Monday, April 30, 2007

Last Day to Register for ULI's Conversation With Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker, President & CEO, Pritzker Realty Group, L.P., will appear at the last of Urban Land Institute Chicago's "a conversation with . . . " series this coming Thursday at the Mid-Day Club. However, today, Monday, April 30th is the last day to register, here. Strangely enough, the webpage says on-line registration is available through tomorrow, May 1st, but since I've just told you, why wait?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chicago Symphony hits the I spot, and a Farewell to Slava

In the last leg of a trifecta that's seen the resumption of concert broadcasts and the creation of Resource, its in-house record label, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is now hawking its wares for on-line download from Apple I-Tunes. The sole initial offering is a live recording of last fall's splendid performance of the Mahler 3rd, led by newly named Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink. The two-disk CD version, due in stores (what's left of 'em) on May 8th carries a list price of $19.99. The I-Tunes download costs $15.99 for the full work, including downloadable booklet, although, in typically endearing I-Tunes fashion, you can also buy the shorter second, fourth and fifth movements as individual "songs" at 99 cents each.

It's an engaging start for the CSO, which has lagged far behind other major orchestras in taking the plunge into the rapidly changing landscape of classical music distribution. We can only hope the CSO sees the wisdom, economic, promotional and just plain humanitarian, in dipping into its vast recorded storehouse of often amazing historic live performances to offer new temptations for filling up the old I-Pod.

Rostropovich Remembered. Currently, the I-Tunes classical music store is also featuring the music-making of cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who died this week one month after celebrating his 80th birthday. Allan Kozinn in today's New York Times has a wonderful appreciation of the several lifetimes that Rostropovich managed to squeeze into his scant 29,000 days on earth - think thirty-works-in-eight-concerts marathons, and his essential role as a courageous dissident laying the groundwork for a free and democratic Russia, at one point providing a home to "non-person" novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn for four years.

The obituary includes a moving Reuters photograph of Rostropovich from 1989 Berlin. In December of that year Leonard Bernstein would conduct ecstatic celebratory concerts of the Beethoven 9th on both sides of the now undivided city, but here Rostropovich is pictured a month earlier at Checkpoint Charlie, alone, sitting on a simple wireframe chair, playing his cello, as if to himself, before a small group of onlookers. A couple of reporters, cameramen, a distracted girl staring off in another direction, two small boys trying to decide what to make of it all, a young man in a sports jacket, cigarette in hand, leaning against the graffiti-splattered Wall, his head slightly bowed as he listens.

Bernstein had his chorus substitute Freheit - freedom - for Freude - Joy - as he fashioned Beethovens's great ode into a mass explosion of communal feeling, an extraordinary sense of brotherhood, of belonging, of oneness and, however faintly, the dark echo of an increasingly distant time.

Yet it was perhaps Rostropovich's own celebratory offering that proved the more eloquent - that impromptu sidewalk recital, the tiny, random audience that fell in to gawk, then to watch and to listen, revealing the true soul of freedom in the sanctity of the individual, uncollectivized, brought together in quiet congress through the poetry of music.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The New Spertus Lightens Up (Genesis 1-3)

Photos and quotes from a press preview of Krueck and Sexton's spectacular new Spertus Institute, which brings Chicago's Michigan Avenue historic district into the 21st Century. Read and see it all here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Entombment of the Plug Bug

For a decade and a half the Plug Bug has looked down at Block 37 and laughed. The creature that resembles the love child of a marriage between the Hindu God Vishnu and an L. Ron Hubbard alien, painted against the pepto-bismal background of a three-story high, open-air mural, has never been able to contain its amusement at the city's impotence to make Block 37 anything more than a square-block dirtpile since it rushed to demolish every structure on the block - save the ComEd substation on which the Plug Bug is painted - in 1989.

Finally, however, the last laugh may be dawning on the Plug Bug, itself. As you can see from the photo below, construction is actually progressing on Block 37, including both a new tower that will be home to CBS/2's street-level studio and a block-long retail complex along State Street across from the Marshall Field's/Macy's flagship store.

