Friday, February 29, 2008

Hubbard Street Dance at Crown Hall

I could kick myself for not being able to make the performances by the Hubbard Street Dance Company at Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall on the IIT campus. Now IIT has posted 90 photos from the event, which featured ballets danced to the music of Philip Glass, and Dustin O'Halloran, and J. S. Bach. A collaboration with HSDC Artistic Director Jim Vincent, IIT students under Dirk Denision worked with the choreographers and dancers to create a performance space within Mies' iconic one-room schoolhouse. Here are two of the photos, by Tina Leto. You can see the rest here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bird's Nest meets Bubble Wrap

Our roving correspondent architect Iker Gil, fresh from a trip to pre-Olympics Beijing, provides us with these two images. The first is of PTW/Arup's National Aquatic Centre, wrapped in 100,000 square meters of EFTE, a plastic which both absorbs solar radiation and reduces thermal heat loss.
The second is of the "Bird's Nest", or National Olympic Stadium, by Herzog and de Meuron in collaboration with, again, ArupSport (it's the law, you know.)
Gil came away impressed by both structures, although he has his doubts over how long the Aquatic Center will hold up and remain fresh. He also liked Rem Koolhaas' CCTV tower. "It has a sense of strength and power that other skyscrapers (even taller) don't have."

China is the great experiment of our time. No one really knows how it will turn out. As impressive as CCTV is, I can't keep being reminded that it will be the headquarters of the Chinese media monopoly, which keeps popping a variation of Yakov Smirnoff's old chestnut into mind, "In American, you watch TV; in socialist country, TV watches you."

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Surreal Thing

Even as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the city's landmarks ordinance, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks not only continues to leave many of Chicago's most essential buildings unprotected, it's upending the very definition of what a landmark building is. Read all about it, and see all the photo's, here.
(originally published, in somewhat different and much better edited form, in the February 21, 2008 Chicago Reader, under the title, Losing our Landmarks.)

The Unprotected: The Germania Club and Chicago's Endangered Architectural Treasures

Oops, they did it again. As the Commission on Chicago Landmarks lands the smaller fish, many of the city's most essential and historically important buildings remain unprotected. Will the 1886 Germania Club and 1929 Daily News Building and plaza become the latest victims of its neglect? Read all about it and see the pictures here.
(originally published, in somewhat different and much better edited form, in the February 21, 2008 Chicago Reader, under the title, Losing our Landmarks.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Clavicle Cam Captures Your Life

Via Engadget and Tech Digest comes word of your latest step towards immortality. Momenta is a Klington-styled heavy necklace containing a webcam that's programmed to begin recording whenever your heartbeat begins to race, covering both your most intense moments of passion and imminent muggings. Complete with 700 Mhz wireless with which to alert the media.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More BIG - best show of new year extended through March 22nd

After our very positive review of the exhibition The BIG CPH Experiment, Seven New Architectural Species from the Danish Welfare State (okay, after architecture critic Blair Kamin's call-out in today's Chicago Trib), the Graham Foundation has extended the show through Saturday, March 22nd. So now, you have no excuse for missing this engaging, provocative, and often quite beautiful show. Read my story on it - and see the pictures, here.

Bachelor Machines in Dystopia Zones, coming to IIT 2/25

Yes, we're still adding items to the February calendar. (Wait until you see March.)

The School of Architecture at IIT is bringing in architects Francois Roche & Stephanie Lavaux, of R&Sie(n), Paris to deliver the Duchampian monikered lecture next Monday, February 25th, at 6:00 P.M. in the Center Core of Crown Hall, 3360 South State.

In preparation, here is the transcript of a lecture Roche gave at Columbia last September, and here is the transcript of an interview he gave to Benedict Clouette at about the same time.

Here is a video of that interview, centered on Roche's hands and a pastry because "I prefer to depersonalize the identity of the architect, rather than to represent myself by my avatar. I prefer a part of myself without it being my face."

