Saturday, January 31, 2009

Will the buzzards begin to circle? Chicago Landmarks Law ruled unconstitutional

In 2007, the preservation group Landmarks Illinois presented 115 year old Chicago real estate firm Draper and Kramer with an award for its "restoration and preservation accomplishments throughout the City of Chicago." Yet over the last decade, one of Draper and Kramer's most senior executives, Vice President Albert Hanna, has waged a relentless campaign to destroy the city's power to protect Chicago's irreplaceable architectural heritage through the landmarking process.

On Friday, Hanna scored a major victory. As reported this afternoon by Crain's Chicago Business, a three judge panel of the Fifth Division of the 1st District of the Illinois Appellate Court, which covers Cook County, ruled the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance, which has withstood all legal challenges since 1968, is invalid, sending Hanna's case challenging it back to the Cook County Circuit Court. According to Crain's, the ordinance will remain in effect until the case faces its final resolution.

The court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional because it found the seven standards used to determine whether a building qualifies for landmarking are too vague. You be the judge:

Criteria for Designation of Chicago Landmarks
A. In considering a building or district for potential landmark designation, the
Commission on Chicago Landmarks (a nine-member board appointed by the Mayor) is limited in its consideration only to the following seven criteria, as established in the Municipal Code of Chicago (Sect. 2-120-620):

1. (Critical Part of City’s Heritage) Its value as an example of the architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social, or other aspect of the heritage of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, or the United States.

2. (Significant Historic Event) Its location as a site of a significant historic event which may or may not have taken place within or involved the use of any existing improvements.

3. (Significant Person) Its identification with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social, or other aspect of the development of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, or the United States.

4. (Important Architecture) Its exemplification of an architectural type or style distinguished by innovation, rarity, uniqueness, or overall quality of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship.

5. (Important Architect) Its identification as the work of an architect, designer, engineer, or builder whose individual work is significant in the history or development of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, or the United States.

6. (Distinctive Theme as a District) Its representation of an architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social or other theme expressed through distinctive area, districts, places, buildings, structures, works of art, or other objects that may or may not be contiguous.

7. (Unique Visual Feature) Its unique location or distinctive physical appearance or presence representing an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood, community, or the City of Chicago.

A potential Chicago Landmark must meet at least two of the above landmark criteria.

B. It also must meet an additional “integrity” criterion as specified in the Municipal Code (Sect.2-120-630). It must have “a significant historic, community, architectural or aesthetic interest or value, the integrity of which is preserved in light of its location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and ability to express such historic, community, architectural, or aesthetic interest or value.”
Yet the court said, “We believe that the terms ‘value,’ ‘important,’ ‘significant,’ and ‘unique’ are vague, ambiguous, and overly broad." To anyone who attempts to evaluate art, these terms are anything but vague - they are indispensable. The ruling may be less a matter of good law than a commentary on the corrupt system that Illinois uses to select judges.

Although the Crain's report describes the ruling as coming from a three judge panel, the website of the Illinois court system actually lists four jurists for the Fifth Division.

Two of them, Margaret O'Mara Frossand and Michael P. Toomin, have consistently been rated from "Qualified" to "Highly Qualified" by the various groups evaluating judges seeking election.

The other two, however, are poster children for Cook County's politically compromised judiciary. As recounted by the Chicago Council of Lawyers, John P. Tully, whom they called "an embarrassment to the Illinois bench," was charged with seven counts of misconduct in 1990 for such deceptive campaign tactics as running ads calling himself "Highly Qualified and Endorsed" despite the fact that every major bar association found Tully "Not Qualified." According to the Council, Tully said he was "Highly Qualified" because he felt he was highly qualified and that he was "Endorsed" because voters cast ballots for him.

