Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Warm Day in April

click images for larger view (recommended)
In which the long winter has left even the trees with frayed nerves, and the branches of the ferris wheel still mostly unbloomed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Jeanne Gang updates Freud: Will Tell - Not Ask - "What Mammals Want" at the Logan Center

Sigmund Freud finally admitted he didn't have a clue . . .
The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'
Was it that he didn't know or that, push to shove, he wasn't all that curious?

Alexander Pope wrote, “The proper study of Mankind is Man” but his words became less an invocation for deepening human knowledge than a license for an geometrically accelerating stream of narcissistic rationalizations for our appetites and aggressions.  Now that our technology is giving us an unprecedented and frightening domain over the earth's ecologies, might we be better off, as we send species after species hurling towards extinction,  spending a little less time in infatuated self-contemplation and a lot more studying the living things with which we share not just the world but the fundamentals of our animal nature?

But I digress.
Studio Gang/s Peoples Gas Pavilion, inspired by a tortoise's shell,
at the Lincoln Park Nature Boardwalk

To sell a great story, a great headline is half the battle, and architect Jeanne Gang has certainly picked a provocative one for her April 28th lecture at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus.  The flyer, shown at the top of this post, sends mixed signals.  First it says seating will be first-come, first served, and then in the very next paragraph asks us us to click to respond to the invitation by April 23rd.  The flyer is a jpg, so clicking the link goes nowhere.  If we get more information, we'll pass it on.
Studio/Gang Architects, Chinese American Service League,
with titanium shingles like the scales of a dragon's skin
I have no idea what a lecture called “What Mammals Want” will be about.  Almost certainly it will nothing to do with my own musings.  But when an architect declares they are going to give a talk that has neither “Form”, nor ”Autonomy”, “LEED”, ”Theory”, “Parametricism” or even “Architecture” in its title,  and it references humans only by their parent class, well, that's a very interesting proposition.

Gang was last year's recipient of the U of C's Jesse L. Rosenberg Medal, recognizing achievement “deemed of great benefit to humanity.”  Yet, Gang will be at the Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 East 60th, at 5:15 p.m. on Monday the 28th, telling us - not about humanity - but about the Mammals.  And what they want.  And what it might have to do with us.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Inaugural Garofalo Fellow Molly Hunker shows her cards: at UIC with Myth, through May 10; at the Graham in person Monday night with Spiritual Kitsch

Last August, architect and designer was Molly Hunker, co-founder of the Los Angeles design firm SPORTS, was named as the first recipient of the Douglas A. Garofalo Fellowship, established by the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago to honor the talented architect who died far too soon in 2011.

Hunker took up residence at UIC last fall, with the plan of teaching courses, pursuing independent research, and preparing a public exhibition and lecture. That exhibition, Myth, is now up in the South Gallery of the Arts and Architecture Building at UIC, 845 West Harrison, where it runs, 9 a.m. through 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday through May 10th. The exhibition . . . 
. . . focuses specifically on the religious genre of the home shrine, re-envisioning the richly decorative and kitsch assembly through the lens of the architectural installation. . . . Myth re-envisions the home shrine through the lens of the contemporary architectural installation. The project learns from the careful collection and curation of sentimental objects commonly found in home shrines, producing an emotionally resonant experience that recalibrates contemporary notions of atmosphere and engagement.

Myth uses the decorative prayer candle as the primary object through which to explore how home shrines can provoke new understandings of visual and atmospheric opulence in the architectural interior .

The project suspends hundreds of handmade wax container - candles on cotton wicks, creating a semi-enclosed shrine-space by the accumulation of the colorful objects . While the overhead candles are geometrically simple, the candles closer to the ground are increasingly articulated with a grotesque featuring strategy inherent to the transformation of wax from liquid to solid . This articulation technique partners with a gradient of increasing color saturation and shimmering cosmetic in order to engage with a kitsch sensibility that provokes greater emotional resonance with visitors.
Tonight, Monday, April 7th, 6:00 p.m. at the Graham Foundation, 4 West Burton Place, Hunker will deliver a lecture, Spiritual Kitsch.  
The discussion will explore how home shrines and related assemblies can provoke new understandings of visual opulence and lead to the production of emotionally resonant architecture.
 More information and registration here.

Facade slices cut from pizza building - Fewer rounded brick columns at 740 North Rush in renderings for new 45-story Hyatt

click images for larger view
In anticipation of a public meeting on the project on Monday, 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly on Friday released a couple of preliminary renderings for a new 45-story, LEED-certificed hotel project pairing up White Lodging Services with developer Albert Friedman.