And, finally, here is the grisly aftermath of that interview, a carnage of remains of the now annihilated and consumed croissant, scattered across the table in cruel and casual display, even.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's Wrong/Right With This Picture? Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid in Beijing

An accident of timing and light suggests a strange, unsettling mutation of modernism. Read all about it, and see the images and videos, here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Change - CAC event Wednesday night now a Model Program - members only

There's been a change in the program for tomorrow's (Wednesday, February 20th) Chicago Architectural Club event. It's now the second of a series of roundtable discussions, for members and "those wishing to become members" only.

It will feature architects Martin Felsen, Julie Flohr and Eric Ellingsen reflecting on "on the increasing use of models developed for disciplines not traditionally associated with the field of architecture. At the same time architects are employing these models in increasingly rigorous ways, they are transforming the role of the models from appropriated images to adopted processes. We will discuss: How do these shifts fit into the development of new technologies in modeling, both in contemporary and historical terms? How do the changing attitudes towards physical models affect changing attitudes towards theoretical models? How do models bridge gaps between disciplines?" It begins at 6:30 P.M. at the I-Space Gallery,

Monday, February 18, 2008

250,000 LEGO's Can't be Wrong: Really BIG Shew at the Graham

New Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda's first exhibition, The BIG CPH Experiment, Seven New Architectural Species from the Danish Welfare State, is a winner. You only have until March 1st to see it, (UPDATE: the show has just been extended through Saturday, March 22) but you still shouldn't miss it. Read - and see - all about what makes it so special here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tour Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition - Sunday and Monday only

The Museum of Science Industry is again showing Lisa Snyder's massively ambitious virtual tour of Chicago's 1893 White City. Snyder began the project as a way to showcase UCLA's urban simulation team's software technology. She previously showed the project in 2005, when I saw it. I was blown away with how, even at that early stage, it was beginning to provide a very detailed and visceral view of what the square-mile exhibition was like. According to great story by William Muller in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, Snyder has added 10 state pavilions and the fair's giant Ferris Wheel as part of filling out a complete portrait of the project. I think Snyder should get in touch for the Sim City people about supporting the project by licensing some of her virtual images of the fair's structures for their next edition..

Chicago historian extraordinare Tim Samuelson told the Trib that although he's been collecting books, photos and maps on the fair since he was a child, he now realizes "I never had a sense of what the fair was really like until I saw Lisa's presentation." He was especially impressed in finding how renegade architect Louis Sullivan rebelled against the whites-only mandate not only with the famous "Golden Door" entrance he designed for his Transportation Building, but by painting the whole thing a bright red.

Over the weekend, the presentation will be given 19 times in the MSI's auditorium. You have four more chances to see it on Sunday, five on Monday, with only 220 seats available for each showing. Snyder and Samuelson appear to be presenting every one if them. Didn't that kind of grueling five-a-day schedule get outlawed after vaudeville died?

Because of the complexity of the simulation, it could well be a while before it's shown here again. Museum admission gets you in, first-come, first-served. See it if you can. Info here.

Money - Get Your Free Money Here - plus a Show You Shouldn't Miss

But then, nothing's every really free, is it?

That's probably what you'll be thinking as you're filling out your grant applications. The Graham Foundation dropped us a sedate note to remind you that February 25, 2008 is the application deadline for Production and Presentation Grants to organizations. The form is available online the Graham Foundation web site and must be submitted electronically. It's the first stage of a two-stage review process. And March 15th is the application deadline for this year's Carter Manny Award, also available on-line, and must be submitted - well, you know the drill by now. If you're a student , don't even think about applying unless you've been "nominated by [your] department." This is, after all, Chicago: we don't want nobody that nobody sent. The Carter Manny award supports academic research "concerned with architecture and with other arts that are immediately contributive to architecture. "

I also have to mention that you absolutely have to see the Graham's crackerjack exhibition, the BIG CPH Experiment, which runs only through March 1st. I hope to write about it more in a next couple days, but for now, let me just say that it's a wonderful amalgam of critical and imaginative - and often very witty - thinking about redefining the often drab architecture of the Danish welfare state. Several models are quite beautiful, and the massive LEGO Tower is a fresh reconsideration of modernism that is spectacular and charming all at once. Don't expect a blockbuster. It has only seven parts. But by all means don't miss this show.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Felsen and Dunn, Kulapat Yantrasast - really late additions to February calendar

Two new additions to our February calendar of Architecture Events will be duking it out next Wednesday evening February 20th.

