Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chicago Streetscene: Blues in the Night

Click on photo for larger view.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Claremont Cottages - when the mass produced becomes a collectible

Still surviving on the 1000 block of South Claremont Avenue is a series of cottages built in the 188o's as a new housing development by Turner & Bond, designed in the Queen Anne style by  architect Cicero Hine, a protege of Lakeview High School architect Normand S. Patton.  According to research by Landmarks Illinois, from whom we've stolen borrowed the historic image you see here, the houses were marketed with a 16 page brochure, The Claremont Cottages in Seven Styles.

Originally, these were workingman's starter houses, as small as 600 square feet. Today, most have been expanded and handsomely renovated, and have been going for $200,000 and up, which probably would have bought you the entire street back in 1890.  Landmarks Illinois has been working to protect similar cottages on the 1300 blocks of Oakley, Heath and Claremont.  What was then tract housing by a developer looking to make a quick buck is, a century later, a cherished bit of civic character.

Acetylated Wood on Thursday; Jens Jensen and the Spertus for August

One last addition to the July calendar - on this Thursday, July 29th,  5:30 to 7:00 p.m.,  the Häfele Chicago Showroom, 154 W. Hubbard will be offering a seminar on Acetylated Wood: Durable, Stable, Sustainable Wood for Windows, Doors & Siding,  by Robin Whitehurst  and Greg Williams.  There are six more events still to come on the July calendar.  Check them all out here.

And then a heads up on what looks to be two great August events:

Jens Jensen Birthday Celebration Tour of Chicago Parks. On August 28th (and then again on September 25th,) the Chicago Park District and Parkways Foundation are sponsoring a day-long bus tour, 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., led by Park District historian Julia S. Bachrach, of parks designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen, including "the Humboldt Park prairie river, Douglas Park's formal gardens and his masterpiece, Columbus Park."

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The tours are among a number of special events marking the 150th anniversary of Jensen's birth.  You can find them on the website of the Jens Jensen Legacy Project, which also includes a brief biography of the architect, a selection of his drawings, a number of essays by Bachrach, including a fine history of Columbus Park, mutilated for the construction of the Congress expressway.  (And, strangely, a "Park Photos" page that appears to be completely uncontaminated by photographs, but why be churlish?)  The cost of the tours is $30.00.  To reserve your space, email Teishetta Daniels or call her at 312/742.4947.

Spertus Architecture - Inside and Out  is the name of a tour of the Spertus Institute's spectacular new, award-winning building by Krueck & Sexton, taking place August 8th at noon, and then again September 19th at 1 p.m., and November 17 at 5:30 p.m. "This behind-the-scenes tour lets you learn about the building’s environmental sustainability, how its contemporary design found a home in South Michigan Avenue’s historic district . . .  Also, discover how ideas central to Judaism’s religious and intellectual traditions are woven into the building’s design."

Since the Spertus has dramatically cut back its hours, this is a rare opportunity to see this exceptional structure.  The cost is $18.00 for adults, $10.00 for students and seniors, and $8.00 for Spertus members.  You can buy tickets on-line, or call 312/322.1773.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chicago had a little rain last night, but now that's all water under the bridge

"There's nothing more soothing than the sound of a summer rain," I thought to myself falling asleep last night.  As someone once said, however, you can apparently have too much of a good thing.

By the time I awoke, up to eight inches of rain had fallen on the Chicago area, flooding expressways and underpasses, and swelling up the river in the Loop.

Before . . .

after . . .

before . . .
after . . .
The skies have begun to clear, and the water level is subsiding, but more rain is expected later.  As you can see, the Chicago River appears to be flowing towards the lake rather than away from it, as is the norm.  Explain to me again, with rains like this becoming an annual event, how closing the locks to day-to-day traffic is going to keep the Asian Carp out?

Local meteorologists have traced the source of the torrential downpour to the gods mistaking Michael Bay's explosions for the filming of Transformers3 as an impassioned prayer to end a drought.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Closing Statement , Final Reception for Gravity, SAIC Friday

This Friday, the School of the Art Institute's AIADO (Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects) will be holding a free closing reception for Gravity, this year's exhibition bringing together "work by graduate students that explores responses to gravity exemplifying fiction and advocacy through innovation and design." 

