Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Major Breaking News: Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital on Landmarks Agenda for Thursday

The just published agenda for the monthly meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks includes an item for "Preliminary Landmark Recommendation: Prentice Women's Hospital."  What's in store for Thursday is still anyone's guess, but that the Commission is now officially considering designation is a major victory.

You can find the list of Commissions on their website here.   We should very respectfully and eloquently be making sure that each of them is fully aware of all the reasons that Bertrand Goldberg's masterpiece deserves official designation. You can also make sure that you're getting everyone who know, in Chicago and across the world, that believes in the importance of this building to sign the petition here.

As Churchill once said, this is not the end, or even the beginning of the end, but it is end of the beginning.  That the debate is now within the official context of the Landmarks Commission is a major achievement, but it is just the beginning.  Keep the story of this essential work of Chicago architecture in the forefront of the public, and the Commission.

The meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will take place this Thursday, June 2nd, beginning at 12:45 p.m., in City Council chambers, room 201-A, 121 North LaSalle.  Supporters of the landmarking Prentice Hospital are urged to attend to lend their support.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Prentice, Prentice, Prentice - plus Ronan's Poetry Foundation, Mau, Calthorpe, Enquist, Vergara: already at 60 items for the June 2011 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events

Wasn't it St. Augustine who once said, "Lord, give me my summer break.  Just not yet."

It was so hot on Memorial Day today, you could be forgiven for thinking everything was shutting down for summer.  But you'd be wrong.

I'm sure we haven't gotten everything yet, but there's already 60 items on the June 2011 Calendar of Chicago Architectural events.

And if there's a theme, it's Prentice, Prentice, Prentice.  The battle to save Bertrand Goldberg should-be-landmarked Prentice Hospital from Northwestern destroying it for a vacant lot is at full press, with a benefit, Bowling for Prentice, on Monday the 6th at 10 Pin at Goldberg's Marina City, a CAF debate, Re-Use It or Lose It: Prentice and Chicago's Modernist Architecture, on the 14th at Dick's Last Resort, also at Marina City, and Landmarks Illinois President James Peters talking about  what could be, The Rebirth of Prentice, at a CAF lunchtime lecture on the 29th.

The month starts out, however, with two pillars of Chicago's architectural legacy.  First up, Ward Miller and John Vinci will discuss their indispensable book, The Complete Architecture of Adler and Sullivan, first at CAF lunchtime this Wednesday, the 1st, and then again on Saturday the 4th at the University Center on State as part of this years Printer's Row Lit Fest.  Wednesday evening, there's a the kick-off of an 18 month celebration of the 125th anniversary of Henry Hobson Richardson's Glessner House, for which ground was broken on that day in 1886.

On Thursday the 2nd, Bernie Judge and Neal Samors will discuss their new book on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive at the Cultural Center for Friends of Downtown, while at Crown Hall at IIT, there'll be an opening reception of the summer's art exhibition, featuring the work of Jeff Carter.  Over at the Driehaus Museum, AKA Nickerson Mansion, Elizabeth Meredith Dowling will be discussing her book American Classicist: The Architecture of  Phillip Trammel Shutze, while on Saturday the 4th, Anna Wolfson will be talking about Natural Building at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

On the 26th, John Ronan will give a waitlisted talk on the occassion of the open house for the new home he designed for the Poetry Foundation. On Tuesday, the 7th, there's edition 18 of Pecha Kucha at Martyrs', while on Saturday the 11th, Structural Engineers Association of Illinois will be unveiling the winners of its 2011 Structural Engineering Awards at their annual banquet. On Wednesday, the 15th, Archeworks will be holding its Design Riot: Rise for Good Design benefit at Haymarket Brewery.

What else have we got?  Let's see: Walter Frazier, Peter Calthorpe, Ellen Markevich, Bruce Mau, Armin Linke, Palladio, John van Bergen, wind, Marcus Schmickler, Jonathan Olivares, Phil Enquist and Beijing's CBD expansion,  Margaret Cederoth and Christopher Drew in Masdar, Chicago decarbonization, Carolyn Armenta Davis and the Black Diaspora of architects, Chicago lighthouses, schoolhouses, McCormick Place Redux, Camilo Jose Vergara, and much, much more.

Check out the sixty great events on the June 2011 Chicago Architectural Calendar here.

For Memorial Day: Charles Ives sings They are There

No matter how down I am - and believe me, I'm a pretty depressive personality - this song, as sung by its composer, Charles Ives, always lifts me up. Actually, I prefer Ive's second take, which you can download from iTunes for 99 cents.  What jump starts my spirits every time is Ive's explosive energy and enthusiasm, as he curses out with equal impatience both Kaiser Bill and his misperforming feet, barrelling past all physical and vocal limitations.  If there's such a thing as life force, Ives - and his music - had it, and you can hear it in these performances.

Beyond that, however, Ive's lyrics carry the same sense of optimistic idealism that's the bedrock of the "better angels" of the American spirit.  I reproduce them here, via Lipwalk, amended to be closer to the verses as sung by Ives in that second take. Composed in 1917, They are There, with its references to smashing dictators and overcoming politicians, it's fresh as today.  More than any lachrymose requiem, it embodies with an amazing rough beauty the idea of sacrifice in pursuit of a better world . . .