Felsen and Dunn: Water and Infrastructure - Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn, co-principals of UrbanLab and newly named co-directors of alternative design firm Archeworks will be appearing at a Chicago Architectural Club event, 6:30 P.M., February 20th, at the I-Space Gallery on the second floor of 230 West Superior. Their entry, Growing Water, was the the first place winner of the History Channel's 2007 national City of the Future competition. Future events will include Krueck and Sexton's Mark Sexton and Tom Jacobs talking about their new Spertus Museum, on March 25th, Blair Kamin on April 29th, and Stanley Tigerman talking on "Chicago Activism" on May 20th.

Kulapat Yantrasast, wHY Architecture - IIT will kick off its own winter/spring series at 6:00 P.M., February 20th in Crown Hall, with a lecture by the Executive Creative Director of wHy Architecture, of Culver City, architects of the recently opened Grand Rapids Art Museum, and redesign of the Prints and Drawings and several other galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago being carried out in conjunction with the construction of the museum's new Modern Wing. Future lectures in this series will include Detleff Mertins on March 12th, SOM's Ross Wimer April 2nd, Alex Krieger of Harvard GSD April 7th, and Rocio Romero on April 14th.

And speaking of duking it out, IIT's Mies van der Rohe Society will begin selling tickets later this month for its annual Mies Birthday (122nd) Bash on March 29th, which this year will feature the Duke Ellington Orchestra, recalling an earlier landmark event when that orchestra, Ellington himself at the helm, was the featured act at a spring dance that saw Crown Hall turned into a nightclub, the huge - and then much thinner - glass panes bowing in and out to the swing of the music, and Mies watching contentedly sitting in a Barcelona chair, puffing his cigar.

You can check out the entire February calendar here. (I've got to start working on March.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Studio/Gang in 65:41

On January 30th, Studio/Gang Architects' Jeanne Gang gave a lecture at the USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles, where MADA s.p.a.m.'s Qingyun Ma has just started his second year as Dean. Gang's lecture, which you can view here, provides a densely-packed yet concise overview of her firm's work and philosophies, from the Starlight Theater in Rockford, right through to the recently completed SOS Children's Village Community Center at 7600 South Parnell, and the new Solstice residential development in Hyde Park, from which the illustration you see here is taken.

The news is bad, however, if you're on a Mac. I wasn't been able to get sound in either Safari or Firefox, although I've been able to run other presentations that use Sonic Foundry's Mediasite just fine. Most of the time, all you get are ghostly images of Gang speaking at the front of a darkened auditorium. However, you can still flip through the 256 slides that accompany Gang's presentation.

On a PC, you not only hear what Gang has to say, but the slides synchronize perfectly, as her wide-ranging curiousity encompasses everything from the use of marble in tension, to the evolving oar lock designs of Venice gondoliers, to the use of slag and broken beer bottles in terrazzo flooring designed for the Ford Calumet Environmental Center, which she says the city now wants to use in the public schools. Grab a PC, and see it all here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

February 13th Deadline for Proposals to Save Gunner's Mate

docomomo-chicagomidwest reports the skids are being greased for fast-track demolition of Bruce Graham's 1954 Gunner's Make School at Great Lakes Naval Station:
The Navy is moving forward with plans to demolish this building. However, the Navy is open to an outside entity/contractor using the building or to disassembling and moving the building off the base.
So if you've got some bright ideas (money would be good, too) for re-using Gunner's Mate, you've got until February 13th to get them in to:
Ms. Maria Sus
Cultural Resources Program Manager
201 Decatur Avenue, Building 1A
Great Lakes, IL 60088-2801
847-688-2600 *1364
You can view the Navy's own slideshow for last month's public meeting here. While it lists demolition as a "last resort" option, much of its effort appears to have been in discrediting all other alternatives.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Chicago Region Future City Winners want to Say Just One Word to You: Qubitersum