The ruling overturning the Landmarks Ordinance was written by James Fitzgerald Smith, who the Council has consistently found "Not Qualified", saying, "Lawyers report that he is extremely pro-landlord in his duties" and that his "lack of fairness and respect for the rule of law render him not qualified for election to the Circuit Court." According to the Chicago Reporter, in 2002 Smith received "not recommended" or "not qualified" ratings from seven of the 12 Chicago area bar associations. According to the Chicago Reporter, the Sun-Times reported that Smith lost an 1992 election as "James G. Smith", but won in 1994 running as "James Fitzgerald Smith."

The implications of the ruling remain unclear. Crain's quotes a Chicago Law Department spokesman as saying, barring a reversal, sending the case back to Circuit Court may effectively invalidate the landmarks ordinance. The spokesman says the city is "considering" appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Trib's Blair Kamin has a long post where he begins by deriding the Crain's report as "a grotesque exaggeration" but then concedes the story's importance by launching into an extensive refutation of the primary claims of the ruling, which he calls "a dagger at the heart of Chicago's landmarks law and measures like it around the nation."

Surely, the ruling has left many developers salivating over the prospect of eviscerating perhaps the strongest check on Chicago's corrupt zoning appeals system, where the law applies only to the suckers unable to hire one of the city's politically connected zoning lawyers. (viz. James J. Banks, who just happens to be the nephew of Zoning Committee Chairman alderman William Banks.)

Crain's quotes the dean of zoning lawyers Jack ("no one comes to Chicago to see short buildings") Guthman, the legendary, high-powered attorney who recently announced his retirement, as saying the ruling leaves all of Chicago's landmark areas vulnerable. "They are all compromised," Guthman says, whether in despair or scarcely concealed glee is not reported.

Local preservationists are refusing to panic. "We have talked to some legal people who know this case" Landmarks Illinois President Jim Peters tells Blair Kamin, "and they have said that technically [the ruling] doesn't invalidate the landmarks ordinance"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Small Colorful Victory on the Loop L

After yesterday's post and subsequent discussions about the clear plastic garbage bags in the subways, and the swell of comments supporting them, I'm almost reluctant to put up this item praising the changes at the State-Lake station on the Loop "L", fearing that you, dear readers, in the spirit of yesterday's discussion, will just reply, "It stinks!"

But what the hell . . .

As Graham Garfield's invaluable website relates, the State-Lake station is one of the city's oldest, dating all the way back to 1895, and actually predates by a couple of years the completion of what has come to be known as the Loop "L". The first of many renovations took place in 1913, leaving only the outer walls of the station houses.
As can be seen in the above photo, stolen borrowed from the website, for over a century, those walls remained. The operable old windows of the formerly enclosed station house were a great place to take pictures of the various parades heading down State Street.
So, I was royally p.o.'d a couple of months ago to discover the north windows had been replaced with a shear wall of what appeared to be locked plywood cabinets, and was all set to express my anger in the usual splenetically crafted post. Fortunately, my talent for procrastination meant that before I wound up getting to it, a rehab was unveiled that, while trashing those 100 year-old walls, brings a new openness and splash of color to the derelict station.
On both the north and south sides of station, there is now an almost continuous strip of window panes and, below them, another strip of light panels that actually change color in animated rotation.
No, it's not cutting edge either as architecture or art. The window strips are starkly generic, the light panels pretty rudimentary. Given, however, the abject, abandoned-in-time, flaking paint stations such as at Randolph and Wabash, the update to State-Lake is a definite civic improvement, and the cheery, sliding strips of color a welcome relief to the dark gloom of a Chicago winter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicago: The Olympic City That So Loves its Trash it Puts it on Display

Most people see garbage - paper, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, rotting peels and worse drizzled with rivulets of exotically colored sauce of unknown origin - as refuse. The bureaucrats at the CTA see it as high art.

That's the only possible explanation for their inexplicable move to collect the garbage at the agency's subway stations in painfully clear plastic bags. I can't believe it's been over three years since I first wrote about the bags popping up along the blue line. Naively, I believed that this idea was so appallingly bad that it would be immediately apparent to anyone still emitting brain waves, and would be quickly remedied.