When Crain's Chicago Business first revealed the project in February, the site identity was pegged to 740 North Rush, the former Crain's Communications headquarters building best known as home to a very busy Giordano's pizzeria.  As now revealed by Reilly and the renderings, however, 740 isn't being slated for annihilation but truncation.  About half of its Superior Street elevation is set to be demolished for the new tower.  This is not unprecedented.  The landmark 1872 Delaware Building at Randolph and Dearborn, for example, not only had floors added to it in 1888 - several of its easternmost bays were demolished to make way for the Oriental Theater Building.
Even less lucky is the blocky seven-story stone-faced structure with three large displays on the ground floor (was it originally an auto showroom?) that currently serves as Giordano's annex.
Image courtesy Google Streetview
The Superior Street entrances to the building have been long sealed up.  It seems to be built around a central courtyard, with its footprint extending all the way north to the alley, cutting deeply into the back of 740.
image courtesy Google Streetview
It looks as if the new building will go all the way west to Wabash, which would also spell doom for two older buildings - one which until recently was home to 1492 Tapas, the other what looks to be an 1870's rowhouse housing a number of businesses including Intuition Astrology (do you think they saw this coming?)  At the corner of Wabash, there's a surface parking lot, and a small Chicago Archdiocese garage that once bore signs on the driveway reading “Thou shalt not park here”.  (Update: a reader is reporting that site does not include the buildings closest for Wabash)
Aloft, Hyatt Place, Fairfield Inn River North, HOK Architects
Friedman is expanding beyond his usual River North territory, which he transformed from a skid row of seedy bars, decaying lofts and hotels to one of Chicago's trendiest districts of upscale bars, pristinely renovated lofts and - just last year - a Friedman development of three different hotel brands - an Aloft, a Fairfield Inn, and a Hyatt Place - all sharing a single site.
A similar mashup is planned for Superior, countering the high priced Four-Star Peninsula right across the street with an extended-stay Hyatt House and mid-priced Hyatt Place.   At least in the preliminary renderings released by Reilly, the design of the new 45-story tower is numbingly generic, but at least we get to keep the delightfully funky 740 with its long arcades of three-story rounded columns done up in the same brick as the rest of the facade.  In full along Rush, in sample along Superior. 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Four Chicago Rooftop Scenes

Cuppola with birds griffins (click images for larger view)
bottle in mesh carry
Renaissance Scrabble

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Chicagoisms, Dyja, Szot, Baker, Carson, Krueck iandSexton, Kwinter, Manferdini, Metter, Tham and Videgard, Kamin, Enquist, Johnson and much more - it's (finally) The April Calendar

It's the third of the month, so it must be time for the April Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

We have another jam-packed month.  Over the next week. there's a discussion on Jane's Walk for Friends of Downtown lunchtime today,  Bolle Tham and Martin VidegĂ„rd at Crown Hall, IIT on Friday, and on Saturday afternoon at the Graham, editor Alexander Eisenschmidt will lead a panel including Penelope Dean, Ellen Grimes, Sam Jacob, Mark Linder and Jonathan Mekinda marking the publication of Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation, which is both a book (available for purchase), and a new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Next Tuesday lunchtime at the Cultural Center, Thomas Dyja, author of The Third Coast: When
Chicago Built the American Dream, will discuss The Battle for the Mecca, inside the must-see exhibition Mecca Flat Blues.  Tuesday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Metropolis editor Susan S. Szenasy will be in conversation with  Bill Baker on the Well-Oiled Machine of SOM Chicago Structural Group, while architect John Szot talks and offers up the premiere of the third and last part of his video project, Architecture and the Unspeakable, for MAS Context at the Logan Share.

Architecture and the Unspeakable 3 - TEASER by brooklynfoundry

Next Wednesday, Lisa Napoles discusses The Unrepentant Revivalist: William Carbys Zimmerman
at CAF lunchtime, where in the evening the Trib's Blair Kamin will lead a panel including SOM's Phil Enquist and Silas Chiow, Ralph Johnson of Perkins+Will and Jonathan Solomon of Syracuse University on the topic of Kamin's recent Tribune series, Designed in Chicago, Made in China.

And that's just the next week, and not everything at that.  Coming up later this month.

Architects, designers and thinkers:
David Carson, Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton, Sanford Kwinter, Elena Manferdini, Andrew Metter, Ernest C. Wong, Wright and His Assistants, Louis Sullivan and John Edelmann

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of a Modern City; the GSA rehab
on State Street; Tracking the Lost Treasures of the Auditorium; First American Skyscrapers: Chicago and New York; Chicago's Historic Hyde Park

Designing the Classical Interior, 11th Annual Midwest Bridge Symposium

This are just some of the highlights.  To learn the who, what, when and where on nearly 50 great items, check out the April Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Abandoned Building To Luxury Tower: 111 West Wacker Sikorsky's towards completion

click images for larger view
Unloaded, the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter looks a bit like a mutant orange insect:  big head, long spine, spiky tail, no body.  The S-64 is a “heavy-lift” helicopter, meaning it can carry up 20,000 pounds of payload hung from that taut spine - everything from cargo to a 2,650 gallon tank to hold retardant for fighting brush fires.