Qubitersum - that's the name of entry that won first prize in the 2008 Chicago Regional Future City competition for a team of 8th grade students from Franklin Middle School in Wheaton. It's their concept for a city in the Australian desert where all the of the buildings have a veneer of spray-on solar cells that power the city and use nanoscale spectrometers to tap power stored in fuel cells once the sun goes down. According to this story on Medill Reports, another ready resource in the desert, sand, is used to create the glass to build the city, while scare water is produced by a sophisticated recycling and desalinization system. On February 19th, Karen Suarez, Jenny Birman and Cole Manschot, along with their teacher Liz Simpson and engineer mentor Dave Manschot, will travel to Washington, D.C. on February 20th to compete against 36 other entries from around the country for the Future City National Finals, held as part of National Engineers Week.

Competitors use SimCity 3000 software to design their metropolis, which is then used as a blueprint for constructing a physical model out of recycled materials. The winners of the national competition will win a trip to U.S. Space Camp.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Angel of Peace Embraces the Storm


The inclement weather has taken its toll on tonight's scheduled Architecture and Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago lecture by Sulan Kolatan. The lecture has been cancelled.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Gunner's Mates Deserves to Live, plus 600 North Fairbanks Bonus

Slogging through Blair Kamin's 1,200 words on a nullity with a glandular problem like the Columbian at Michigan and Roosevelt, you begin to think being architecture critic for a big paper like the Chicago Tribune has to be the dullest job in the world, but why should he pass the contagion on to the rest of us? (The real meat of the story, about whether city interference or architect's timidity was most to blame for the building's mediocrity, took a back seat to an oh-so-serious analysis of a design best suited for irreverent guffaws.)

Otherwise, however, Kamin's been on something of a roll, most recently this past Sunday, with a great article on the battle to save Building 521 at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, otherwise known as the Gunner's Mate School, a beautiful box of blue-green glass that was the first major design of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Bruce Graham, who would go on to design the Hancock Center and Sears Tower with engineer Fazlur Khan. Kamin makes a great case for the structure, for which Landmarks Illinois is spearheading an effort to save it from the Navy's full-court press for demolition. A public hearing was held on the building last week, which, according to a correspondent, was called by the Navy largely to run through all the reasons why resistance is futile.

The battle is far from over, however, and one advantage of the web version of Kamin's piece is that it includes a gallery of sharp photographs that makes a great case for preservation just by taking you around and inside the Gunner's Mate building, and also through Jarvis Hunt's classy early 20th-century administration building. (The photograph here is from Landmarks Illinois, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.)

Kamin has also recently written on the importance of saving the Daily News Building and Plaza, threatened by developer Sam Zell, and a piece on one of Chicago's best new structures, Helmut Jahn's 600 North Fairbanks. I hope to also write on this project, but for now, here's a couple of pictures. Thrash it out among yourselves.

A Foggy Night in Old Chicago

Public Housing: Not What You Think, tonight and Sulan Kolatan Wednesday - late listings to the February calendar

More additions to the February calendar:


Public Housing: Not What You Think
6:30 - 8:00 P.M, Tuesday, February 5th, Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington moderates a panel including Sharon Gist Gilliam, former Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Housing Authority; Crystal Palmer, President of the Local Advisory Council at Horner Homes and Board Vice President of the Public Housing Museum; and Mary Pattillo, Northwestern University Professor of Sociology and African American Studies and author of Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class.

Chicago neighborhoods are undergoing astonishing and often wrenching change. New communities are being built while old communities are displaced, and "gentrification" has become a hotly debated and contested issue. How can Chicago's low-income families, including those who live in public housing, make sense of the dramatic change in their communities? What imperatives are driving the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation, which is remaking public housing in the city? How do Chicagoans reconcile their desires for progress with their desire to preserve their communities? The panel will discuss these questions.

