Sunday, October 31, 2010

Adrian Smith, Venturi and Scott Brown, Victor Margolin, Thomas Jefferson, Columbia College Media Center and Urban China - it's the first week of November events!

Since it's not yet Thanksgiving, it's way too early to expect the November Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.  However, there are so many great events just this first week, we wanted to bring them to your attention:

On Monday, November 1st at 6:00 p.m., at the Graham, co-curator Martino Stierli will be talking about their new exhibition, Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown(click images for larger view)

On Tuesday, the 2nd at 6:00 p.m., at Columbus Auditorium of the Art Institute, Victor Margolin will be talking about Design and the Risk of Change.  At CAF's lunchtime lecture at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, the 3rd, John H. Waters will be discussing Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Private and Public America, and at 6:00 p.m. at Crown Hall at IIT, Adrian Smith will be lecturing on Towards the Zero-Energy City.

Thursday, November 4th has Alica Berg talking about Columbia College's new Media Center, designed by Studio/Gang, at 12:15 p.m. at the Cultural Center, for Friends of Downtown, and on Saturday, November 6, 10:00 a.m., to noon - UIC professor Alexander Eisenschmidt will be conducting coffee and conversation after taking participants through the Museum of Contemporary Art's new Urban China: Informal Cities exhibition.

There are already nine events on the calendar for this week, and you can get the details on all of them - plus everything else we've got in the calendar in its nascent state - here.  Or, if you're  really impatient, you can check out the Blueprint's monthly calendar of events here.

News of the Weird: Chicago Architecture descends into Halloween's Dark Night

The webs had already begun to be spun . . .
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undernourished victims began hanging around . . .
weird creatures began to awaken . . .
an unearthly glow curled through the subways . . .
and the purplish protoplasm of Dr. Frankenstein's monster pulsed up through the donaldish spire . . .
while ghost towers stalked the streets, half clad in sheets, neither dead nor alive . . .
Misplaced holidays haunted the rialto . . . 
and at last  it grew impossible to tell what was more frightening - this beastie . . .
or the dark, creepy castle it had made its aerie . . .
Happy Halloween!

Chicago Streetscene: President Obama goes to Dinner

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicago Skyscene: Dark Tower

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Opening Reception Tonight - Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

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Tonight, Thursday, October 28 from 6:00 to 8:00 there will be an opening reception for the Graham Foundation's new exhibition, Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, which runs at the Graham's Madlener House home, 4 West Burton Place, through February 19, 2011.

The exhibition looks back at the 1968 investigation of Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour and students from Yale . . .
Their fresh way of looking at the city: the influence of popular culture, advertising, film and the experience of the built environment from a moving automobile extended the categories of the ordinary, the ugly, and the social into architecture. Their use of photography and film as a research methodology became as revolutionary as their findings, which were published in the legendary 1972 book, Learning from Las Vegas. Offering great insight into the creation of this groundbreaking publication, the exhibition . . . curated by Hilar Stadler and Martino Stierli in collaboration with artist Peter Fischli, presents original research materials from the archives of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.
Next Monday, November 1st at 6:00 p.m., co-curator Martino Stierli will give a talk, Las Vegas, Film, and the Mobilized Gaze.  The event is free, but reservations are required.  RSVP here.

Information on the exhibition, Thursday's reception and RSVP here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Revival Meeting at the Church of Weese

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Tuesday night, there was a bit of a revival meeting at the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.  At the pulpit, the Right Rev. Bob Bruegmann, co-author of the superb new book, The Architecture of Harry Weese, discussing the life and work of the great architect, planner and iconoclast who died at 83 in 1998, designer of  the very auditorium in which the roughly 600 acolytes now happily congregated.
Bruegmann was introduced by Ben Weese, Harry's youngest brother, and a distinguished Chicago architect both in his long collaboration with Harry, and with his own firm.
The Architecture's co-author Kathleen Murphy Skolnick provided an overview of the Church, and the two authors signed copies of their books after the lecture.
Even if you knew the story, there was something bracing in again making the acquaintance of Weese's iconic buildings, his fervent crusades - from saving the Auditorium, to creating Printer's Row, one of the first beachheads in the back-to-the-city movement - and the vivid trajectory of a life epic, antic, tragic, impassioned and inspired, portrayed in a succession of striking images projected on the back wall of the handsome, modernist sanctuary that has no pews, only plush seating that would be the envy of a Broadway theatre.