Those students have just earned degrees across a range including  everything from "Master of Architecture" to "Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion, Body, and Garment." (If only there were an advanced certificate for shabby, decaying and threadbare, I'd be in.)   I had the opportunity to review some of the work with the students who created it around the time of the exhibition's opening, and while it varied in terms of level of finish and depth of concept, the SAIC's mix of disciplines makes for some  fresh and interesting takes on contemporary architecture and design.

Although the closing reception is Friday, from 5 p.m., to 7, the show itself is up, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., through Saturday, July 24th. It's all in the Sullivan Galleries, 7th floor, in Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott building, entrance at 33 South State. Or almost all. An additional component of the exhibition is one display through the windows at Wabash and Monroe. Information on-line

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Julys in Jewel - Tonight!

Here's something else I screwed up on and forgot to list on the calendar.  Tonight is architectreasures' Jewels in July benefit at Room and Board.  Tickets are $100 at the door, and benefit the arts-based community development organization.  Silent auction, raffle, food, cocktails, and interesting people.  6 to 10:00 p.m., tonight, Wednesday, July 21. Info here.

Chicago Streetscene: Prairie Avenue Geometry

Monday, July 19, 2010

That Michael Bay, he sure do make pretty fireballs

Filming of Transformers 3 continues to picturesquely rubble up the streets along the Chicago River, this time in front of Milton Schwartz's Executive House, now Hotel 71. The actual transformers, including a 40-foot-tall Decepticon modeled after Rod Blogojevich, will added later via CGI.

Chaos comes and goes; Kup endures.

Chicago Streetscene: Portable Graffiti

yeah, I know, still another streetscene. we're working on a larger piece; hope to have it up in a couple days. honest.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Watch out for the foam spikes! Inside Apple's freaky Blue Room. (via Engadget)

They're called the "Black Labs", but, like Steve Jobs himself, they're not about to lick your hand.  The Black Labs are a series of 17 anechoic chambers, costing up to $1.2 million each, on Apple's Infinite Loop campus, super-secret - until now.  After Jobs' Friday mea culpa on the controversial antenna problems on Apple's new iPhone 4, a select group of journalists including Engadget's Joshua Topolsky were given a tour of some of rooms to back up Jobs statement that the reception problem wasn't due to a lack of testing, and that Apple's facilities were, in fact, far superior to the chintzy set-ups such as those deployed by Consumer Reports to create their publicity grabbing "don't buy" press blitz for the same iPhone4 that beat out all other smartphones in their latest rating.  No pictures or video allowed by Apple during the tour, but Apple PR helpfully released a few more images  of what must be some of the most surreal interiors around today.  You can check them out, and read Topolsy's capable report,  here.

Heading to Venice in August, Mobile Food Collective stops in Logan Square Sunday

At end of August, it'll be part of the exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion of this years Venice Biennale, but throughout the day tomorrow, Sunday, July 18th, the Mobile Food Collective will be bringing its Moveable Feast to three different locations in Logan Square.  A realization of a student work project at Archeworks, it's described as being about:

. . .  addressing the social and environmental impact of food, and working to find an innovative way to bring people together around food, through a variety of avenues.  The Archeworks Team has designed a fleet of mobile structures intended to act as both connector and instigator within local food cultures, to encourage a return to heritage, ownership, exchange, and connection—to make food personal again.
The MFC (Mobile Food Collective)  is many things: an education/exchange platform for planting, growing and cooking; demonstrations and distribution of seeds, soil, compost, and produce; a space activator within a community event; or the centerpiece of a harvest dinner.

Physically, the MFC is conceived as a fleet of mobile structures. The larger mobile unit houses a harvest table and flexible storage cabinets that double as seats. At a smaller scale, there are bikes and trailers, equipped to carry the modular storage cabinets. The mobility of the project allows this dialogue to be constant and moveable—we can go where we are needed, bringing different things to different audiences, connecting different groups across a city, or around the world.
So stop by Sunday at one of the locations listed in the image you see above.  The project is still raising funds towards "completing the final steelwork details, fabricating the skin material, and building out our fleet of bikes and trailers."   You can find more information, and make a donation, here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Real Transformers

That's what a Marina City neighbor called them as we watched a family of butterflies flitting among the flowers along Marina City's riverwalk. We were comparing them to the filming of Michael Bay's latest epic, Transformers 3, which is shutting down a good part of the Magnificent Mile for filming this weekend, after blowing stuff up on LaSalle last weekend.
Monarchs have also taken up in the Chicago's Millennium park, and you can see a photoessay we did on them a few years ago here.  No CGI required.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lucien Lagrange retiring

Crain's has a major report that architect Lucien Lagrange is retiring and his firm is filing for bankruptcy protection. Read it here.