But there's no underestimating the bureaucratic brain, and the deployment of clear bags actually appears to be expanding, mucking up even the brightest of stations. Could anyone explain to me what the point is? And please don't say it's a security measure. What easier way to conceal a destructive device than in a discarded newspaper? How can it be a security measure when traditional closed receptacles still stand only yards away?
How impressed Olympic officials must be when they tour Chicago's subways. Joseph Cornell would be green with envy (or maybe just from nausea). How perfectly the found objects in an overstuffed clear plastic garbage bag express Chicago's consumerist, commuterish angst, especially when hanging from a column rotting with dribbling rust. World class all the way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Preservation Chicago Unveils Chicago 7 '09 Monday, January 26th

In an event that is open to public, grass-roots activist group Preservation Chicago will be announcing its 2009 version of the Chicago 7, their list of "Chicago's Most Threatened Historic Places" Past nominees that have been successfully saved include the Art Deco Veseman Building, 444 North LaSalle, now the English Pub, the Wicker Park Commercial District, Cook county Hospital and the American Book Company Building.

Preservation Chicago Executive Director Jonathan Fine will announce each 2009 Chicago 7 designation, which will be presented in oversized full-color photos and maps indicating their location, and talk about it's importance and the threat currently being faced.

Again the event is open to the public, and it will take place Monday, January 26th, 2009 from 12:15 to 12:45 in the John Buck Lecture Hall, just off the atrium lobby of the Santa Fe Building, 224 South Michigan.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Transparency Comes to Washington - via Krueck and Sexton

The Architectural Record has a nice article by Zach Mortice on NoMA Square 73, a handsome Tishman Speyer office complex designed by architects Krueck and Sexton. In a town known for classical architecture and lots of granite, NoMA's 12 story towers, at 1100 First Street, NE, are clad in glass. The first of towers, now nearing completion, angles outward as it rises, re-animating the basic glass box by stretching the top corner away from the standard right angle. Mirrored by a twinned second building to come, the two towers, according to Mark Sexton, will impart a sense that they "orbit each other." You can see a lot more images on the Krueck & Sexton website here. (It's Flash, so navigate to Current/Projects/NOMA.)
The project is about a mile north of the U.S. Capitol, and a block from the tracks that lead into the Daniel Burnham-designed Union Station. It lies within what has come to be known as the NoMA Corridor, 5o city blocks of largely undeveloped land that is to projected to eventually include over 16,000,000 square feet of new office space. (NoMA, by the way, refers, not to an aversion to motherhood, but to "North of Massachusetts Avenue.")

NoMA Square 73 also presents a stark contrast to its neighbor, the hunkered-down new headquarters for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, designed by Moshe Safdie in compliance with guidelines created after the 1995 destruction by car bomb of the Alfred P Murrah Building in Oklahoma City that resulted in 168 deaths. As we've written previously, the BATF's "curtail wall" is of concrete so thick engineers had a hard time finding a place to put the plumbing and wiring. A 30 foot high concrete screen curves around two sides of the building. The BATF was a monument to fear. Let's hope NoMA Square 73 is a sign that we've resolved, without compromising our resolution, to finally crawl out of the bunker.
Krueck and Sexton may be building an ongoing D.C. presence. Blair Kamin reported in December that the firm has also been named finalists, in a field that includes Frank Gehry, in a competition for the design of a Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, just south of the National Mall. You can see the site on Krueck and Sexton's website here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Out of Adversity: Diversity? Lifting the Plague of Bank Branches

One of the caustic urban side effects of the last decade's irrational exuberance was the way competition among superbanks, clamoring to stake out a national presence, created an explosion of new branches that descended onto the retail streets of America's cities like locusts.

The upside was that this was usually accompanied either with new construction or the major rehabbing of the buildings in which the branches were placed. The downside was the way financial institutions threw money around like drunken sailors early 21st century bankers, driving out long-term local businesses unable to match the elevated rents the banks were willing to pay. Retail Traffic has reported that at their peak, banks were paying 30 to 40% over the going retail rental rates. It was not uncommon to find bank branches taking over two or more corners of a busy intersection; not unheard of to find them on all four.