The benediction came during the Q&A session after the lecture, when a member of the audience suggested that all the architects in attendance who had at one time or another worked for Harry Weese stand up.  It felt like half the audience rose.  And even if the photograph below would indicate the percentage was perhaps slightly less,  it still proved in moving fashion that the famous inscription  memorializing Christopher Wren holds true not only for buildings, but for the lives a person touches: Si monumentum requiris circumspice.
I've previously discussed The Stormy Life and Magical Architecture of Harry Weese here, and Weese's wonderful River Cottages here.  I bought my copy of the Bruegmann/Skolnick book at the Chicago Architecture Foundation's fine bookshop, whose website, inexplicably,  does not have it among the paltry eight titles listed.  If you need to order on-line, I'd recommend you get it from William Stout Architectural BooksThe Architecture of Harry Weese is an invaluable book that anyone who loves architecture will want to add to their library.

Tonight at IIT: Jiang Jun, Reading Urban China in Five Dimensions, plus Louis Sullivan back at the Cliff Dwellers

Tonight, October 27th at 6:00, the IIT College of Architecture is sponsoring a talk, Reading Urban China in Five Dimensions, in Crown Hall, 3360 S. State by Jiang Jun, editor-in-chief of Urban China Magazine, which was been described as "An Encyclopedia of Chinese Cities in a Time of Junk"  The magazine is currently the focus of the exhibition Urban China: Information Cities at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art through April 3rd,  organized by NewYork's New Museum, where it was on display last winter.  According to the MCA . . .
For the past six years, Urban China has been engaged in a unique multidisciplinary inquiry into the rapid state of change in China, presented in the format of a magazine -- the only one devoted to issues of urbanism published in and about China. With offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and a network of correspondents and collaborators around the world who work under the guidance of its visionary Editor-in-Chief, Jiang Jun, its photographs, texts, and diagrams, as well as a growing archive of artifacts and images have become a repository of knowledge about the fastest process of urbanization ever recorded in human history.
The lecture is free and open to the public.  Information 312/567.3312 or on-line.

Louis Sullivan returns to the Cliff Dwellers
Tomorrow, October 28th, there'll be a showing of the new documentary, Louis Sullivan: the Struggle for American Architecture, as the kick-off event for the Block Museum's The American Architect in Focus film series.  The screening will be at 7:00 p.m., tickets are $7.00 and will be on sale 30 minutues before showtime at the museum 40 Arts Circle Drive, Northwestern University in Evanston.

And if you move quickly you may still be able to get one of the last remaining tickets for a unique showing of the documentary at the Cliff Dwellers, the artist's club where Sullivan was a regular and where at the end of his life he wrote The Autobiography of an Idea.  A few years ago, the Cliff Dwellers was forced out of its original location atop Orchestra Hall, but it's now right next door, at the crest of the Borg Warner Building at 200 S. Michigan.  Tickets are $20.00 at the door.

Both screenings are scheduled to be followed by Question and Answer sessions with the documentary's director, Mark Smith, and its composer, Michael T. McLean.

Information on-line.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pasteur Monument, or, Why do Dead Scientists always seem to get the Hot Babes?

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Looking down to his right, the bust of Louis Pasteur sees a chastely draped young woman cradling two suffering children, symbol of the world of disease and want that the famed French scientist's discoveries helped to dramatically transform for the better. Even as he contemplates their forms with a stoic dignity, however . . .
. . . he's about to be slapped in the face with a palm frond a buxom nude is stretching out to him from his left side: "Yoohoo, Lou-eeeee!"

It's reminder both of how the enduring search for beauty has always found expression in the feminine form, and that from Titian to Robert Altman, before and beyond, one of the attractions of being a great artist is getting beautiful women naked.

