Saturday, May 16, 2009

Newhouse, Behnisch - Two great alternatives to the mad crush at AIC in their final days

OK, let's face it, many of us will be joining the teeming hordes checking out the new Art Institute and Nichols Bridgeway, but admission is free all week, through the 22nd, and you can beat the crowds by visiting two other highly worthwhile events that are in their final days.

Richard Newhouse Program, Competition and Exhibition only through May 19th.
Every year I mean to write about this great program, now in its 27th year, started by the late Senator Richard Newhouse in 1982 to increase opportunities for minorities in the fields of architecture and design by involving high school students from the Chicago Public Schools.
It's grown from the participation of 100 students in its initial year to 18,000 today, with 1192 registrations for the competition in nine different differences from model making, to photography, architectural renderings both hand drawn and computer generated, photography and full-up design, this year including a food cart for delivering healthy comestibles on school grounds, and creating a residence for a homeless woman using two shipping containers, and a community center combining recreation and education space. The program's curriculum is based on now the Chicago Architecture Foundation's curriculum The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings, which has just received the American Institute of Architect's 2009 Honor Award for Collaborative Achievement.

This year, I was honored to be one of the judges for the competition and, as always, was blown away by the work, and by the commitment not only of the students but of the dedicated teachers working with them.

In a ceremony at Symphony Center's Buntrock Hall this week, 120 prizes were awarded. Six students will be going to a one week Taliesin Apprenticeship at Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring Grove, Wisconsin home. And, in spite of the troubled economy, Chicago architectural firms have provided 14 summer internships for participating students. Farhia Wajid, pictured here, who won first prize for her essay on how President Obama could deploy stimulus funds to jump start productive changes in the built environment, will get to spend her summer as an intern at Studio/Gang.

The Newhouse Competition is one Chicago's greatest hidden treasures, and you see how much it accomplishes and enjoy a very rich exhibition of exceptionally fine student work. Post, pre, or as an alternative to the crowds at AIC, walk the two extra blocks and check out a great show. [Santa Fe Building atrium, 224 S. Michigan, but, again, only through Tuesday, May 18th.)

Behnisch and TransSolar: Ecology.Design.Synergy - here's another great show that slipped under the radar and I never got around to writing about. And it closes this Sunday, at a still not very well known cultural resource, the Loyola University Museum of Art, in the Lewis Tower, just above the Hershey's store on the Mag Mile. The handsomely mounted exhibition showcases the collaboration of Behnisch Architekten and TransSolar in creating sustainable architecture, featuring such projects as the Norddeutsche Landsebank in Hannover and Genzyme Corporate Headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If nothing else, pick up a copy of the exhibition's small, elegant catalogue, which captures not only the images but the voluminous textual information that's also a part of the show. For each of six key categories: temperature, air, sound, light, material and human scale, there's a fascinating mini-essay of their role both in the built environment and in our lives, with a wealth of fun facts:
  • 42% of all U.S. energy is used for lighting.
  • An "olf" is a unit of measure capturing the scent emission of an "average person - 'a sitting adult that takes an average of 0.7 baths per day . . . and whose skin has a total area of of 1.8 square meters. Marble has a rating of 0.01 olf per square meter; a heavy smoker, 25.
  • The skin of a human body has ten receptors for sensing cold for every one receptor for sensing warmth.
  • During an average lifetime, we will spend 6 months sitting on the toilet, but only 2 weeks kissing. (If that's not the most depressing ratio you've ever encountered, I don't know what is.)
[Ecology.Design.Synergy - at the Loyola University Museum of Art, only through May 17th - 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Hershey's kisses sold separately.]

The Big Kahuna: The Modern Wing of the Art Institute
Dedication day events begin at 9:00, with the ribbon-cutting scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Free admission Saturday, May 16th through Friday, May 22nd. 65,000 square feet of new gallery space in an instant landmark designed by architect Renzo Piano. This will be your first chance to traverse Piano's Nichols Bridgeway, the 620 span linking the Modern Wing to Millennium Park.
For opening week, the AIC is partnering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which has experienced a major uptick in the demand for their services in today's troubled economy. Visitors are asked to bring canned goods to the museum to help provide food for the Chicago community.

[Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing and Nichols Bridgeway. The Bridgeway open 7:30 a.m. to dusk; the museum 10:00 a.m. t0 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Opens at 10:30 a.m, the remainder of the week, open to 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays.]

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