Friday, December 30, 2005

Cuno and Rosa, Linder and Waro Kishi on January Chicago architectural events calendar

The new year starts off with nearly 30 Chicago architectural events, including a conversation with Art Institute President and new Architecture and Design curator Joseph Rosa, lectures by Mark Linder and Waro Kishi, new exhibits at the Graham and Chicago Architecture Foundation, an appreciation of the great Alfred Caldwell, and a new film on Mies van der Rohe at the Music Box. Check it all out here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Archeworks ArcheCircle Campaign Underway

Archeworks, the Chicago alternative school founded in 1994 by Stanley Tigerman and Eva Maddox to provide an education that addresses the ethical and social aspects of architecture and design, is in the midst of its ArcheCircle fundraising campaign. $10,000 gets you Project Benefactor status, or for $5,000 you can become a Distinguished Patron, with other contribution levels ranging down to $125, which makes you an ArcheFriend, or smaller amounts, which make you a contributor. The campaign helps cover the gap beween tuition revenue and the cost of running the school. Donations can be made through the usual channels, or on the website.

New York Times' Ouroussoff on Charlie Rose Tonight

Via Archinect, here's a heads up that the New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff is scheduled to appear with Charlie Rose on PBS tonight. Check your local listings. In Chicago, as will surprise no one familiar with the bargain-bin ways of the city's flagship public television station, WTTW, there's unlimited room for Nicholas Perricone and rock stars in their dotage, but none for Charlie Rose - he's banished to WYCC, the station of Chicago's public college system, where his show runs at 11:00 P.M. On many area cable systems, you can also catch Rose on Indiana's WYIN, which runs the show at 10:00 P.M. CST, and, if its usual schedule adheres, will repeat it tomorrow at midnight. Be forewarned, finally, that Rose has a habit of bouncing architectural guests like so many bad checks whenever breaking news intervenes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sweeter than Chocolat, Casanova offers up a visually stunning tour of 18th century Venice

King Kong and Narnia may be the big guns, but for architecture buffs, the new sly sleeper of a movie Casanova may be the biggest delight of the holiday season. The film reimagines the early life of the legendary lover as a Goldoniesque farce, overflowing with amatory deception, mistaken identity, swordplay and masked balls. And if it's directed by Lasse Hallstrom with a palpable lack of dramatic tension - the great set pieces most often amble amiably along rather than snap and crackle - if you just relax back into your seat you're liable to find it an incredibly entertaining concoction . . . (read the full article here.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Getting Back to the Root

Chicago's Lake View Presbyterian Church, a little-known 1887 gem by Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root is rescued and rediscovered in all its original, warm beauty. Read about it here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What a Big Urn You Have, Mr. Wright!

We've just received a press kit from The Westcott House Foundation, the organization behind the recently completed $5,300,000 restoration of the house of the same name, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 in Springfield, Ohio. The 4,400 square-foot house, built for luxury touring car manufacturer Burton J. Westcott, is now open for tours. The first floor living space is an unbroken 64 by 20 foot plane. combining dining, living room and library. The foundation claims the twin 7-foot-high, 350 pound urns that grace the front terrace just off a reflecting pool are the largest Wright ever designed for a residence.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bobbing for Mies - Robert Venturi at IIT

Robert Venturi comes to modernist shrine Crown Hall on the IIT campus to out Mies van der Rohe as a closet symbolist and to attempt to define the architecture of our time. Read all about it here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

FEMA threatens to demolish Sullivan/Wright cottages damaged by Katrina

Courtesy of Joan Pomeranc of AIA Chicago, here's info from AIA/Architect online and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy on the desperate efforts to save Ocean Springs, Mississippi beach houses, designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in 1890, that were gravely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Charnley cottage and guest cottage have been declared "not reasonably restorable," by FEMA, which is about to turn them over to the Army Corps of Engineers to be cleared away as rubble.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Photos of 630 North Franklin

630 North Franklin is the latest development from Brininstool & Lynch (in this case with Perkins + Will) for progressive developer Colin Kihnke's CMK Companies, which also produced Ralph Johnson's striking Contemporaine just a few blocks south. According to Emporis, the 11 story, 165 unit condo building is only the second Illinois high-rise to be built with a precast concrete structure. See the photos here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chicago, Are You Dense? Well, no, not really . . .

Demographia has issued a new report World Urban Areas, Population and Density, (Adobe Acrobat format) ranking the world's 1,117 cities with 500,000 or more people on the basis of population density. Demographia is one of the websites of Wendell Cox, whose work is often published by the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank that wraps itself in a mantle of libertarianism to advance the interests of large corporations. Similarly, Demographia is pro roads, anti mass transit, anti smart growth, and pro sprawl, which is apparently what its new survey is intended to support - its two graphs illustrate a positive relationship between low density and high incomes.

The premise is highly contestable - does the relationship represent a cause or a result? Read more about it here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Museum of Broadcast Communications Curtain Wall Going Up

The transformation of a haggard former parking garage just north of architect Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City into a new home for Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications continues with the addition of a steel support structure for a new curtain wall that will open up views into the building from along State Street. In 2004, the MBC entered into an easement agreement with Marina City Hotel Enterprises LLC, which owns the portions of the complex below the top 40 floors controlled by condo residents, allowing the museum to build out over an access ramp fronted by a low concrete wall that had scarred State Street for decades.