If you walked into many of the branches, you would find a minimum of activity taking up a maximum of space. The branches seemed to function less as functioning offices than as giant billboards whose signage was designed to suck in deposits and insinuate the brand's name into the eyeballs of as many people, in as many places, as possible.

It was a throwback to the bubble, when company after company (remember convinced gullible analysts that their ever increasing losses were a promising byproduct of increasing market share. With few exceptions, however, when investors reached into the supposed pot 'o gold at the end of that rainbow, they found themselves clutching only I.O.U.s and a tarring grime of debt that wouldn't wash off.

You can't see it on their polished facades, but that same tar now smothers the branches of all those failed banks. Crain's Chicago Business is reporting on Monday that JP Morgan Chase is closing 57 branches of Washington Mutual, the no-fees, no questions, no liquidity bank that was careening towards collapse until Chase acquired it. And WaMu, which had already closed 25 Chicago branches in 2008, still has 60 branches left. Imagine: 120 storefronts gone empty in a space of a couple months.

As late as 2004, as Crain's reported, there were no fewer than 2,300 bank branchs in Metro Chicago, an 82% increase from ten years before. At the start of this year, there were nearly 100,000 nationwide. Walking our city's streets, you'd be forgiven for having the impression that America's primary industry was moving money around. (And up until a couple months ago, you may have been right.)

Analysts are expecting that, in many cases, the abandoned branches will simply be taken over by surviving banks looking to expand their local presence. When a failed bank is taken over by another bank not previously active in its markets, most branches will be converted rather than closed. And many of those that are shuttered may prove tempting to national retail chains able to get prime locations at a relative bargain.

Still, with bank consolidations continuing, the branch bubble has definitely burst, and many of the closed branches will probably remain vacant. Dark windows, like broken glass, are not a good thing. Someone, a private company, the city - or Craigslist - should set up a clearinghouse to match cheap, clean, empty storefronts with entrepreneurs with fresh ideas for reinvigorating the life of Chicago's neighborhood arteries.

Archidiocese to St. Boniface: Die! Die! Die!

In Rome, old churches are sacred repositories of a continuum of spirituality. In Chicago, they're a real estate play.

Although the Chicago Archdiocese has come a long way from the of rank corruption of the time of John Cardinal Cody, the manner in which it runs its real estate empire remains an amalgam of arrogance and common avarice. Over the past decade, it has begun wrecking closed churches without a demolition permit, and came within a whisker of destroying the beautiful 1923 St. Gelasius on the South Side. [NOTE AND CORRECTION: the original version of this post included this sentence: "It did everything in its power to sweep away every last stone of Holy Family, the pre-fire church on Roosevelt Road that is one of the keystones of Chicago's cultural and spiritual history," A sharp eyed reader wrote to remind me that it was not the Chicago Archdiocese, but the Society of Jesuits that held title to Holy Family and had sought its demolition. We apologize for this error.]

Now it's the turn of St. Boniface, the iconic church at Chestnut and Noble whose towers have defined the skyline of Chicago's West Town neighborhood for over a century. After leaving St. Boniface to rot for nearly two decades, all but unsecured against the ravages of squatters, weather and decay, the Archdiocese has sent out a letter announcing demolition will begin on Friday. If everything goes on schedule, by March 23rd all traces of St. Boniface will be obliterated from the Eckert Park site it has anchored since 1902.
A 2003 Archdiocese competition for ideas for the church's reuse appears to have been little more than a sham. When the adjacent school building was demolished a short time later, the Archdiocese deflected criticism by saying it had placed the facade into storage to be reused in redevelopment of the site. What do you think are the odds that facade will ever be seen again?

The Archdiocese has rebuffed all efforts to save St. Boniface, including an ongoing campaign by the Coptic church to acquire it. Back in June in 2007, the Chicago Journal reported that the Archdiocese sent out a letter stating it was "too late to begin negotiations" with the Coptic Church, yet it would be more than a year later, September of 2008, before it sent out a request for proposals for the property.

