Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mayne, Cruz, Mau, Park, Kaijima, Lee, Smith, Diaz Alonso, Harboe, Sex Pistols

Can you spot the only one of the preceding list of names who will NOT be appearing in Chicago in November? On this month's calendar, UIC has no fewer than four lectures, including Momoyo Kaijima of Atelier Bow-Wow on the 12th, Alejandro Zaera-Polo of Foreign Office Architects on the 16th, Kamiel Klasse of NL Architects on the 19th, and Morphosis' Thom Mayne on the 7th. Gunny Harboe discusses his recent projects at a lunchtime CAF lecture on the 28th, while Thomas Gordon Smith discusses The Classical Perspective for Landmarks Illinois noontime, November 15th, at the Cultural Center. Bruce Mau appears at Archeworks on the 14th - that same day Christopher Lee will dicuss his firm's recent work at another CAF lunchtime lecture. SOM's Mark Sarkisian will talk about the legacy of legendary engineer Fazlur Khan at the Union League for SEAOI on the 13th.

It all begins tonight, Thursday, November 1st, with architect Teddy Cruz delivering the APA/NBM L'enfant lecture, From the Global Border to the Border Neighborhood, at the Cultural Center, while over at Archeworks, you can take in projects at the Midterm Student Critique. Then on Friday, the expanded Graham Resource Center in Crown Hall at ITT celebrates the debut of its expanded facilities, followed by a lecture by Kenneth Frampton, followed, in turn, by a concert by this son, Peter. (Again, two of three statements in the preceding sentence are true.)

But why exaggerate when the month is so stuffed with goodies, including an appearance by Xefirotarch's Hernán Díaz Alonso at the Art Institute, the 2012 London Olympic's Ricky Burdette on Global Cities at CAF, Douglas Kelbaugh on the current "state of the art" of sustainnable architecture in the U.S., China, and worldwide, for the Chicago Humanities Festival. There's a program of short films on Chicago and its architecture showing at the Gene Siskel this Saturday and next Tuesday, Jinhee Park at IIT, religious architecture at AIA Chicago, Richard Cahan and Michael Williams talking about and signing copies of their book, Chicago: City on the Move at CAF�, and Roald Gunderson talking about Whole Tree Architecture at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

Believe or not, there's actually a lot more great events we haven't even touched on - over 50 in all. Check them all out here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mies' IBM seeks day rates, landmark status

Crain's Chicago Business had a story Monday filling in some of the details of a pair of agenda items for this Thursday's monthly meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. The first includes - all in one swoop - "Preliminary Landmark Recommendation, Report from the Department of Planning and Development and Final Landmark Recommendation to City Council" for the last skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, the 1973 IBM Building, now known, after the departure of its namesake tenant, by its address, 330 North Wabash.

Immediately following this is the second item, "Review of Pre-Permit Submission and Recommendation to City Council for Approval of Class L Property Tax Incentive " also for the IBM Building.

Now it all makes sense. When a classic unprotected building is under imminent threat, the Commission is more than likely to crawl at the official pace of a lumbering bureaucracy, but in the case of the IBM, it's the developer, Prime Group Realty Trust, that is pushing for designation, in order to qualify not just for local tax incentives, but federal tax credits, as well. The plan is to convert office floors 2 through 14 into a 300 room hotel.

The IBM has been suffering as an office building with the loss of several key tenants. (When Trump was planning an office component in his tower, he attempted to lure IBM tenants with the fact that his building was going to block their views. Then he decided to dump office space from his own project.)

Chicago is reaching the peak of a hotel construction bubble. According to Crain's, room rates have jumped 24% over the past two years, while occupancy rates have hit levels not seen in at least two decades. The number of new rooms either planned or under construction is topping 9,000, including, just across the street from the IBM, a five-star, 286 room hotel at the base of the Trump Tower, scheduled to open - depending on who you believe - in either December or February. If Prime Group's plan goes through, minimalist Miesians and glitz-crazed Trumpists will soon be able to glare at each other in mutual disdain from either side of Wabash.

Two blocks to the south, Kimpton Hotels has just announced their plans to purchase the 27 story-high 203 North Wabash - opened in 1928 as the Old Dearborn Bank and one of only two office buildings designed by Rapp & Rapp, the movie palace architects behind the Chicago, Oriental, Palace and Uptown - and convert it into a 220 room boutique hotel. Two blocks to the north, the beautiful park next to the AMA building has been obliterated for still another hotel, the 259 room Hotel Palomar.