I never noticed this before, but The Spirit of Music is really ripped

If Theodore Thomas had been in this good a shape, he never would caught pneumonia in drafty new Orchestra Hall. (Sculpture, 1923, by Albin Polasek, Michigan at Balbo.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

J Seward in the Subway?

Note: Section 223a of the Living Statue Guild code prohibits the carrying of cell phones until such time as Blackberry comes out with a model in faux marble gray.  With the decreasing availability of public payphones, this provision has become increasingly controversial, especially among living statues portraying space aliens, who are now demanding it be revised to allow them to carry Droids.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The stormy life and magical architecture of Harry Weese

The July issue of Chicago Magazine includes a splendid article by Robert Sharoff, On the Life and Work of Chicago Architect Harry Weese,  chronicling the spectacular career and tragic final years of one of the city's most essential designers.  Weese's personality comes off as part Kahn, part Wright, part Le Corbu, with a bit of Richard Corey thrown in for good message.  It's a great read.  (And the July issue is well worth picking up, not just for the Sharoff, but for a survey of the city's best pizza, and Graham Meyer's list of the Chicago's 40 top contributions to the English language, which include pipe dream, yuppie, cafeteria and doo-wop.  Apparently, we have Saul Bellow to thank for ass wipe and yuck it up.  Who knew?)

Since his death twelve years ago, Weese has been in something of an

eclipse, an eclipse that now, thankfully,  appears be lifting.  One of the most exciting things in Sharoff's masterly piece is the discovery that a new monograph, The Architecture of Harry Weese, is to be published this September by W.W. Norton.  What makes the book
even more eagerly anticipated is that it's by UIC's Robert Bruegmann, the same author who's already given us one of the more
indispensable volumes on Chicago architecture, The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche  of Chicago, 1880-1918.

Weese was a giant in Chicago history whose contributions went beyond his buildings, to an impassioned activism that kept Inland Architect alive for years,  and that was instrumental in saving and restoring the irreplaceable Auditorium Theater at a time when Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was recommending demolishing it and building a replacement in the shell.  It was Harry Weese, looking down from an airplane at the abandoned hulk of the 21-story Transportation Building, who was inspired to partner with Larry Booth in 1981 to rehab that structure into 200+ housing units.  With the last decade's huge building boom inventing new life for neighborhoods and industrial directs all around the periphery of the Loop that had grown menancingly derelict, that kind of development now seems a commonplace.  But it was Weese's work in Printers Row that was the mother of them all.

Weese's architecture is also a source of underappreciated wonder. Weese was sui generis.  Looking at the body of his work, you'd be hard pressed to pigeon-hole him into any given school.  There's isn't a lock-jaw style stringing the buildings together.  The only constants were a sense of exploration and invention, and the essential fact that Harry Weese was a damn good architect  His superb buildings  have become anchor points carrying forward the evolution of Chicago's rich architectural fabric,  expressing the spirit of their time with an eloquence and grace that, even today, feels bracing and fresh.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

A Piano for your thoughts

A number of visitors taking the trek up the Nichols Bridgeway to the Art Institute's new Modern Wing have somehow decided the lip at the southern tip is a kind of wishing well.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Architectural Photography 2010 opens on Friday

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Imaging Mass and Space: Architectural Photography 2010, an exhibition of the work of students in the Architectural Photography class of of Summer 2010 of the School of the Art Institute, will have an opening reception this Friday, July 9th, 5 to 8:00 p.m. in the Prairie Avenue Gallery at the 1870 Elbridge Keith mansion, 1900 S. Prairie. Pictured here is an image by Marc Falzon. The exhibition runs only through July 17th. Call 773/871.0464 for more information.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Man lies in greatest need. Man lies in greatest pain. Gustav Mahler at 150

Gustav Mahler died in 1911, but he may still be the greatest composer of the 20th century.  Passages in his last, unfinished, symphony, the Tenth, seem to anticipate all the unspeakable horror soon to come, yet in the end his music leaves us with the possibility of a redemptive beauty that transcends all suffering.