Like Aida and Radames, the Plug Bug has been condemned for its insolence, and is now being entombed within the newer structures going up around it. Thousands of years from now, when future archeologists pull down the last steel beams of the buildings currently rising, the Plug Bug will again be revealed, and future peoples will be amazed and perplexed as they create their own stories of what it must have meant to we lost-in-time primitives of today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

César Portela DOESN'T lecture at Instituto Cervantes Wednesday, April 25

We've just been informed by the Graham Foundation that, due to illness, the lecture by César Portela scheduled for this Wednesday, April 25th at the Instituto Cervantes has been postponed until further notice. Here's wishing Mr. Portela a speedy recovery.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

News notes from all over - John and Jeanne Rowe, Donna Robertson, Vladimir Putin, Jane Jacobs

IIT - Exelon's John Rowe and his wife Jeanne, have established the John and Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair for the College of Architecture at IIT. The first holder of the chair will be College of Architecture Dean Donna Robertson, in recognition of "her leadership of the college and celebrates how she has bridged the gap between IIT’s strong Miesean tradition and contemporary architectural ideas. "

The Closing of the Russian Mind (let's hope Karl Rove isn't listening) - this Sunday New York Times had two fairly frightening articles on Russia's march away from freedom under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. The first reports that the new owners of the Russia News Service, closely aligned to the Kremlin, have issued an edict that at least fifty per cent of the news must be "positive", opposition leaders can't be mentioned, and the US is always to portrayed as an enemy. All but a handful of media outlets are now controlled by Gazprom, the state-run oil company. Think NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN all run by Exxon - has Roger Ailes been hired as a consultant? The second talks of how Russian historical archives, opened by Boris Yeltsin, are again slamming shut, with "re-secretization" the order of the day. President Bush was heard to comment, "Hey, we're way ahead of ya."

Books - Who Needs 'em? - The Chicago Tribune has announced that, effective May 19th, its books section is being moved to the ghetto of the Saturday edition, where the circulation is not much more than half of Sunday's. In Trib PRspeak, Books has to be exiled because Sunday is "bursting at the seams with essential reading" - largely section after section of real estate ads - now that's essential reading.

The more the CTA changes, the worse it gets - Little more than a month after Mayor Richard M. Daley, with his usual inimitable charm, called reports that he was about to dump controversial CTA President Frank Kruesi “the biggest lie”, he this week dumped Frank Kruesi and replaced him with the mayor's chief of staff Ron Huberman. Huberman's reign began inauspiciously this weekend when north side Red Line riders were left stranded as northbound trains were diverted to the Brown Line tracks. While the CTA currently can't find the funds for even the most basic of repairs, not to mention meeting its pension obligations, the mayor was waxing rhapsodic about creating a new north-south line in time for the 2016 Olympics. Does Huberman have the will - or even the interest - to change the CTA's current unofficial slogan: "The CTA - what other choice do you have?"

Moses May Not Get the Last Word, After All - even as New Yorkers are stumbling over themselves to raise disgraced master builder/power freak Robert Moses back up onto his pedestal, the CAF will be hosting a May 5th symposium on the legacy of Moses arch-nemesis Jane Jacobs, "with a focus on the application of her work in present-day Chicago." Panelists will include. among others, Northwestern's Henry C. Binford and CNU's inescapable John Norquist.

César Portela lectures at Instituto Cervantes Wednesday, April 25 - EVENT POSTPONED

In an event supported by the Graham Foundation, which appears to have suspended its own lecture series even as it's reformulating its grant-making process, Spanish Architect César Portela will lecture this Wednesday, April 25th at 6:00 P.M at the Instituto Cervantes, suite 2940 in the John Hancock Center."In his lectures and through his projects," says the Instituto Cervantes' description, "Portela demonstrates his theory as the city as architecture for the citizens, interpreting one of the conditions that distinguish human beings from their surroundings."

The free lecture (no reservations required) will be given in Spanish with simultaneous English translation. Information on-line or call 312/335.1996.

IMPORTANT NOTE, due to illness, this event has been postponed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day to be Marked by Green Festival at McCormick, Mulchmania at Grant Park

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd, and it will be marked by two additions to the April calendar of architectural events.