Making IBM an official landmark means any future changes to the protected exteriors will have to be approved by the Landmarks Commission. Let's hope the Commission doesn't give away the store in getting to that point, as they almost did recently at the Palmer House, bargaining away the historic retail facades for a jarring storefront "modernization". A protest led by Preservation Chicago scotched that plan, but the decimation of the hotel's grand block-long arcade, rubber-stamped by the Commission, is well under way.

At the IBM, garish oversized elevator signs as glaringly bright as a shopping mall parking lot, part of a Philippe Stark redesign, have already been slapped on Mies' travertine. Meanwhile, on the other side of State Street from the IBM, Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City complex, among the most iconic and important emblems of the city, yet one the Commission has made no visible effort to landmark, continues to undergo a series of desecrating alterations under the commercial properties' new owners.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Because Monday's Can Be Difficult . . .

. . . leaving you feeling as dense and achingly extruded as a wet compacted swirl of excavated Chicago clay . . .
. . . what better way to start the week than with a giant cat clock billboard hawking wine? That's something to stand for, at least until the emptied bottle makes it difficult.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Piano's Magic Carpet Begins to Loom

The whole thing won't be finished until spring of 2009, but the topping out of Renzo Piano's new Modern Wing for the Art Institute of Chicago has already begun.
Construction of the beam lattice that will support what the architect has called the "flying carpet" is well underway. Suspended above the roof, the lattice will eventually be covered by rows of curving, extruded aluminum wings that filter northern sunlight through the skylights of the third floor galleries in a way that doesn't degrade the art, but cuts energy costs by up to 20%. Overall, the carpet will be 216 feet square, covering both the building and adjacent Griffin Court garden, with a surface area of 47,000 square feet.
According to Zero Gravity, the catalogue to an exhibition on the new building, the white-painted blades are "creating a dialogue with the stainless steel Pritzker Pavilion across the street in Millennium Park. Piano has said that while the music pavilion expresses its definition of space through sound, the Art Institute's new building expresses it through light."
You can see Charles G. Young's far superior Flickr portfolio of photographs here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Herda added to Rosa, Somol, at Chicago Architectural Club Event TONIGHT

As if Art Institute Curator Joe Rosa and new UIC School of Architecture Director Robert Somol aren't enough, the Chicago Architectural Club has also added Sarah Herda, the new Director of the Graham Foundation to their program tonight. It's open to the public, and it begins tonight, Tuesday, October 23rd, at 6:30 P.M. at Jak's Tap, 901 West Jackson Boulevard.

Chicago Traffic scenes - Late Boat Run, Intersection Roulette

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bob and Denise Update Themselves

When Robert Venturi came to Crown Hall at IIT a couple of years ago to talk of Mies and the importance of signs and symbols, I noticed that the Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates website, while drawing on that emphasis with a day-glo colored, icon rich design, offered up a timeline of the firm's work, complete with stacking sound effects. that seemed to have halted after the year 2000.
Last week I received an email announcing a new update, and a revised timeline that includes such current projects as Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest, and Temple Beth El in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The bright, puppy-dog friendly design, as idiosyncratic as Venturi and Scott Brown themselves, meshes futurist and retro - there's even scrolling text in the status bar. It has a distinctive, easy-to-navigate look-and-feel that conveys a great deal of information in an engaging, almost home-spun package, and appears to accomplish it without a stitch of Flash. Check it out for yourself here.

LED Streetlights?

Via engadget, we came across this recent press release, on how the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan plans to convert all of its more than 1,000 streetlights to LED (light-emitting-diode) lamps, at a cost of over $600,000. The city expects to save at least $100,000 a year in costs, and reduce greenhouse emissions by over 2,400 tons annually.

"The LED lights typically burn five times longer than the bulbs they replace and require less than half the energy. Each fixture draws 56 watts and is projected to last 10 years, replacing fixtures with bulbs that use more than 120 watts and last only two years."

Traditionally, LED's, while more efficient than incandescents - most everything is - have been much less efficient than alternatives such as fluorescent. The manufacturer behind the Ann Arbor process, Cree Lighting, is claiming they've created a lamp that has produced laboratory results fromm 99 lumens output per watt (warm white) to 129 lumens (cool-white), and is claiming commercial products using the technology will be available in one to two years.

The City of Chicago's Environmental Action Agenda for 2005 included a pilot project on the use of LED's for street lighting.