A Jew, Mahler converted to Christianity to negotiate the rabid anti-Semitism of Vienna society.  Yet in his Second, Resurrection, Symphony, there is no last judgment at the end of the world, no final, cold estrangement from the face of divinity:
I came upon a wide road,
where an Angel bade block my way.
No. No, I will not be turned away.
I came from God, and I will return to God.
It was the gift of God,
the small, quavering light,
guide through earth's long, dark path,
that will deliver me to eternity's luminous shore.

On Wednesday, July 7th, the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birth, WFMT, 98.7 will be playing all 10 of Mahler's symphonies, and Thursday at 8:00 p.m., the station will broadcast a concert from the 1960 Mahler centenary with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic, the same orchestra Mahler served as music director a half century before, in the composer's Fifth Symphony, and the Adagio from Symphony #10.

The cow paths of Rafael Nadal: Does technology make us predictable?

Paul Kedrosky, on his website InfectiousGreed has a fascinating analysis of the way the playing of championship tennis has evolved, using as his base data the change of the "cow paths"- the areas of the court most used by the players, killing off the grass.  In the 1980 finals between John McEnroe and Björn Borg, the paths form a "T", from the baselines to the center in the net.  In 2010, with Rafael Nadal and Tomáš Berdych, the now linear cow paths are confined to the baselines.

. . .  the game of tennis, even on grass, has been transformed by technology in recent years, with a “power baseline” game becoming dominant. Players like Rafael Nadal wallop the ball from the baseline, hitting unreturnable shots (“winners”) from parts of the court where players like Connors, Ashe, Borg and McEnroe would never have imagined it possible.

Turning back to court usage patterns, what this makes clear is the unidimensionality of court use. The dead areas in 1980 weren’t as dead as those in 2010 – it’s the difference between mostly dead and all dead, to borrow a phrase from Miracle Max.

We think of technology as infinitely liberating, but on a fundamental level, whether we're talking about tennis rackets, Maya, Photoshop or CGI, does it really funnel everything through its limitations, making a commodity of creativity? 


Read Kedrosky's Everything I Know About Tennis I Learned from Cow Paths here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bergdoll, Lohan, Lee, Lothan, Maddox, Baer and Bey, restoring the Nickerson, Richardson and Wright - the July Architectural Calendar

OK, so many of us have left the city for our summer homes in Fond du Lac, and lectures at places like CAF. UIC and IIT have shut down until fall, but take heart: there are still over two dozen great events on the July Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

On the 15th, MOMA's Barry Bergdoll talks about how the New York waterfront will deal with rising waters and global warming, while over at the Driehaus Museum, Joseph Antunovich lectures on the restoration of the Nickerson Mansion. On the 13th, the Harold L. Washington Library sponsors a panel, including Frank Christopher Lee, Dirk Lohan, Avram Lothan, Eva Maddox and moderator Lee Bey that takes on The Art of Chicago Architecture: Past, Present & Future, followed up with a July 22nd event where WTTW's Geoffrey Baer talks about Sculpture Among the Skyscrapers: Chicago Public Art. On the 20th, at the Hafele showroom, Chicago Women in Architecture offers up a panel on Striking a Balance, between professional and personal lives.

AIA Chicago is in heavy summer field trip mode, with tours of Booth Hansen's Rice Plant Conservation Science Center in Glencoe on the 15th, the Gensler offices in Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Building on the 20th, Harley Ellis Devereaux's Sankofa House on the 30th, and OWP/P Cannon Design's OSF Mile Building at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria on the 24th. This Wednesday, the 7th, James F. O'Gorman discusses the continuity between the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Hobbs Richardson, even beyond the fact that they both insisted on using three names, at the Glessner House Museum. That same evening, Nils Gore and Shannon Criss discuss Community Activism through the Design Studio for Urban Habitat Chicago at the Merlo Public Library on Belmont.

But wait, there's more!  Even before I eventually add in all the stuff I forgot to include, there's still nearly 30 great events on the July calendar. Check them all out here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Gang Weave, Nature Boardwalk Preview, and What to Do This Weekend

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Last week marked the opening of the spectacular new Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk that has replaced the previous, bemucked, concrete-lined lagoon.. We expect to be writing a lot more about this, but for now, we present just a few shots of the pond and of the equally remarkable Peoples Gas Education Pavilion, designed by Studio/Gang, in the hopes you'll take the hint and do yourself the pleasure of checking it this holiday weekend.

Chicago, Summer of 2010

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listen here.