Monday, April 10, 2006
Lagrange outstretches palms on Prairie
Reporter Laura Putre and the neighborhood newspaper Chicago Journal scored a scoop last week in publishing early renderings of a proposed development to be designed by Lucien Lagrange south of the Loop. The project, dubbed 1712 S. Prairie by its developer Keith Giles, would consist of two towers, one 33 stories tall, the other 45, offset above a shared podium.
Lagrange has made his mark as Chicago's architect to the affluent, creating a series of backward-looking projects like 65 E. Goethe and the truly execrable Elysian Hotel & Residences, a sixty-story mishmash where "The style incorporates both Second Empire and Art Deco motifs . . . ," including a carriage courtyard so retrograde in design it will let the projects monied residents imagine they've just crushed the Commune. Such projects reinvite Ruskin's judgement of "an architecture in which intellect is idle, invention impossible, but in which all luxury is gratified, and all insolence fortified."
Every so often, however, Lagrange is hired by a developer who sees architecture as something more than a masked ball, and his office comes up with something like the now stalled concrete and glass tower that was to built behind Michigan Avenue's Fourth Presbyterian Church, or a true masterwork of recent Chicago architecture, Erie on the Park, done for developer William Smith's Smithfield Properties.
1712 S. Prairie is in the same mold, although perhaps not in the same league. Next to the innovative and visually striking molded terraces of Jeanne Gang's new Aqua tower, the way Lagrange expands or contracts his terraces to have the profile of his buildings appear to "tilt" outward like outstretched palms seems a little too linear and foursquare. Still, I'll take it over the Pinnacle any day.
The Chicago Journal article also includes a good overview of the battle that may be shaping up as to whether the project is appropriate for its historic Prairie Avenue district. One group, Prairie District Townhomes, is opposed, while proponents include both the Great South Loop Association, and the Glessner House Museum, which, coincidentally or not, has just received a commitment from the developer for a $600,000 gift.
(Click on time for permalink) 12:01 AM