The composition is part of the Louis Pasteur Memorial, with a base designed by Edward Bennett, created by sculptor Leon Hermant, born in France, educated in Europe, but who wound up being very active in Chicago, usually in collaboration with Carl Beil. His work includes the reliefs on One North LaSalle, and the frieze on the Illinois Athletic Club.
A bronze plaque on the monument carries a quotation from Pasteur . . .
One doesn't ask of one who suffers: what is your country and what is your religion?  One merely says, you suffer.  This is enough for me.  You belong to me and I shall help you.
If he were alive today, they'd be running attack adds against him.

The monument was originally erected on a site just to the west of the Field Museum.   It was the work of a committee of civic leaders created by Dr. Frank Billings, who had studied under Pasteur. Its October 27, 1928 dedication, seen in the photo above from the Pasteur Foundation website,  was attended by U.S. Vice President Charles G. Dawes, whose Evanston mansion - at least for now - is home to the Evanston Historical Society.

Traveling to Chicago for the event was the newly appointed French ambassador to the U.S., poet and playwright Paul Claudel, who was writing eleven-hour plays when Eugene O'Neill was still brooding in knee socks, and who was also the author of the libretto for Arthur Honneger's 1938 oratorio, Joan of Arc at the Stake.

Claudel was accompanied by his daughter, but not his sister, a far more famous and accomplished sculptor than Leon Hermant, Camille Claudel. Back in 1913 Paul had committed her, after a diagnosis of schizophrenia, to a psychiatric asylum, where she would be confined for the final three decades of her life despite the continual entreaties of her doctors that she be released.

In June of 1946, as part of a general renovation of Chicago's west side medical district, the Pasteur Memorial was moved to its present location at what was then called Convalescent park, at 1800 N. Harrison.  At the time, it was said to be 25 feet, 4 inches tall, and weigh 41 tons.  Descriptions have been varied and confused.  One account describes the bust of Pasteur at the top of the monument as cast in bronze, though it's obviously stone. In 1928, the monument was described as being made of Italian Carrara marble; in 1946, of Georgia white marble, although it is actually limestone.
Whatever its composition, the Pasteur monument has aged badly.  There are numerous cracks.  The features of its figures have eroded and grown indistinct over time.   Pasteur now seems to look down in a mood of rueful abandonment, a ghostly presence in the shadow of the crumbling grandeur of an abandoned hospital, the roar of expressway traffic rushing indifferently at his back.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Heavy Metal: chainmail on Clark, curves along the Mohawk

Truserve block, Halsted & Blackhawk, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, architects, 175,000 square feet, 500 parking spaces.

Before . . .
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After . . .

Fletcher Jones Audi/Volkswagen, Clark and Maple, Gensler, architects, Thorton Tomasetti, structural engineers. 100,000 square feet.

A major renovation of three interconnected buildings, the oldest being a poured concrete structure dating back to 1928, with a new facing of Dri-Design perforated corrugated metal panel system of anodized aluminum. See a pre-renovation photograph here.

Red Line Station Applized as Apple Mania Descends on North Avenue for opening of Lincoln Park store

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A drear, rainy day didn't stop Macaddicts from turning out in force for the Saturday opening of Apple's new store at North and Halsted.
According to the website, nearly 300 people were standing in line by the time the store opened at 10:00 a.m., with mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel earlier working the line, shaking hands and asking, "What are you going to buy today?"
As the rains came, store employees handed out Apple branded umbrellas, which were collected as customers entered the store, in small controlled batches, to the thanks of employees, applause . . .
and even high fives . . .
In essence, the steel-clad store is a 6,500 square-foot rectangular tube for selling. open at both ends with all-glass facades, centered by the iconic Apple logo floating above in benediction.  According to Crain's Chicago Business, the property on which the store stands, formerly home to a gas station, was acquired for $10.5 million by an unnamed Mexican investor, with Apple paying a cool $750,00 for leasing rights, which extend through the next 30 years.
The total size is 18,000 square-feet, including the back-office basement and adjacent, marble paved plaza.  Included is a flush-surfaced shallow fountain that's the very model of Apple minimalism. has an informative and entertaining account of the preparation and opening here, including links to other accounts and some great photos far more professional than what you see in this post.  (They had better weather: that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) See our previous report on the Lincoln Park Apple store, including a more detailed account of the elements of the design here.

After the break: read about the Apple-funded North & Clybourn station rehab (with pictures) and John Sculley's take on his days at Apple.