Saturday, July 30, 2005

Original Schubert (Majestic) Theater Loggia Revealed

Hidden behind a drop ceiling for decades, the original classical entrance lobby of the Chicago's 1906 Majestic Theater has now been uncovered and will be restored as part of a $36,000,000 project, backed by $5,500,000 in TIF money, that will both modernize and return the theater to something resembling its original design, as well as gut the upper 17 floors of the 20 story Majestic Building for conversion into a hotel. ABN Amro Bank has bought naming rights, and what has long been known as the Schubert will be reborn as the LaSalle Bank Theater when it opens in the fall. Architect for the project is Laurence Booth of Booth/Hansen Associates.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Remmel Wins 2005 Carter Manny Award

Rachel Remmel, Department of Art History at the U of C, is the recipient of the $15,000 2005 Carter Manny Award to assist with her dissertation, "The Origins of American School Building: Boston Public School Architecture, 1800-1860."

The annual competition, sponsored by the Graham Foundation, "funds the research and writing of academic dissertations by promising young scholars" with architecture related topics. A list of prior recipients is posted here.

$10,000 and the Trustees' Merit Citation were awarded to two additional scholars: Vincent L. Michael of the Art History Department of UIC, and M. Ijlal Muzaffar, a student in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT.

The full press release, also listing the eight students receiving Citations of Special Recognition, their schools and their topics, can be found in the first comment appended to this post.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Edward Lifson hosts WBEZ call-in discussion on Calatrava Spire

In case you still haven't yet been bludgeoned senseless by the big stick of Santiago Calatrava's proposed 2,000-foot-high condo tower, Edward Lifson's Hello Beautiful on WBEZ, 91.5 on your FM dial, will devote this Sunday's broadcast to listeners calling in their opinion. He'll be joined in the studio by Art Institute Associate Curator of Architecture Martha Thorne, and also offer up comments by the Trib's Blair Kamin, Sun-Times architecture critic Kevin Nance, and Calatrava, himself.

All Calatrava - All the Time (My Head Hurts)

The good news is that the Calatrava Spire is getting us almost as much attention -local, national and international - as Millennium Park did last year. The bad news is that its thrust into the "world's tallest" sweepstakes is being hyped with the kind of sloppy inanity usually found in spam emails for penile enlargement. Think I'm kidding? I've just watched a typically breathless ABC World News Tonight piece that included an interview with Calatrava that ran under a supertitle that spelled his last name with a "K."

There's no question that Calatrava's design is a stunning piece of architecture. Like Jean-Paul Viguier's Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Hotel, it reimagines the Chicago-style skyscraper far more potently than those officially "post-modernist" works of the 1980's that failed to conceal the strain of breaking free from the Miesian box. If it survives the triple whammy of a post 9-11 impulse to concede defeat and crawl back into caves, the "history stops with me" dictates of the NIMBY levelers, and, above all, the economics, it will transform the character of Chicago's skyline in a way no building has since Sears Tower was completed three decades ago.

But am I the only one getting a little tired of how stories like this suck up all the oxygen? Not unlike cats, critics and the media are easily mesmerized by bright, shiny objects, and have grown fat and lazy on low-lying fruit. When's the last time you read an architecture story by Blair Kamin that didn't seem like it was inspired by a press release? Not that I claim to be any better. I'm hoping this blog will help expand the range of topics getting coverage.

Calatrava has been quoted to the effect that he "designs for the service of mankind," but in the case of his spire, mankind boils down to a handful of people with millions of dollars to throw around for an in-town apartment. For the rest of us, it'll be look, but don't touch.

There's a lot more to architecture than that, especially in Chicago. Right now, there are two rather wonderful shows: Visionary Chicago Architecture, exiled to the back of the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, and Five Architects, currently at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. They're ripe with fresh ideas. Many are wonderful. Some - especially in the case of Visionary Chicago Architecture- are fairly appalling. For the moment, I'll leave it up to you to decide which are which. Ultimately, however, it's how ideas like these eventually play out, in buildings made by architects with an ongoing commitment to Chicago, that will have far more effect on defining the future of our city's built environment than any vagabound architect, no matter how talented. How great it would be if just a fraction of the ink spent on Chris Carley's mad, twisting dream could be diverted to the kind of stories that don't just fall into your lap.

So to Mr. Calatrava, welcome and bon chance. To the Donald, take a pill. To the press (as I look into mirror) wake up: there's more to architecture than this. . . . and to Chicago's architectural community, help me make this blog a real resource, or tell how I should be doing it better.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How to reuse a building

Courtesy of the Greenclips newsletter, here's a link to a guide from the University of Dundee on how to reduce construction waste, which in the case of the United Kingdom, amounts to 72.5 million tons a year with 42% of it going to landfills at a time when that space is at a premium. Chicago architect John Ronan estimates that "70% of what’s in landfills right now is old buildings."

The 70 page study, in Adobe Acrobat format, can be downloaded by clicking here.