Because they last four or more times longer than other forms of street lighting, LED's also create labor savings by having to be changed so much less often. There are other controversies regarding the actual measurement of their efficiency, and the tonal quality of the light produced.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Age of Bilbao, Ten Years Out

ArchitectureChicagoPlus correspondent, architect Iker Gil, reminds us that today is the ten year anniversary of one of the most pivotal dates in architectural history: the October 19th, 1997 opening of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It was the day "The Bilbao Effect" drove the final spike through the heart of Post-Modernism, and the age of the Techno-Baroque was born. Read all about it - and see the photo-essay - here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Renzo Piano's 615 foot long extractor - er, "Bridgeway" - begins construction in Millennium Park

Little more than four years after its opening, a 500 foot long strip of Millennium Park is again under construction, for a period projected to be almost two years. On September 20th, a groundbreaking took place for the Nichols Bridgeway (is that anything like a Westfield Shoppingtown?), named after John Nichols, former chairman of Marmon Group, and his wife Alexandra, who've contributed a total $19,000,000 to both the Bridgeway and to the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing, for which the fund-raising is at $300 million and counting.

Both the 264,000 square-foot Modern Wing and the Bridgeway, hereafter known as "the bridge", were designed by architect Renzo Piano, and are scheduled to be completed in tandem in mid-2009. "The bridge," designed to suck Millennium Park visitors into the museum like a giant anteater, is Miesian minimalist, a 15-foot-wide platform rising in a straight line across its 615-foot length to the height of the Modern Wing's third floor, on the south side of Monroe Street.

The Nichols is the yang to the ying of the Millennium Park's BP Bridge, designed by Frank Gehry. The BP snakes and meanders; the Nichols is straight as an arrow. The BP is stout like a robust peasant, the Nichols is a bare-bones supermodel and the runway she walks down, all in one. The BP is earth, hugging the ground atop a continuous berm, the Nichols is sky, an aerie perched upon toothpick pilotti's. The impact on the park of those pilotti supports remains to be seen; renderings have a habit of placing them behind trees and shrubbery functioning as fig leaves.

The Nichols is a very expensive solution to what could have been accomplished at a tiny fraction of the cost with some graceful landscaping and a precisely coordinated stoplight, but we are promised that we will all be inextricably drawn to the Nichols and enthralled by the views it affords of the surrounding park, lake, and cityscape. The Art Institute is banking that as many as 300,000 of us will supplement the museum's current annual attendence, as well.

Right now, a rather unlovely chain link fence marks off the construction site along Monroe, and high walls separate it from the rest of the park. The museum is doing their part to make the intrusion slightly more palatable by decorating those walls with a series of reproductions comparing works destined to grace the walls of the Modern Wing, by artists from Gauguin, to Sullivan, to Lichtenstein and Twombly, to flowers you're likely to find in the Lurie Garden and the park.

On a related note, the museum has added a "check here first" page on its website giving a month-by-month breakdown on which collections and galleries will be closed or partially available as they are renovated and/or reinstalled as part of the run-up to the 2009 opening of the new addition.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AIC's Rosa, UIC's Somol on tap at Jak's for CAC 10/23

The Chicago Architectural Club's October event will feature an evening with Joe Rosa, the John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Robert Somol, the newly named Director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rosa was named to his post in the fall of 2005, and since then has mounted shows of the architecture of Douglas Garofalo, the photography of Todd Eberle, as well as Young Chicago, a cross-discipline group show of area designers. His current exhibition, Xefirotarch, featuring the work of architect Hernán Díaz Alonso’s, closes on October 28th.

Somol was named to his post this summer, and is a former professor of architecture at Ohio State University, and has taught at the UIC, UCLA, Rice, Princeton, Columbia and Harvard - you know, that whole crowd. He is also co-principal, along with Linda Pollari, of PSX Architecture in Los Angeles, where he designed the "off-use" House combining a home, an office, and, because it's L.A., a pool.

The Chicago Architectural Club program is next Tuesday, October 23rd, beginning at 6:30 P.M, at Jak's Tap, 901 West Jackson.

Monday, October 15, 2007

green design for all, Driehaus Preservation Awards - late listings to October calendar

We're late getting this into press (the official RSVP deadline was October 9th) but you may want to check out if you can get into this Tuesday morning's, October 16th panel at Access Living which explores the combination of Universal Design, which removes barriers to access for people with disabilities, and Green Design which is . . . well, if you live in Chicago, you should know already. Panelists will include Chicago's Chief Environmental Office Sadhu Johnston, Karen Tamley, the city's Commissioner for People with Disabilities, and Access Living CEO Marca Bristo, among others. Call 312/904-0713 .