The MBC's new 70,000 square foot, $21,000,000 facility, designed by Chicago firm Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, Inc, in partnership with sustainable design architect Helen Kessler, is scheduled to open late in 2006. A web cam allows you to follow the progress of the construction, with new shots posted every 15 minutues.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Essential Readings on the Issue of Torture

The issue of torture in the war on terror goes to the heart of what we are as a nation. Andrew Sullivan has just published what I would recommend as a right-on analysis, in response to Charles Krauthammer's Weekly Standard piece recommending that we codify the endorsement of torture in certain cases.

Sullivan is respectful of Krauthammer's closely reasoned arguments (although Krauthammer has always reminded me of Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock's
Shadow of a Doubt, a man who thinks a world is a foul sty and is a perpetual apologist for almost any violence or injustice as long as it's done by his kind of guys), but comes to a very different conclusion. Sullivan understands that in an extreme situation (the favorite hypothetical is the "ticking bomb" scenario, where a terrorist suspect knows the location of a device set to kill thousands of people), torture might be deployed, but the transgression cannot - and should not - be indemnified.

"In order to retain fundamental American values," concludes Sullivan, "we have to banish from the United States the totalitarian impulse that is integral to every act of torture. We have to ensure that the virus of tyranny is never given an opening to infect the Constitution and replicate into something that corrupts as deeply as it wounds." I think Sullivan's analysis may be one of the most important documents of this decade. But judge for yourself, Krauthammer here, and Sullivan here.

A9 Blockview beta Offers Interesting - and Erratic - Look of Cityscape

Probably just about everyone is familiar by now with Google Maps, which allows you to find any location in the United States, zoom down to street level, and place underneath a continuous satellite photograph of the terrain. Now the search engine A9's A9 Maps has Blockview, a beta map program that includes street-level photos of the that same terrain. (Someone has actually figured out how to bring this info into Google maps, but that's another story.)

It's really designed as a tie-in to its local listings, to show "street views of millions of business and their surroundings. Using trucks equipped with digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and proprietary software and hardware, drove tens of thousands of miles capturing images and matching them with businesses and the way they look from the street." The process appears to be highly automated, and the results are highly variable - you get pictures of vacant lots, and passing shots where it's often hard to figure out what you're actually looking at.

More to the point, the coverage is highly selective. (You can click the checkbox "Mark Streets Containing BlockView™ Images " and all the covered streets are marked in blue.) As might be expected, pretty much all the streets in the Loop and its environs are covered, but Millennium Park is not. Once you get outside of the Loop, it's pretty hard to figure out the logic behind the selection. There are multiple shots of Rafael Vinoly's new Graduate School of Business on the University of Chicago campus, but there's not a shot to be found of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, just across the street. If you luck out, you may actually find a good photograph of what you're looking for, but for now A9 Blockview is more a curiosity and a crapshoot than a reliable resource. Since it's currently a beta, however, it's easy to imagine how Blockview - or something like it - could evolve into something quite useful.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tanks for the Memory

Mayor Richard M. Daley jumpstarts a Chicago Architectural Club competition that attempts to place the soul of Chicago in the city's historic water tanks. Read all about it - and see all the pictures here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Benites & Lyster edit current 306090: Regarding Public Space

Chicago architect Clare Lyster and former Chicago architect Cecilia Benites are co-editors for the current edition of the New York architectural publication, 306090, Regarding Public Space, in which "Contributors . . . challenge traditional typologies (plaza, street, park and commons)," and suggest alternatives to the traditional methodologies ("top-down master planning, singularity of design, control and reform measures, cultural and formal expressions") that were used to create them.

The 150+ page publication includes the work of 16 contributors covering projects and proposals from across the globe. Lyster and Benites' Assembled Ecologies: Infrastructure à la carte, created along with Julie Flohr, was one of six winning submissions in the Graham Foundation's 21st Century Lakefront competition last year that dealt with the issue of creating a two mile long addition to Chicago's lakefront. 306090: Regarding Public Space, priced at $11.95, is distributed through the Princeton Architectural Press, and it is also available at the Prairie Avenue Bookshop.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Archi-Tourist goes beyond Gehry to guide travelers to new Chicago architecture

John Hill, the Chicago architect behind the popular Archidose blog, has launched a noble experiment, The Archi-Tourist, that aims to provide travelers with a guide to architecture that goes beyond the usual iconic stararchitect buildings. Initially, the guide offers information on 50 projects in twelve cities across three continents.

The Chicago section currently includes nine buildings, including John Ronan's Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School, Tadao Ando's little known Eychaner/Lee House, Jeanne Gang's Kam Liu Building in Chinatown, and Jean-Paul Viguier's Sofitel Hotel. Each entry follows a standardized format, with architect name, completion date, image, map and location, as well as instructions on how to get to the building via public transpotation. If the building is open to the public, access hours are also listed.

The site is built on Wiki technology, which means that it allows others to add content. If there's a building you want to add, go to the contributor page to learn how its done.

Hill obviously can't do it alone, but if others help fill in the content, and the site is sufficiently optimized and publicized so that other sites link to it and it starts getting a decent placement in the search engines, Archi-Tourist could become an invaluable tool for tourists and architecture buffs alike - an on-line, traveler-friendly complement to local print resources such as the AIA Guide to Chicago and Chicago's Famous Buildings, as well as a self-enriching on-line community.