First up, Global Exchange and Co-op America are sponsoring the Chicago Green Festival, a two day event at McCormick Place this Saturday and Sunday that will feature over 300 exhibitors and 150 speakers, including Chicago Department of Environment Commissioner Sadhu Johnston discussing efforts to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation, 4th ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle discussing affordable housing, and Jacky Grimshaw of the Center for Neighborhood Technology taking on The Crisis in Transit Funding. See the full list of speakers and exhibitions and other information here.

Also on Saturday, from 9:00 to 11:00 A.M. in Grant Park, the Grant Park Advisory Council/Grant Park Conservancy with be hosting an Earth Day Celebration with ComEd and Exelon, which is seeking volunteers to help with mulching trees and pitching in for a general cleanup. See the details here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Calatrava Spire goes before Plan Commission Today

To the Chicago Plan Commission, it may be "Residential-Business Planned Development No.368", but to the rest of us, it's Santiago Calatrava's Chicago Spire. It comes before the commission for approval today, Thursday, April 19th, during their regular monthly meeting beginning at 1:00 P.M. at 121 North LaSalle, probably in the City Council Chambers. The project's developer, Garrett Kelleher is seeking approval to:
amend the Bulk Regulations and Data Table to reduce the maximum permitted amount of commercial space and the maximum permitted number of hotel rooms, . . . the maximum permitted number of residential units would increase from 300 to 1,350 and the maximum Floor Area Ratio would increase from 10.0 to 32.0. The proposed changes would permit construction of a residential tower approximately 2,000 feet high, containing up to 1,350 residential units, and approximately 1,350 off-street parking spaces. (42nd Ward)
The smart money has the proposal, which has the blessing of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, easily winning the Plan Commission's approval. Still in question is whether or not Kelleher actually has the resources to bring the project to reality.

As part of the marketing push for the Spire, last January Santiago Calatrava also came up with a new design for the proposed DuSable Park, which is on the other side of Lake Shore Drive just east of the Spire site. No funding mechanisms were offered for the proposal, however, although Kelleher appeared to have pledged $500,000 towards an estimated final cost of $12,000,000.

In March, Kelleher and Calatrava made another pitch for the project before a special meeting sponsored by the Grant Park Advisory Council, at which Kelleher's contribution was announced as rising to $6,000,000, although the ever-evasive developer has managed not to be pinned down on a final commitment.

The city's inability to bring DuSable Park into being has been an enduring civic disgrace, exposing the lethargic underbelly of the City That Works - Sometimes, and for the Right People. The DuSable park proposal, for a three acre patch of land just south of the Ogden Slip, goes all the way back to 1987, when then-mayor Harold Washington, announced it as a way to honor Jean-Baptiste DuSable, a native of Haiti who built Chicago's first permanent settlement at what was then the mouth of the Chicago river just east of present-day Michigan Avenue.

Even as the city was spending over $200,000,000 on Millennium Park, matched by an even larger amount of corporate support, DuSable Park, despite its prime location just west of Navy Pier and relatively meager $12,000,000 budget, has been left to twist slowly in the wind, used for as a dumping ground for soil excavated for nearby high-rise projects.

For two decades, the city and the Park District have left the site, adjacent to Chicago's most popular tourist attraction and adjoining a new prime upscale neighborhood, a forlorn dump, with earth piled high into picturesque, but garbage strewn moors contaminated by radioactive Thorium, a remnant of the lakefront's former industrial history when the Lindsey Light Company used it in its gaslights to impregnate the filament-like mantles that burned to provide the light.