A Sikorsky S-64 put in a very noisy appearance along the Chicago river Saturday.  There were some last bits of metal to be hauled up to the roof of 111 West Wacker.  The building was topped out last October, the tall red crane that had clung to its full height dismantled the following month.  So if it was too big for the freight elevator, bring in the copter.
The Clark Street bridge was closed off as trucks brought in the parts and crews attached them to long ropes dropped from the S-64 for the careful trip to the roof.

The airlift was kind of an impromptu celebration of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in Chicago construction history.  111 West Wacker started out all the way back in 2006 as Waterview, an 80-story tower combining a four-star Shangri-La Hotel with luxury condos.  The projects architects/engineers - Teng and Associates - made the fatal mistake of deciding to also be the developer.  Bad move.  Construction halted when continuing financing failed to materialize and checks stopped clearing, and the 2008 economic crash sent the structure into what seemed to be an game-ending code blue, leaving behind bare concrete bones truncated at the 25th floor.
Waterview became the cautionary eyesore on the river, exposed and decaying, year and year.  Then, in 2011, the development firm Related Midwest signed a letter of intent to acquire the site and the stub structure  for somewhere around $26 million.  The hotel was cut, the tower shortened to a 60 stories, and a second groundbreaking ceremony was held in November of 2012 - on the 28th floor.

Although the company has also recently completed a new apartment tower at 500 North Lake Shore Drive, Related Midwest is kind of the hermit crab of Chicago development. They've been assigned to develop a plan for the historic Lathrop Homes public housing site.   In addition to 111 West Wacker, Related took on three failed condo buildings in the Central Station development designed by Pappageorge Haymes, with all the buildings rebranded.  Museum Park Place 2 became Harbor View, One Museum Park West became The Grant, and 1600 Museum Park, the most irremediably lunkish of the designs, rechristened Adler Place.
The Adler
Once Related took over Wateview, they renamed it 111 West Wacker and handed the design over to New York-based architects Handel Architects, whose large-scale work can be found across the U.S.,and in Asia and the Middle East.  Handel dumped the castellated crown Teng Associates had designed for their taller tower in favor of  sculpting the redesigned building with a “recessed glass ribbon” to carve up the curtain wall into “a series of interlocking blocks.”
845 North State at Chestnut, image via Curbed Chicago
Incising the curtain wall to break up the monotony of a tower's facade seems to be on its way to becoming the new cliche in high-rise construction.  It's already been appropriated by Solomon Cordwell Bunez for their new residential tower rising at 845 North State, which also incorporates another trendy feature from bKL's GEMS World Academy at Lakeshore East -  vertical strips to articulate the facade . . .
GEMS World Academy - photograph: Bob Johnson
. . . although while the strips at GEMS are crazy-quilt colorful, those at 845 North State are desaturated to a less punchy grayscale.
The plywood strip along the west facade at 111 West Wacker . . .
 . . . still needs to be zipped up with glass, but the curtain wall is finally wrapping around the concrete honeycomb of the original 25-story base that remained bare even as the shiny tower rose above it.
 “It's not perfect”, to pre-empt Blair's usual phrase, but 111 West Wacker is shaping up to be a striking - if unadventurous - addition to the Chicago river skywall.

Read More:

Waterview Has Risen From the Grave!
The Three Red Cranes of 111 West Wacker

111 West Wacker's Red Crane Flies the Coop

Cranes (No) Chicago Business

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond Superhighways and Supertalls: Jan Gehl's The Human Scale, at the Siskel Saturday and Wednesday

Saturday is filling up.  Yesterday, we reminded you of tomorrow's 11:00 a.m. open-to-public ceremony for the 2014 Richard H. Driehaus Award to Italian architect Pier Carlo Bontempi.  Now we've got another great event.  Late that day, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., the Gene Siskel Film Center will be presenting the first of two screenings (also April 2nd at 6:00 p.m.) of the 2013 documentary The Human Scale . . .
The future of Earth is cities, but which future will we choose? 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, with 80% expected by 2050. Using the ideas of visionary Danish architect Jan Gehl as a jumping-off point, this lucid and engaging documentary investigates the possible scenarios offered by cities around the globe, from Bangladesh’s car-choked Dhaka to pedestrian-friendly Copenhagen to New York’s recently transformed Times Square to earthquake-leveled Christchurch. The results are varied, but the film’s case is compelling and convincing: the suburban, car-oriented culture of the past is a dead end, and the road to a sustainable future lies along bike paths and walkways.

Gehl has spent his career remaking cities and their public spaces to be attuned less as engineerings for circulation and development and more for human needs, as reflected in the title of his first book, 1971's Life Between Buildings, carrying through to his latest volume, How to Study Public Life.  His firm has prepared studies on urban interaction for cities from Christchurch to New Zealand, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, New York  and London, with the reclaiming of urban streets for bicycles and pedestrians an ongoing theme.

The Human Scale's Rotten Tomatoes rating is 56% from critics, and 81% from the public.  Even the film's advocates describe it as  being a little dry, so don't go in expecting an urbanistic thrill ride, but as a visual portrayal of Gehl's ideas, it looks well worth checking out.