The demolition timeline, itself, raises questions. The Chicago Journal reported that the Archdiocese filed for a demolition permit last December 5th. Because St. Boniface is rated "Orange" on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey for possessing potentially significant architectural or historic features, this would invoke an automatic 90 day hold on issuing the permit - for consideration of whether it qualifies for landmarking - that would push back doomsday to at least March 5th, but who knows? Perhaps the frequently supine Commission on Chicago Landmarks has already issued a ruling decreeing St. Boniface disposable. See if you agree.
photograph: Cary Primeau

Look at the photos accompanying this post, and here, here, and here. What do you think?

Again according to the Chicago Journal, in 2005, the Archdiocese estimated the cost of stabilizing the building at $6 million. In the fall of 2008, a spokesman told the Journal the figure would be $10 to $12 million. Only months later, in December, that same spokesman was telling the Chicago Tribune it couldn't be done for less than $25 million.

The website of Saint Boniface: A Community Concerned, representing activists seeking to block demolition of St. Boniface, has raised the alarm about St. Boniface's impending doom, urging calls to the local alderman, Walter Burnett, at 312-432-1995.

But the fix would appear to be in. Barring a last-minute reprieve, a century of history will soon be wiped from the earth, the character of a neighborhood decimated for a cookie-cutter condo development, or, perhaps more likely in our uncertain economic environment, a vacant lot, a suitable monument to the profane transgressions of a sacred institution.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now it Begins . . .

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so must we think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country . . .

Monday, January 19, 2009

Muti/Obama, Chicago's Dynamic Duo of Hope

The indispensable Opera Chic has a post on her blog, from which we cribbed the above image, translating large chunks of an interview the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's new music director Riccardo Muti recently gave to the Milan daily Corriere della Sera. (if you don't speak Italian, and want to be reminded of the limits of technology, you can check out the Google Translate English language version of the story here.)

One of the greatest experiences of my life was Carlo Maria Giulini's CSO performance of the Bruckner Eighth, which left me wandering up and down Michigan in a daze for hours afterward. From the accounts of the reviewers, Muti's performance of the Verdi Requiem with the CSO last week seems to have had a similar effect on many in audience. Christopher Caldwell notwithstanding, the impact of a great work of art can never be fully realized in reproduction, but those of us who didn't make it into Symphony Center will have a second chance with the CSO's issue of a recording of the performance on its in-house Resound label later this year.

"I have known two Americas," Muti says in an interview given from his 44th floor apartment overlooking Lake Michigan. "The America I encountered when I took helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra when I was 39 years old: the old glorious America where the American flag was born, the city of Liberty Bell. Chicago is the city of the future, even in its architecture. It's like a Ferrari. Here you find Polish communities, Italians, Greeks, Mexicans: that's why the orchestra is so lively. These days the city is waiting for Obama."

Muti talks of Obama's idea of creating an American Ministry of Culture, and contrasts Europe, where cultural is heavily subsidized by government, to America "where everything is in the hands of private individuals," which he somewhat naively describes of not getting involved in programming or artistic matters.

Tell that to poor Benvenuto Cellini, the subject of Berlioz's luckness opera of the same name, which got bounced from Lyric Opera for the Pirates of Penzance during the shaky economy of 2003, and just got cancelled still again at the Met in New York, which is facing a $40,000,000 deficit next season. I imagine it's no different with the artistic bureaucracies of Europe: no matter what the system, it's always a battle to move beyond the tried and true.

It will be interesting to contrast Muti's programming in Chicago with that of Alan Gilbert, the incoming music director of the New York Philharmonic. At first glance, Gilbert's concerts for his inaugural 09/10 season (projected deficit: $3 million), which includes a new music festival and a semi-staged performance of Ligeti's opera Le Grande Macabre, seems to be setting a high standard to match. The CSO has yet to announce the details for nextl season, but there's some hope in the fact that this week's concerts bring the Chicago premiere, only weeks after its first performance in L.A., of Arvo Pärt's Fourth Symphony.