Everyone and his brother is weighing in on the Spire, and I'll be joining them shortly. For now, I have just one piece of advice to the city:
Get the check.
If Kelleher can come up with a billion or more to finance the Spire, he should have no trouble sorting through his pocket change to come up with a $6,000,000 good-faith commitment to fund DuSable. The city should put the screws to Kelleher to get this money, now, before they allow him to turn a single spade of soil for his gargantuan project. That way, even in the worst case scenario - Kelleher goes bust and the Spire goes unfinished - we at least get the park and DuSable finally gets his fitting memorial.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tree Studio rehab honored by Friends of Downtown

Friends of Downtown held their annual Awards Dinner Monday night, recognizing ten specific projects ranging from the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, and Joe Valerio's Michigan Avenue store for Garmin. Best new building was Booth/Hansen's 30 West Oak , Best New Public Art Madgalena Abakanowicz's Agora, Best Adapative Reuse: Hartshorne Plunkard's rehab of the Chicago and Northwestern Power Station.

Best Restoration went to Friedman Properties, for their work on the landmark 1894 Lambert Tree studios a $70,000,000 upgrading that saw a century old tradition come to an end. A trust set up by Tree reserved the Studio's for the use of artists, keeping rents low. Over the decades, residents included artists as diverse as author Edgar Rice Burroughs, sculptor John Storrs, whose Ceres gazes down LaSalle Street from the top of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and actors Burgess Meredith and Peter Falk.

With the rehab, there are no more residents at Lambert Tree. They've been replaced by such upscale retailers as Thomas Moser, Aveda, a couple of antique stores, and Pops for Champagne, transplanted from its long-time home on Sheffield Avenue. What was once artists' studios and apartments in the 1912 annex is now the headquarters for Metropolitan Capital Bank, bankers to the "emerging affluent" with millions of dollars in personal assets. Starving artists no longer need apply.

Tree's own visage can be seen in the building's ornament. A silk-stocking Democrat, he was a friend and supporter of progressive Illinois governor John P. Altgeld, and was among those pleading for clemency for the men convicted, in a highly suspect trial, of inciting the 1886 Haymarket bombing. As a Circuit Court Judge, he did his part in keeping one of Chicago's most enduring traditions alive by presiding over trials that found a number of the city's aldermen guilty of corruption. An unsuccessful candidate for both the U.S. House and Senate, he served as ambassador to Belgium, and, for a period of only one month, Russia.

Tree and his wife Anna were among Chicago's most prominent patrons of the arts. He made his fortune as a connected attorney. In a period of 18 months ending in 1867, when consumer prices, by one indicator, were less than a tenth of what they are today, his law firm had an income of $28,000. The Tree Studios were built opposite Tree's broad-lawned mansion at 620 North Wabash, replaced in 1912 by the twin onion-domed Medinah Temple, today a Bloomingdale's furniture store.

Art Institute Bertrand Goldberg Catalog completed

The Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Architecture and Design announced last week that the guide to their extensive collection revolving around the work of architect Bertrand Goldberg has now been completed. The archive, acquired through a 2002 gift from the Goldberg family, includes over 30,000 documents - over 270 linear feet of photos, drawings, sketches and the like from across the fifty-five year career of the architect of Marina City, which alone accounts for 279 entries in the catalogue. You can view information about the collection here. There's a bibliography of the speeches given by Goldberg from 1958 on, concluding with a series of four talks, including a lecture titled "Modernism: The Ghost Walks" given at IIT just months before his death in October of 1997 at the age of 84. There's also eight pages of listings of articles on his work.

Perhaps most importantly, for all those who are unlikely to be treking down to the Ryerson Library to ask for the boxes to brought down from the shelf for a quick peek, there's a link to an impressive, still-in-progress website by designer Justin Braem devoted to Goldberg's life and work. Its introduction page includes this quote:
“My message, I think, is much more important either than myself personally, or than the quick identification as the round-building architect. I am talking about the performance of people in a social system, about the performance of people in the city. I have spent a great deal of time not only studying what I have been able to discover, but to demonstrate it. I only wish there were more people who shared with me this interest in the role of architecture in society.”
The website includes a detailed description and copious photographs and illustrations on each of 42 major projects.