Then, on October 27th at the Chicago Club, Landmarks Illinois will present the 2007
Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Awards. Among those to be recognized are the adaptive reuse of the 1911 Chicago and Northwest Railroad Powerhouse on Canal, the Frank Lloyd Wright's Avery Coonley House in Riverside, Louis Sullivan's last commission, the Krause Music Store on North Lincoln, as well as the Wright-designed Muirhead Farmhouse, in Hampshire. The President's Award to will go Friedman Properties' restorationg and repurposing of the Medinah Temple/Tree Studios Block. Tickets are $85.00 for members, $110.00 for non-members. Call 312/922-1742� by October 19th to RSVP.

Finally a reminder that this Wednesday, October 17th at McCloska Auditorium, 3201 South State at IIT, Billie Tsien will be presenting the annual Mies van der Rohe lecture. In June, Tod Williams Billie Tsien architects were named the winners of a competition to design the new $100 million Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Chicago. You can listen to an Architectural Record interview with the architects concerning the project here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Houses That John Wellborn Root Built (and Died In)

An unlikely source, the Decatur Herald-Review, carries an excellent story this Sunday by Phil Jacobs on the Queen Anne detailed house at 1308 North Astor (leftmost in the bottom photograph) designed by John Wellborn Root in 1887 for James L. Houghteling (1855-1910), who in 1883 founded the Brotherhood of St. Andrew at St. James Cathedral, and whose family funded the Cathedral's 1913 St. Andrew's Chapel, designed by Bertram Goodhue, the architect of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.

It was also the home where Houghteling's uncle-in-law, the U.S. Senator from Michigan, Francis Stockbridge, died during a 1894 visit. Just three years before, in the house next door (photograph center), Root himself had died, after throwing a reception for the eastern architects who had been chosen to help design the 1893 Columbian Exposition. On a brutal January night, he had insisted on seeing each one to their carriage, and contracted the pneumonia that would kill him several days later.

Originally, there were four houses in the set; the fourth and southernmost demolished long ago. (Since 1962, it's been part of the site of Bertrand Goldberg's Astor Tower) The Houghteling house's current owner, artist, sculptor and musician Andrew Lidgus, is selling the house and buying an art gallery. According to one report the property was last sold in October of 2006 for $1,950,000, but it can now be yours for $4.5 million. For those of you with that kind of spare pocket change, you can take a virtual tour here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The architecture of colonialism and revolution, in crumbling solidarity

Computerworld has an interesting Reuters article on the lengths residents of Cuba must go to post independent blogs.
Only government employees, academics and researchers are allowed their own Internet accounts, which are provided by the government.

Regular Cubans are allowed only to open e-mail accounts that they can access through terminals at post offices, where they can also see Cuban Web sites, but access to the rest of the World Wide Web is blocked.
Only 2% of the island's residents have access to the web. Because of this, bloggers have to resort to subterfuges such as dressing up like foreign tourists to frequent internet connections at local hotels. (The $6.00 an hour rates are the equivalent of two weeks pay for the average Cuban). The topic of the independent blogs range from criticism of the bureaucracy, Soviet era cartoons, and a photo blog on life in Havana with numerous photographs - including the one at the top of this post - of the once grand buildings of the city now crumbling under the long, toxic convergence of a Soviet pull-out of support, continuing United States embargoes, and a repressive and ossified authoritarian state.

Nor is the decay limited to structures of the colonial period. Outside of Havana, the grand Escuelas Nacionales de Arte began construction in the 1960's as a vanguard expression of revolution, but by 1965 revisionism rebranded the fantastical structures with their Catalan-inspired vaults as "bourgeois", and they've been allowed to decay pretty much ever since.

And while we're talking about revolutionary-era architecture in a market economy world, here's a report by New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff on how 34-year-old Russian billionaire Sergey Gordeev appears to be emerging as the champion of Moscow's early Communist era architecture, including the iconic, endangered 1927 Melnikov House. Irony abounds.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Intersections and Chicago: City on the Move, time capsule photos in a new book and on exhibit at CAF starting tonight

Thursday evening, October 11th, from 5:30 - 7:30 P.M., marks the opening of Intersections: Views Across Chicago, a new exhibition, at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan, of images taken by Chicago Surface Lines staff photographers of the streets and cityscapes through which the company's streetcar routes traveled.