The future of CSO and Lyric and every cultural institution in Chicago and across the nation sits on the knife edge of the economic meltdown. Will it cut? Will it kill?

As we wonder how bad it can get, how long it will last, how badly we, ourselves, and our loved ones will be hurt, it is art, the imperiled "impractical", that gives us the sense of an enduring presence that transcends the sometimes deep sloughs of despair. Muti sees Obama and the CSO as partners in the audacity of hope. "America wants to be loved again," says Muti, "and I consider the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. . . as ambassadors of this new hope. Despite the fog over the lake, to me this looks like Spring".
At 10:00 p.m. this evening, Monday, January 19th, WFMT will broadcast critic Andrew Patner's conversation with Riccardo Muti. Soon thereafter, the interview should be posted as a podcast on Andrew's Critical Thinking podsite.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Future City Chicago Finals next Saturday, January 24

Architecture, engineering and planning, not to mention considerations of the built environment around them, are far from the radar of most of today's young students. As Bruce Mau Design EVP Elva Rubio reminded us in a recent talk with Blair Kamin, the time is long gone when they used to pass out to all Chicago public school students the 1920 Charles Wacker Manual promoting the vision of Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Swimming against this void is the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Richard Newhouse Program, now in its 26th year, which continues to encourage thousands of Chicago high school students to develop their interest in architecture, culminating in a usually too-short exhibition of their very accomplished work in May.

Then there's the Future City Competion, held in conjunction with National Engineers Week, which starts 'em off even younger, enlisting teams of 7th and graders and partnering them with an engineer mentor. Over 30,000 students from 1,000 schools nationwide participated in 2008. Teams are again using SimCity to create visionary cities to address this year's theme, "Creating a Self Sufficient System Within the home Which Conserves, Recycles and Reuses Existing Water Sources."
Regional judging of teams from over 30 area schools participating in the Chicago leg of the competition will be held this coming Saturday, January 24th, at UIC, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m.. The student teams' models will be on display throughout the day up through the 3:00 p.m. awards ceremony. Members of the winning team will receive prizes, trophies and gifts, and get to move on to the finals, held in Washington, D.C. during National Engineer's Week, February 15-21. The grand prize winning team earns a week at Space Camp, where they will released into a weightlessness simulator and read the work of Bruno Zevi. (oh, wait, that may be some other Space Camp.)

This Saturday's event takes place at the UIC Student Center East, 750 South Halsted. There's no admission charge, and the public is encouraged to attend to see what will undoubtedly, if past history is any guide, thoughtfully considered and highly imaginative submissions from area students.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wood Goths Invade Pioneer Court; Get Snowed.

How do you liven up what should be one of Chicago's great public spaces? Read all about Pioneer Court, J. Seward Johnson and God Bless America, his giant 3-D version of Grant Wood's American Gothic, and get inside the mind of one p-o'd moose - with pictures in abundance - here.

Chicago Streetscene: End of the Holiday Road

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Chicago and its Architecture Through the eyes of Google Books

One of the great research tools of our time is the Google Book Search project, which has made over a million books available in full-text scans, fully-searchable, and usually downloadable as (non-searchable) pdf's. The project has been controversial because of copyright issues, but perhaps the greatest value of Google Books is its treasure trove of out-of-print, out-of-copyright titles.

In terms of architecture, Google's agreement with the University of Michigan, including its school of architecture, has been especially rich in results. Here are just a few titles I've recently come across:

History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company - an exhaustive in-house history, from 1900. of the railroad that, probably more than any other, shaped Chicago and its lakefront

The Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition - offers up an exhaustive overview of the 1893 fair. The 50 cents general admission got you into pretty much everything in the fair proper, but to take in all the attractions on the famous Midway just outside the grounds would set you back a whopping $13.00.