The Art Institute is planning a major retrospective of Goldberg's work for 2010. Ironically, by that time, one of his important buildings, Prentice Hospital in Chicago, may well no longer exist. This fall, the hospital, itself, moves to a much larger facility. Northwestern University, which controls the Goldberg property, has yet to announce plans for the stunning building, but if history is any indication, the clout-heavy institution will not be shy about using its muscle to shunt aside any obstacles to a decision to demolish, including a move for landmark designation, which Prentice does not currently have. Neither, astonishingly enough, does Marina City, which continues to undergo a series of mutilations at the hands of a new owner who is converting the House of Blues Hotel, carved out of what was originally the complex's office building - long-time home to Goldberg's practice - into a Hotel Sax.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Arquitectonica coming to Chicago

Crain's Chicago Business is reporting that Florida-based Peebles Corporation has hired Miami's Arquitectonica to design a new $215,000,000, 50-story ultra luxury condo/hotel on the current site of a Walgreens, Subway and Radio Shack at 300 North Michigan. Like Trump Tower, the Chicago Spire, and the Ritz-Carlton Residences, the project is targeted at the city's apparently inexhaustible supply of the super-rich, with prices at $800 to $1,200 per square foot and the most extravagant unit at $10,000,000. I guess you shouldn't count on Subway returning.

Also in this week's Crain's, their annual list of Chicago's largest private companies shows Evanston architect/developer David Hovey's firm Optima as having a very good year, with its revenues nearly tripling to $209 million, but not as good volume-wise as Fifield Companies, currently lobbying to demolish the Lakeshore Athletic Club, which saw revenues jump 89% to $578,000,000. They're at position 52, just ahead of Alter Group at 53.

The Psychological Acoustics of Space - Walter Murch on BLDGBLOG

As reported by John Hill's Archidose, which came in at number four, Eikongraphia has come up with what it calls MoPo 2007, the 25 most popular architecture blogs. This is not to be confused with PoMo (Poor Momentum), the list of the 125,000 least popular architecture blogs, on which ArchitectureChicago Plus lingers in dedicated obscurity.

The MoPo of MoPo's is BLDGBLOG. U of C graduate Geoff Manaugh's superdense (in the best sense of the word) blog on "Architectural Conjecture :: Urban Speculation :: Landscape Futures". The blog, which has also just been named to Time Magazine's 2007 Style and Design 100, is a compendium of Manaugh's obsessions, and it's not surprising that he found a kindred spirit in legendary film and sound editor Walter Murch, with whom he's recently posted an extensive interview.

The bulk of the interview is devoted to Murch's speculation on a connection between the Pantheon in Rome and the theories of Copernicus. Murch quotes 7th century historian Dio Cassus that the very name Pantheon comes not from a reference to the wide array of Gods originally worshipped there, but “because of its vaulted roof, it resembles the heavens.”

Murch goes on, "That powerful image of the central source of sunlight surrounded by a series of concentric circles must have been an overwhelming experience for Copernicus . . . " He cites a drawing by Copernicus, who having lived in Rome was undoubtedly familiar with one of its most famous buildings, of a system with the sun in the center, surrounded by concentric rings of the orbits of the planets. closer together towards the center, wider apart at the fringes. When Murch superimposes the drawing over an image of the interior of the Pantheon's dome by Wolfgang Wackernagel, the rings of the orbits match up to the rings of the dome almost perfectly. There's much more to Murch's arguments - from a sun-worshiping emperor Hadrian to Bode's Law - and it's worth checking out the entire interview.

Just as Murch finds mathematical ratios that are common to both building and the orbits of the planets, he has also deployed mathematics to the art of film editing - at least 14 points of view a minute for a successful action sequence, four for a dialogue sequence, but what struck me most in the entire interview is in his interest in, in his words, "how a place sounds". He talks of watching John Frankenheimer's 1966 film, Seconds, a creepy tale about getting a second chance at life in someone else's much younger body. While most of us remember that film, if at all, for the way cinematographer James Wong Howe's use of a fisheye lense gave the story a closed-in, unsettling feeling, what riveted Murch's attention was how well the film rendered the very individual acoustic of a highly unique space, Grand Central Station.

"There was just a single hand-held shot gliding down the main staircase," recalls Murch, "but accompanied by this…. bwoooaaahmmmm… the sound of that great room in all its wonderful complexity. It hit me very hard, emotionally, even though in retrospect it was quite obvious: the realization that you could join a certain tonality with a certain architectural space to create an emotion in the audience. And, if you wanted to, that you could then manipulate or distort that tonality to create a different sense of the visual space and a different emotion."

