Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is this the best joke in Chicago architecture?

By all accounts, engineer and architect William Lebaron Jenney was an engaging raconteur. Whether his design of the Manhattan Building, on Dearborn just north of Congress, was a simple matter of casual practicality or an intentional - if private - jest, we'll never know. Still, the fact that for what was, at its completion, the tallest building in the world, Jenney gave his steel framed structure an impression of solidity through brick and rough-cut stone, only to give the game away at entry level, with razor thin facades of metal and glass, never fails to make me smile.

Jenney may not have been a truly great architect - Louis Sullivan, among others, didn't consider him an architect at all - but he was one of the seminal figures in the flowering of Chicago architecture, and one of the city's great characters, to boot.

Read the profile I did of Jenney a few years ago, at the time of the unveiling of a memorial at Graceland Cemetery - along with plenty of pictures - here.


Anonymous said...

Jenny was by far the most gifted of the original Chicago School, it was He after all who invented the techniques that allowed the Chicago school in the first place - it took quite a bit of a leap of imagination to make it so.

Please not the 220 S. State Building which was one of his last and finished after his death has been taken by the GSA and is in danger of being condemed. We can not afford to lose this treasure.

Anonymous said...

Let me clarify also to my above post that Jenny's Manhatten building is not his best work - see Leiter Building for Jenny's premonition of what was to come

chicagoandpointsnorth@gmail.com said...

"A battleship of a building" nails it. Good post and link.