Monday, February 11, 2013

Erasing the Dead: for bKL, Brininstool and Lynch never existed

Wolf Point, West Tower - click images for larger view
 OK, let me be honest.  This blog, as you may have noticed, may not always be the most impeccably researched document on the web, or the most hard-hitting journalism.

Still, I was a bit taken aback by the Chicago Architecture Blog's The Backstory on bKL.  The first thing I noticed was that it was squishy-soft on Wolf Point, the billion-dollar project that in which bKL is a major design partner, parroting the official line it's all wonderful and that anyone who dares raise questions must be an obtuse NIMBY.  As indicated in our own history, Hour of the Wolf: The Transformation of the Pivot Point of Chicago, it's a bit more complicated than that.
More interesting was this exchange on the origins of bKL Architecture:

Editor: What does “B.K.L.” stand for?
Thomas Kerwin, Principal: The “B” stands for “build.” I’m the “K,” and Jim Loewenberg [co-CEO of Magellan Development], who set us up in business is the “L.”
Editor: So the “B” is lower-case because it’s not a person.
Kerwin: Right. The “B” means “build” because we both built a lot of work all over the world. BKL is a new entity, but we felt it important to emphasize the fact that we’ve built many many projects. So, we’re a new firm, but we have a lot of experience.
Editor: How long has bKL been around?
Kerwin: We started in January of 2010.

I can excuse Kerwin the spin, but if he's claiming to go back to 2010, then a little reality might be in order, and it has nothing to do with the charming fairy story Kerwin was peddling.  Just ask Google, which provides the following search result pointing to bKL's current website:

Here's the actual announcement, from the February 2010 issue of Architect Magazine,
David Brininstool and Brad Lynch, partners for 20 years in Brininstool+Lynch, announced on Jan. 26 that they had closed their firm and teamed with Tom Kerwin, previously a managing partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Chicago office, to form Brininstool, Kerwin and Lynch (BKL).
Somewhere between 2010 and now, the ‘B’ and the ‘L’ of BKL vanished, and we now have the current firm, with the same letters jiggered to create a different backstory.  Maybe they just didn't want to have to buy new stationary.  Brininstool and Lynch are back to having to their own website. There's no trace of any break in continuity there either. What actually happened?  Now there's a story I'd pay good money to read.

There's a lot a talk in the interview about the firm's pack of talented young architects, but the only people we hear from and the only photo portrait is of the usual gang of old geezers (in this case, Kerwin, Carl Moskus and Michael Karlovitz) actually running things.  [Full disclosure:  I myself am 97.]

End of grousing.  (And who can't love a man who has Marina City as his favorite Chicago building?)
Read: The Backstory on bKL - The Young Chicago Firm Leading the Pack on Wolf Point.


Editor said...

Hi, Lynn! Glad to have you among the tens of thousands of readers of the Chicago Architecture Blog.

To address a couple of your concerns --

About Wolf Point west -- There was enough content on that in our interview with bKL to split that off into a separate article. It's already written and will be published next Monday. Though it's more topical, it made more sense to do the firm backgrounder first. You may have noticed that we're doing a series of firm profiles, including bKL, SCB, Gensler, and more. Look for an smdp profile coming soon.

Was I tough enough in the upcoming Wolf Point interview? Probably not. But I'll let you decide next week. I'm not here to be a hard-ass to people. I was a hard-ass in my 20 years as a professional journalist. Now I'm on to a new phase in my life. I'm just trying to inform people.

As for "bKL" and what it stands for -- it's their name, it's their trademark, it's their logo. They get to decide what it means. If you search through the early articles the Chicago Architecture Blog did on The Coast, we note that it was designed by a firm with the legacy names you mention. But things change. Just like AT&T no longer officially or legally means "American Telephone and Telegraph" but still retains the initials. BKL owns the name, it means whatever they want it to mean. Tomorrow it could mean Bacon, Kale and Limburger. That's their business.

And in the future, there's no need to kvetch about grousing about content on CAB. Just smack the "Contact" link at the bottom of each page and shoot me a note. I'm a pretty friendly guy. You can even e-mail me directly at if you like. I don't bite. I've even bought a number of Chicago bloggers coffee just to pick their brains.

Lynn Becker said...

Thanks for the comments.

Obviously, we have to agree to disagree.

As Daniel Moynihan famously said, everyone has a right to their own opinion, but not their own facts. bKL has every right to describe their name however they want. They don't have the right to rewrite history as to the name's origins, or at the very least, if they try, they should be called out on it. I don't entirely know why I find this so offensive, but I guess it's because I feel my intelligence - such as it is - is being deliberately insulted.

It is, of course, your blog, and you can make of it whatever you want, but when an entity chooses to call itself, not "A", but "The" Chicago Architecture Blog, it carries a certain pretense of being authoritative, and it's not inappropriate to expect a slightly higher standard than simply wanting to be pleasant.

Ideas have consequences, and honest conflict should not be glossed over, or limited to private correspondence.

Looking forward to Part II.

Best wishes,


Anonymous said...