Murch relates a story about director Michelangelo Antonioni. "To familiarize himself with the acoustic space of Manhattan (where he had never made a film) he sat in a room 34 stories up in a hotel somewhere on Fifth Avenue, writing down exactly what he heard over a period of three hours from dawn through rush hour. He came up with the most wonderful metaphors for sounds that were mysterious and unfamiliar to him, but which would be run-of-the-mill to a New Yorker."

Unless they happen to be designing an auditorium, the acoustics of architecture is something that few architects seem to cultivate a knowledge of or even have an interest in. The psychology of space is something all but ignored, yet it is often decisive in how people experience a given space. There is a unique sound to the waiting room of Chicago's Union Station that, as much as the monumental scale and sunlight pouring in from skylights, defines what it feels like to be in that space. The concourses of Illinois Center are uncomfortable not only because of the physical aspects of the bad architecture, but because there is an unpleasant deadness is how sound cramps in the low-ceilinged space.

Today's emphasis on green design is now taking architecture beyond traditional modern concepts of building comfort - all cubic feet, all 72 degrees, all the time - and replacing it with a focus on the study of personal comfort. The study of the psychological effects of the acoustics of space, however, remains stuck in a pre-Copernican mode.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different - Architecture via Beuys and Klein

Via Archinect, we came across this link to a 1982 music video of artist Joseph Beuys as vocalist for a band, complete with a trio of backup singers, singing a protest song against Ronald Reagan's arms policies. The sound is more soft California rock than angry protest, but it's still fun seeing the sixty-year-old Beuys singing and swinging the mic above his head near the song's end. Because of Beuys, Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim will always be associated in my mind with the smell of lard, since the first time I visited the museum it was exhibiting a major retrospective of Beuys' work that included two massive chunks of lard in the central atrium that were impressions of an abandoned spur of an unfinished highway tunnel.

And speaking of true originals, the Beuys video is posted on the extraordinary UbuWeb site, an overstuffed attic of a museum of videos, interviews and information on avant-garde artists. Currently featured is Jonas Mekas' video on the last three days of poet Allen Ginsburg. Also new is a video of two of Yves Klein's most extraordinary performance pieces, Anthropométries de l’Epoque bleue, in which three nude models smear themselves with blue paint and make prints of their bodies against white paper, and a sequence on the making of his Fire Paintings, in which another pair of nude models are doused with water and pressed against white paper, which Klein then attacks with a flamethrower. The areas left damp by the models resists the effect of the flames, leaving silhouettes of the women's forms.

In 1961, Klein created an installation in the garden of Mies van der Rohe's Lange House called Fire Wall (Mur de feu) consisting of fifty burners in five rows of ten, and Fire Column (Sculpture de feu), a ten foot high plume of flame. Klein had a concept of architectural space that put a radical spin on Mies' classic less is more. "Space is what is immaterial," he remarked, "and especially unlimited and this is precisely what fully and unfailingly explains and justifies the development of architecture towards the immaterial for the past fifty years!" In Klein's architectural projects, air and fire demarcate roofs and walls, imparting a mystic sense of the infinite.

If you haven't checked out UbuWeb, do it now, but be warned, you may not come out again. There's everything from Apollinaire reading his poem Le Pont Mirabeau, to interviews with Marcel Duchamp, John Cage's Norton lectures, music by Mauricio Kagel, John Lennon's diary, John Ashberry reading his A Blessing in Disguise, Gertrude Stein and Ogden Nash, together again . . I must stop now, I must stop. I must stop.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

1924 Lake Shore Athletic Club Being Railroaded to Extinction?

Chicago's preservation bureaucracy appears well on the way to greasing the skids for the demolition of the elegant 1924 Lake Shore Athletic Club, designed by architect Jarvis Hunt. Its classically inspired facade fronts a richly ornamented interior, including a handsome marble staircase, two-story foyer, and carved marble fireplace. See more pictures, and read about the building and the 11th-hour efforts to save it, here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Kamin on disappearing landmarks, King on citified suburbs - two great reads