You can subscribe to the Greenclips email newsletter by sending a blank message to this email address.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Design for Santiago Calatrava's 2,000 foot high Chicago residential tower unveiled

Blair Kamin and Thomas Corfman in the Chicago Tribune, Kevin Nance in Chicago Sun-Times and Alexi Barrionuevo in the New York Times both reported this morning on the unveiling of a design by architect Santiago Calatrava for a proposed 115-story, 2,000 foot high residential tower to built along the Chicago river just off of Lake Michigan. Additional commentary can also be found on today's archidose. The tower, rising from a stepped plateau base like a braided, tapering stick of white licorice, would be called the Fordham Spire, named after the development company of the same name.

Christopher T. Carley, may be seeking to move beyond the often mediocre quality of design found in the recent upper-end projects put up by the Fordham Company. of which he is president. These include the Fordham, the Pinnacle, and the 65 E. Goethe, all of which had a propensity for backward-looking styling, complete with mansard roofs.

The project, with a price tag of at least a half a billion dollars and, given the experience of the massive cost overruns at Calatrava's soaring Milwaukee Art Museum, perhaps a good deal more, may be a tough sell in a market already saturated with ultra luxury housing. Trump Tower Chicago, already rising along the river, across the street from Mies van der Rohe's iconic IBM tower, on the site of the former Chicago Sun-Times Building , has 472 "super-luxury" condos, as well 286 condo hotel rooms. The same mixed used concept is being proposed for the Fordham Spire, but it would have only 200 condo hotel rooms and no more than 250 condo's, and contain less than a million square feet, versus Trump's 2,600,000.

Farley has experienced slow sales and problems with lenders in some of his recent projects, but if the Calatrava tower is built, it will mark a major step in the revival of Chicago's skyline, plagued over the last decade with a succession of numbingly ugly 40, 50 and 60 story condo towers.

Note: links to the Chicago Tribune and New York Times stories will expire into their respective archives after seven days.

Building Design and Construction includes Giants 300 list in July issue

Courtesy of a notice in the ArchNewsNow newsletter, we're passing on the fact that the July issue of Building Design and Construction includes its annual list of the top 300 U.S. architectural, engineering, construction and design firms. Topping the architects list is Gensler. Perkins+Will, at number 3, is the highest ranking Chicago headquartered firm. Solomon, Cordwell Buenz, with a 55% gain in revenue from 2003, moved up in the rankings from 21 to 40. Skidmore, Ownings Merrill ranks 2nd in the list of architecture/engineering firms. The entire list, in Adobe Acrobat pdf format, can be downloaded here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Preservation Chicago Opposes Deconstruction of New York Life Insurance Building

Under the signature of Michael Moran and President Jonathan Fine, Preservation Chicago has sent a letter to Chicago Commissioner of Planning and Development Denise Casalino opposing a new development by Hamilton Partners, designed by architect Lucien Lagrange, that would involve demolition of substantial portions of William LeBaron Jenney's 1893-94 New York Life Building at 39 S. LaSalle Street.

Full text of the letter can be found in the first comment to this post.

Welcome to ArchitectureChicago PLUS

Welcome to the new ArchitectureChicago blog. This no-frills page is a more dynamic version of Repeat, where my writings on architecture are published. Check here daily for news about Chicago architecture and various musings that happen to ooze out of my brain.

Visit the Repeat website, a collection of my writing.

Vist the Repeat monthly Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Registration for Architectural Competition for $70,000,000 Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center ends July 19th

The Salvation Army is using a design competition to select architects for its new $70,000,000 community center, funded by a bequest from the late widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. The center is to be built on a 25-acre site at 47th and State. The competition is in three phases, the first of which is a Portfolio phase, where firms that wish to compete must register and submit examples of work by July 19th. A Jury will then select a list of up to eight firms to move on to the second phase, where the firms will assemble complete A/E teams. In the last phase, four firms will be invited to participate in a 30 day design concept competition with a $25,000 honorarium.

Visit the competition website:

Graham Foundation website posts streaming videos of its 2005 lecture series.

The Graham has announced that its website now includes streaming videos of each of its spring, 2005 "About Chicago" lecture series. The series include lectures by Stanley Tigerman, John Brunetti, Annette Ferrara, Gunny Harboe, John Ronan, and David Woodhouse. The videos go beyond the usual static head shots of lecturers by incorporating relevant images. The quality of those images is still problematic - most are of projected images, and the 320 x 240 pixsel resolution of the videos is severely limiting - but the Graham Foundation's efforts mark a major contribution to using the internet to bring the richness of Chicago architecture and design
Visit the Graham Foundation's 2005 spring lecture series webpage:

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Archeworks Launches Redesigned Website

Archeworks has unveiled what it calls the first phase of its new website. "Archeworks is really a hothouse in Chicago," says co-founder Eva Maddox in a streaming video overview on the distinctive school's mission and operation. "I think that our role here is to continuously stir the pot, and to push design to the limit."

Each year, Archeworks accepts up to 25 students, who are organized into three teams, each to research "a community need, work with community partners" and develop design solutions to problems that are usually neglected by the more traditional elements of the profession.

"Good design rarely shows up in public housing, in prison, the prison system, in a whole panoply of places," Archeworks co-founder Stanley Tigerman adds in the school's overview video. "Architects and designers are mostly working for, frankly, rich people or surrogates. They tend not to work directly with a constituency that really needs them."

The new site includes an archive of the over 30 individual projects that has been undertaken by Archeworks students since its 1993.

Visit the Archeworks website

Fountain of Time