Sponsored by the Public Housing Museum, Chicago History Museum. Information: on-line (pdf format)

Sulan Kolatan 6:00 P.M. Wednesday, February 6th - Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan

A free lecture by architect Sulan Kolatan, principal and founder of KOL/MAC LLC, which operates as a distributed office by forming project-based teams and collaborations locally, nationally and internationally. Collaborations have included projects with Arup AGU London, Hargreaves Associates, the French lighting and scénography firm Duckscéno and the Canadian real-time artificial intelligence software firm Biographic Technologies,Inc. among others. Presented in conjunction with the Art Institute's current exhibition, "Figuration in Contemporary Design."

Co-sponsored by the Architecture and Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Chicago Women in Architecture. Information: 312/857.7166

And, of course, you can check out all the goodies on the February calendar here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bagli to Bates to Betsky to Maddox to Wilkinson and Woodhouse - the February Calendar of Architectural Events

Bagli, Bates, Betsky, Dunn and Felsen, Eifler, Ingels, Jacob, Kipnis, Maddox, Mau, Ryan, Wilkinson, Woodhouse: have we said enough? They're all on the February calendar of Chicago architectural events which, with over 45 items, is densing up to the point of traffic jams such as Cincinnati Museum of Art Director Aaron Betsky and Sam Jacob of London's FAT {Fashion, Architecture and Taste] squaring off against each other, at different locales, 6:00 P.M. February 18th. Jacob's appearance is part of a crackjack list of lectures booked by the School of Architecture at UIC, which this month also includes Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen's BIG, and Donald Bates of Melbourne's LAB Architecture Studio.

And then there are the double-dippers. UrbanLab's Felsen and Dunn not only appear at a CAF lunchtime lecture, but at an open house at Archeworks, to which they've just been named co-directors, succeeding Stanley Tigerman and Eva Maddox, who has her own lecture at Archeworks on the 6th. It's like Six Degrees of Stanley, except that with Tigerman the game pretty much ends for everyone by the time they get to the second degree.

Grant Uhlir talks about Block 37, the Grant Park Advocacy Council and Commission on Chicago Landmarks both consider the historic Michigan Avenue streetwall, and Friends of the Parks presents the Calumet Open Space Reserve, where Jeanne Gang's Ford Calumet Environmental Center looks at last to have passed its final hurdle to actually breaking crowd. And unless you want to wind up with a bunch of egrets, you'll check out the full roster of events - there's much, much more - on the February calendar here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Get My Drift?

A photoessay on how a rare scrim of snow sedates the Chicago cityscape, plus a meditation on the nature and joys of slush. Read and see it all here.

Fun with Google

via Zay Smith in the Chicago Sun-Times, here's a tip:

Go to Google, type in "Find Chuck Norris" and hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button

Friday, February 01, 2008

Humanur Bagli and panel on Legacy of Gordon Matta-Clark this weekend

Yeah, I'm behind in getting the monthly calendar up again. (It's a lot of work, ok, and the dog ate my keyboard.) So here's the listings for the first weekend in February.

Humanur Bagli at UIC - 11:30 A.M., Friday, February 1st, at the City Design Conference Room, 820 West Jackson Boulevard, Suite 330, UIC. A presentation and discussion from the City Design Center by the visiting scholar from Istanbul, Turkey. Dr. Bagli will discuss her experiences as a designer and design consultant in Turkey. Her work has included many interdisciplinary projects with international and NGOs which illustrate the role of the designer as a socially responsible agent. Information here.

Gordon Matta-Clark's Legacy, 1:00 P.M., Saturday, February 2nd, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue. Independent curator Mary Jane Jacob moderates a discussion with artists and architects whose work is inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark, subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art that also opens on Saturday. Participants will include artist Mark Dion, Walter Hood, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkley and principal architect for Hood Design, contemporary artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Sarah Oppenheimer, known for her social experiments in videos and architectural installations. Information here.