Two great reads worth checking out before they vanish into paid archive hell:

The danger of becoming skin deep - Because I've been sitting on my behind since last March's Chicago Landmark Commission vote approving the demolition of the landmark Farwell Building and pasting its saved/recreated facade onto a completely new building on its former site, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin has beaten me to the punch in taking on the decimation of the idea of landmark preservation under pressure from wealthy and connected developers. Increasingly, landmark buildings are being sliced and diced, stripped of context and laid out in a sort of architectural taxidermy.

Kamin covers both the Farwell, the facadectomy razing a series of historic, landmarked buildings along Chicago's Jewelers Row in order to create the new 59-story Legacy at Millennium Park, and the sad case of Maxwell Street, whose legendary and unruly open air market was destroyed to advance the gentrification of the area around the University of Illinois Chicago campus. A single block was retained, its historic buildings restored and polished to a level that never existed during their long, useful life, leaving behind a leering corpse, as beautiful, perfect and phony as the Main Street at Disneyland. And - wonders of wonders - the Trib actually includes a web gallery of 14 photos, with several comparing the dead and empty avenue that Maxwell Street has become with the anarchic, explosively alive market that it ostensibly commemorates. Kamin also talks about a case of preservation done right, in Burnham, Root and Atwood's 1890's iconic Reliance Building. Read all about it and see the pictures here.

Instant Urbanism - San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King offers up a sterling report on the rise of new suburbs that are less about sprawl and more about emulating traditional center city neighborhoods. "What's emerging," says King, "is a new form of the American Dream -- a new type of landscape where the lines between city and suburb blur in ever more complex ways." He looks at new suburban developments in Denver such as Belmar and Stapleton, the latter built on the site on what was formerly the city's major airport. Alleys replace driveways. Buildings hug the sidewalk. Towers rise. Instant town centers - beautiful downtown Belmar - pop up as if they were pulled out of a box of cracker jack box. Is it a sideshow or the future? Read all about it, hear King talk and see the pictures.

One Correction, one addition for SEAOI events

A correction to the calendar information for the SEAOI event this evening, Tuesday, April 10th. It will be held, NOT at the Cliff Dwellers, but at the Union League Club, with a reception at 5:30 P.M. and program, a lecture by Dr. James M. Fisher, Ph.D., PE, at 6:30 P.M. More info here.

In addition, on April 26th, the SEAOI will be conducting its fourth annual, day-long Bridge Symposium at Magianno's Little Italy, including 15 different presentations, with a keynote by Tensor Engineering's Walter Gatti. More information here.

Myron Goldsmith, Quiet Poet of American Architecture

Some followers of Mies chose to strove to be different, others competed to be the most orthodox. Myron Goldsmith chose simply to be good. Of all the architects who studied with and worked under Mies, Goldsmith may have been the most successful in faithfully absorbing Mies' basic principles and unyielding standards into a body of work that also remains completely individual.

You have only five more days to see an exhibition of Goldsmith's work at the Arts Club of Chicago, 201 East Chestnut Street. It's on display from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. daily, through this Friday, April 13th. Read about the exhibition and an appreciation of Goldsmith's career, and see the pictures, here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

WP+D Career Advancement Dinner Monday, Center on Halsted Furniture Shower Party on Tuesday

A late listing to the April calendar:

Chicago Women in Planning an Development will be sponsoring a Career Advancement Event with Steve Frederick, of Frederick Career Services, and Donna Pugh, a partner at Foley & Lardner Monday evening, April 9th, from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M. You have to register by Sunday, April 8th. More info here.

Also a final reminder that on Tuesday, from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M. the Center on Halsted will be holding a Furniture Shower for its new building designed by Gensler. More details here. The on-line Furniture Registry will be open into the summer. Donors will be able to choose the type of furniture meets their fancy, which they can buy for the Center at a wholesale price, provided as the contribution of manufacturers such as Karastan, Knoll, and Vitra, including classics like George Nelson's Ball and Sunburst clocks.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

It's official - AIA owns American architecture

Did you know that April 9th through the 14th marks the first Architecture Week in the United States? And did you know Architecture Week is apparently a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Institute of Architects?

