Friday, October 14, 2005

Sense and Strangeness Mingle on Chicago Architecture Foundation's List of 2005 Patron of the Year Nominees

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has announced the list of nominees for its 2005 Patron of the Year Award, to be presented at a November 17th luncheon. The award "seeks to honor those individuals or organizations that have helped promote innovative architecture in Chicago." You can see the entire list - in PDF format - here.

While many of the nominee's are no brainers - Studio Gang's Chinese American Service League's Kam L. Liu building, the Ratner Center and Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, some of the other nominees are fairly inexplicable, especially in the business category, where's there's respectable choices such as Florian Architects' Hyde Park Bank restoration, Brininstool & Lynch's Vue20 Condos on South Michigan, Jim Goettsch's 111 S. Wacker and Pei Cobb Fried's Hyatt Center, and Krueck and Sexton's Shure Technology Center addition, but also such puzzling choices as completely mediocre Pinnacle and Fordham Towers (and no, I'm not trashing them because of their classical detailing, but for being ungainly mishmashes of elements and form), Central Station, and Lakeshore East, which is a combination of the splendid (its new park), the decent (the Lancaster), and the ungainly (The Shoreham.) Somehow age also doesn't seem to matter. Lucien LaGrange's Erie on the Park is an exceptionally fine building, but it's been around since 2002, the same year construction was completed on another nominee, KPF's 191 North Wacker. One suspects the nominations are as much about honoring major CAF contributors - or potential contributors - as it is about recognizing great architecture.

Which is a good thing - it's always a great idea to tap the pockets of wealthy developers to support a good cause. Maybe it's like the Academy Awards, where clunkers like Airport or The Towering Inferno actually garnered Best Picture nods to placate their studios, but the actual awards went to Patton and Godfather II. Last year, the Patron of the Year's first, the actual awards went to a mainstream but solid roster of Millennium Park, the Contemporaine, and the revived IIT campus.

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