Chicago and the Great Conflagration - an astounding work by Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin that not only offers up a massively detailed account of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire published less than a year later, but an exhaustive account, rich with particulars and statistics, of Chicago's history to that point. (We learn, for example, that in 1837, the year of the city's incorporation, Chicago was still very much a frontier town, with adult males outnumbering females by a factor of over 2 to 1. The new "city" had a grand total of 492 buildings, with a total evaluation of $236,842, and a total tax levy of $5,905. No TIF's)

Some Chicago Buildings, Represented by the Work of Holabird and Roche, from the April, 1912 Architectural Record, authored by Franz Winkler.

The overview is generously illustrated, including the photos posted here. I had always known that Chicago's most famous department stores - Burnham's Marshall Field store, Sullivan's Carson, Pirie Scott, and the Boston Store (now Sears) - had been built in stages, but I was unaware that the same was true of other great Chicago department stores, now forgotten.
When you look at the former Goldblatt's, former Rothschild store on State Street, now DePaul Center, it looks like a single building, but it was built in stages.
The same was true about the Mandel Brother's store, later Wieboldts, at State and Madison. The advantage was obvious. Business could continue in the older store, pictured to the right, while the new store was being constructed. Once the new tower was completed, the old store at the corner was demolished for another tower mirroring the first, resolving in appearance as a single building.

Finally, from still another Google Book, here's an under-construction view of William LeBaron Jenney's New York Life Building, subject of a long landmarking fight that dragged on until the developer obtained the right to build a new tower that will demolish the back end of Jenney's design.

For scholars - and dabblers like myself - the Google Book project is an invaluable resource.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Bad News for Architects; Good News from Hyde Park

We knew there had to be fall-out from the implosion of the economy, but now we're starting to get quantification on just how bad it is. Just in time for Christmas eve, Crain's Chicago Business published a report on cuts among Chicago's architectural firms, with Solomon Cordwell Buenz downsizing by about 25%, DeStefano+Partners by 10% (in conjunction with 10% salary cuts for the survivors), OKW Architects by 30%, and SOM/Chicago shedding 100. The Architectural Record has a similarly dismal report, with a notable exception. Perkins+Will spokesman Howard Weiss says there have been no pink slips among the firm's 1,750 person workforce.

Better news from Hyde Park, where a grant for an undisclosed sum from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, with the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference as fiscal agent, is bankrolling the establishment of the Southside Preservation Action Fund, which expects to soon be providing small financial grants to cover expenses and/or professional services for projects such as historic research, photographic documentation, public lectures and tours, recorded interviews and oral histories, mediation, and the like.

Friday, January 02, 2009

O'Hare, Farnsworth, Tiffany, Lautner, Power Plants, Birds' Nests, Black Boxes and more on January Calendar

The holidays are over, the real world again asserts. And the rich selection of architecture-related events in Chicago again ramps up, with over three dozen items on the schedule for January.

There are new exhibitions on Hedrich Blessing's photographs of O'Hare, at CAF, with a curator talk by Charles Waldheim, and a discussion of a half century of Murphy/Jahn work at the airport by the firm's Tom Chambers. There's Mid-Century Modern Design Drawings at ArchiTect Gallery, and an interactive installation and exhibition of the work of Jimenez Lai at the Extension Gallery. AIA covers the restoration of the Cultural Center's Tiffany Dome, and SEAOI takes on the Structural Engineering of Power Plants.

Keith Besserud explains SOM's Blackbox Group's exploration of forces and form, also at AIA. APA takes on trees. There are lectures by Carl Smith at AIA and Jill Van Newenhizen at the Chicago History Museum marking the 100th anniversary of the Burnham Plan. CAF has a new film on the life and work of John Lautner. On the Mies front, Gunney Harboe discusses restoring the Robert F. Carr chapel at IIT, for CAF, and Whitney French talks about flooding at Farnsworth House for Landmarks Illinois. There's a new film on Herzog and de Meuron's Beijing Bird's Nest, at the Gene Siskel. And . . . as the story goes . . . much, much more. Check out all the events on the January calendar here.