CAF CEO and President Lynn Osmond is scheduled to speak, as are the authors of Chicago: City on the Move - Michael Williams, Richard Cahan and Bruce Moffat, from which the photos were taken. The book is a follow-up companion volume to Cahan and Williams' critically acclaimed Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City, released last year.

Chicago: City on the Move is another remarkable collection of previously unpublished photographs that's both a portrait of the Chicago's public transit lines and a time capsule of the city's past. There's a view down Randolph Street in 1931, the inky blackness of the night defeated by the glow from proud signs eulogizing a vanished world - The Oriental, the United Artists, the Garrick, Henrici's, the Apollo (Fannie Brice appearing live). Only the Oriental survives. There's a shot of the site of the IBM Building and Marina City when it was nothing more than open rail tracks, and a stunning picture of Chicago's first electrically powered railway running through a doll house array of buildings at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Snippets of text on the city from works of writers from Theodore Dreiser to Sandra Cisneros accent the book, and the foreword is by writer Stuart Dybek, recently recognized with one of the MacArthur Foundation's "genius" grants.

Chicago: City on the Move is another invaluable collection and an entertaining read. If the CAF's Intersections is anywhere near as good, it'll be well worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Tree Grows in MoMo

They may look a bit forlorn - it's too late to get much of a bloom this year - but if you look up while standing outside the ABC7 studios, you can see the all but bare branches of a series of trees that have been planted atop the base of Booth/Hansen's MoMo development at the northeast corner of State and Randolph, part of an eventual roof terrace that's the vertical prelude, complete with a central, three-story high hole, to the building's 409-foot-high residential tower.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On-Line Petition opposes Children's Museum Land Grab in Grant Park

A website called Save Grant Park has started an on-line petition drive to oppose the construction of a 100,000-square-foot home for the Chicago Children's Museum in Grant Park. The website includes links to mainstream media articles on the battle, a blog, and links to finding ways to contact your local alderman on the issue. You can view and add your name to the petition here. Its text is simple and direct:
We, the undersigned, oppose the construction of the Chicago Children's Museum on Grant Park.

Grant Park has remained uniquely protected open space for 171 years, and should remain "forever open, free and clear" for future generations of Chicagoans - from all corners of the city -- to enjoy.
In the first five days since the petition has been posted, over 200 signatures have been gathered, mostly from Chicago, but also representing a large number of suburbs, as well as Spain, Mexico and Canada. View and sign here.

Dunham Building Appears to be Toast

The offbeat, eight story building at 450 east Ohio with its large attic window and graceful ornament appears about to be ground into the dust. The Dunham building stands behind the new 600 North Lake Shore Drive megatowers, in a district where new residential high-rises are threatening to crowd out everything else. According to postings on the Skyscraper Page, Robinette Demolition is swathing the building in scaffolding and bringing in the dumpsters as a prelude to demolition.

I've had a hard time finding more information on the structure. Apparently, it doesn't even have the protection of being rated "orange" on the Commission on Chicago Landmark's Survey of Historic Buildings potentially worth saving, although the survey's database includes a cryptic listing for "400-450 East Ohio" with no information other than the address itself.

For a long period beginning in 1944, the Dunham was home to the famed architectural photography firm Hedrich-Blessing. Their second floor offices were designed by Larry Perkins and Phillip Will, the founding architects of the still very much alive firm of Perkins+Will.
No one would claim The Dunham to be an architectural masterpiece, but in an increasingly homogenized district of look-alike condo towers, its quirky charm will be missed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

On Leong Crushing Wright, Sullivan, Bunshaft

I don't know exactly who the supporters of the On Leong Merchant Association Building in Chicago's Chinatown are , but I do know they're the ones I want working precincts for me come the next election. The Partners in Preservation competition to select the winners who will divide up a honey pot of $1,000,000 in grants is nearing its end. Voting closes October 10th, and the identity of current leaders and also-rans may surprise you. Read all about it and see the pictures, including a handy-dandy chart (it was done in Excel, so it has to be important) here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Chicago Streetscenes - 2007 Chicago Marathon

One street. 35,000 runners.

Faced with record 85 degree temperatures, high humidity, one fatality, and hundreds of runners set to the hospital, this was the first Chicago Marathon to be called off before everyone could cross the finish line.