It's another cog in the AIA's PR juggernaut marking its 150th anniversary that includes the specious and inane America's Favorite Architecture survey, which has been converted into a barnstorming exhibition that opens at its first location, the AIA's Washington headquarters, on April 11th. On April 13th, there will a rededication ceremony at 111 Broadway in New York, site of the first AIA meeting. The AIA and its PR firm, Imre Communications, also wangled a congratulatory epistle out of the White House. ""Laura and I send our best wishes," its bland four paragraphs concludes.

As a Si monumentum requiris circumspice kind of guy, I'm still pondering whether a National Architecture Week is really a good idea, but I'm pretty sure AIA's proprietary appropriation of the concept, reeking of self-serving press releases and misguided focus groups, isn't. (If you want to see how a local effort can transcend the ham-fisted efforts of the parent, check out 150 Great Places in Illinois.)

And what's Al Gore hiding at the AIA Convention? Your conspiracy theory here.

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Tinder in AIA Media Relations confirmed that former Vice-President Al Gore's address at the AIA Convention in San Antonio will be closed to the press. Tinder stated that he knew nothing about the reasons why other than it was spelled out in the contract.

Exactly when did Al Gore turn into Antonin Scalia? Exactly what is he telling the architects that the rest of us can't be trusted to hear? ("You want the truth?", the former Vice-President was heard to comment, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!") Does it have anything to do with the hostility his appearance has generated among the AIA's more dedicated troglodites?

As a public service, we hereby initiate our own "What's Al Gore Hiding?" forum where we're asking our readers to come up with their best conspiracy theories about the secrecy. The more outlandish the better. We'll even start you off:

1. Will admit the whole global warming thing is a scam to maximize his speaking fees.
2. Will warn architects to prepare for global warming causing cities in the American desert to self-combust by 2009.
3. Will unveil a new AIA initiative, based on carbon emissions trading, to create a system for the trading of permits for really bad architecture.
4. Will reveal that Frank Gehry's fondness for titanium and stainless steel is the third largest cause behind the rise in the earth's temperature
5. Will divulge his actual current weight.

OK, now it's up to you. Submit your own theories here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dumpster Diving with John Hill

Just in case you missed it, here's a link to great post on John Hill's Archidose site on Herzog & de Meuron's 40 Bond Street for developer Ian Schrager. In his best CSI-NY style, Hill digs into the trash to analyze one of the building's discarded glass sections, and discovers a sophisticating sandblasting that goes from solid at the edges to non-existent in the center, concentrating and minimizing reflected sunlight.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Architecture of Dreams and Waking

Uptown built as if it were going to conquer Chicago, but spent most of the following century battling a hangover. Today, it remains the place where florid ambition and cold reality collide. Read all about it, and see the pictures here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mazria, Lautman & Tigerman, Herreros, harbors, greystones, Chicago Modernism, furniture shower and color of light among 50 events on April calendar

April kicks the calendar of Chicago architectural events into high gear. Architect Edward Mazria discusses his Architecture 2030 initiatve to make all buildings carbon neutral. Dirk Lohan talks about his new tower at 353 N. Clark. Jong Suong Kimm and Juan Herreros lecture on their work. There's Annie Pedret discussing her new Archeworks Paper, and Victoria Lautman in conversation with Stanley Tigerman. Carl Smith discusses his book on the 1909 Burnham Plan, and Thomas Payne talks about new architecture in Toronto. The AIA and IES explore the Color of Light, while Bridgette Buckley takes on the effects of winter light on Alvar Aalto's projects in northern Finland. There's a conversation with Mesirow's Richard Stein, and SOM's Roger Frenchette talks about the zero-energy Pearl River Tower in China. And did I mention the Chicago Modernisn Show and Sale, or the furniture shower for the Center on Halsted?

But why try to cover it all in an introduction? These are just a few of the over 50 events on the April calendar. Browse the complete who, what, when and where, here.