first dancer-in-residence at UIUC and returned frequently to campus.
Erlanger was a key figure in the internationalization of the Illinois Dance program. She trained with Margaret H’Doubler at the famed Wisconsin dance department and was positioned to succeed her. However, by the time H’Doubler retired, Erlanger was already established at Illinois. Erlanger came to Illinois when the dance department was still part of the Physical Education department. Erlanger was neither a performer nor a choreographer. She saw herself as an educator and her mission was to develop students and to develop the dance program. The model Erlanger created at Illinois set the standard for public colleges and universities. She was also successful in raising the profile of dance and making it a peer of music, visual art, design, creative writing, etc. Erlanger was known for being a gracious host, both to visiting artists and students and other faculty on campus. She hosted Sunday afternoon teas at the house that were open to students, faculty and community members.