There's a time in many a life,
when it's do though facing death
but our soldier boys will do their part
that people can live in a world where all will have a say.
They're conscious always of their country's aim,
which is Liberty for all.
Hip hip hooray you'll hear them say
as they go to the fighting front.

Brave boys are now in action . (Hooray.)
They are there, they will help to free the world
They are fighting for the right
But when it comes to might,
They are there, they are there, they are there,
As the Allies beat up all the warhogs,
The boys'll be there fighting hard
a-a-and then the world will shout
the battle cry of Freedom.

Tenting on a new camp ground.
Tenting tonight.
Tenting on a new camp ground.

For it's rally around the flag,
of the people's new free world.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

When we're through this cursed war,
All started by a sneaking gouger,
making slaves of men
(Goddam him!)
Then let all the people rise,
and stand together in brave, kind Humanity.
Most wars are made by small stupid
selfish bossing groups
while the people have no say.
But there'll come a day
Hip hip Hooray
when they'll smash all dictators to the wall.

Then it's build a people's world nation - Hooray
Ev'ry honest country free to live its own native life.
They will stand for the right,
but if it comes to might,
They are there, they are there, they are there.
As the people, not just politicians
will rule their own lands and lives.
And you'll hear the whole universe
shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

Tenting on a new camp ground.
Tenting tonight.
Tenting tonight on a new ground.

For it's rally around the flag,
of the people's new free world.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

Then it's build a people's world nation - Hooray
Ev'ry honest country free to live its own native life.
They will stand for the right,
but when it comes to might,
They'll be there, they'll be there, they'll be there.
When the people, not just politicians
will rule their own lands and lives.
As you'll hear the whole universe
shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

Tenting on a new camp ground.
Tenting tonight.
Tenting tonight on a new ground.

For it's rally around the flag,
of the people's new free world.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicago Skyscape: After the Storm

click image for larger view (recommended)

Weekend Reading: Lady Gaga gets Fryed, Groupon's gag writers, Bikini Waxes, Kissinger's murderous sycophancy, Hunt Lieberson's sublime Berlioz

Some great weekend reading:

Not-So-Odd Couple - This weekend's Financial Times' Lady Gaga Takes Tea with Mr. Fry offers an engaging and enlightening account of the inimitable Stephen Fry's visit with the unsinkable chanteuse.

Kissinger's China - also in the FT, the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, reviews Henry Kissinger's new book On China, and paints a portrait of a brilliant man devoid of any moral sense. In his latest work the chronic enabler of blood-soaked tyrants offers up a whitewashing of Mao's crimes, to which Patten provides an sobering rebuttal.

Over at Business Week, there's a portrait of New Royalist Torquemada Grover Norquist. When even Tom Coburn thinks someone's a dangerous extremist, you know you're dealing with a real piece of work. Also in Business Week, there's a discussion of the relationship of the bikini wax to Brazil's measure of inflation.

On the music front, The Financial Times finds Glyndebourne's Meistersinger flavorless mush, and reports that, after a slew of cancellations of dates earlier this year, including Chicago, Maurizio Pollini was back in top form at a Royal Festival Hall recital that included Chopin, Schumann, and Stockhausen Klavierstücke.

Over at the Sunday New York Times, David Streitfield's Funny or Die: Groupon's Fate Hinges on Words suggests that Groupon's continued success may hinge on its gagwriters - "musicians, poets, actors and comedians" who write the copy that keeps subscribers clicking coupons.

Elsewhere, Zachary Woolfe has a glowing review of the new live recording from 1995 of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's sublime acount of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Ete , plus a selection of Handel arias, a must-have release that has been topping out my iPod for the past few weeks.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Calling every one of you who cares about Chicago Architecture: As Demolition looms, battle to save Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital ramps up and needs your support

At a SOAR public forum last week,  Northwestern's representative made clear that the only use they intend to consider for Bertrand Goldberg's iconic Prentice Hospital is as a pile of rubble.   As the 60-day moratorium negotiated by 42nd ward Brendan Reilly is set to expire, the battle to save the building ramps up.  Blair Kamin has slammed the Commission on Chicago Landmarks as MIA on the most contentious - and critical - landmark battles, something we've been writing about for years, and will write about again next week.

Now, the Save Prentice Coalition has launched a petition drive to demonstrate support for saving the hospital.  Check out the petition and sign here.   The petition urges Ald.Reilly to move forward with designating Prentice as an official Chicago landmark, something the Landmarks Commission hasn't listed a finger to do.  Reilly's ward office can also be reached via phone (312.642.4242) or email.  

And finally, there's the June 6th Bowling for Prentice benefit at 10 Pin, in another unprotected Bertrand Goldberg landmark,  Marina City.  5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
$35 for Adults, includes 2 hours of bowling, shoe rental, gourmet pizza buffet and soft drinks. A cash bar will be available. Proceeds will support the Save Prentice advocacy campaign.
Like the Adler and Sullivan's Garrick Theater and Chicago Stock Exchange buildings, this is one of the most critical preservation battles in the city's history.  To avoid the same disastrous result as those battles - to Chicago, it's architectural legacy, and the character of the city - this is the time to step up. Do a little bowling, a little shouting.  Sign the petition, and urge others to do so, as well.  Make your voice heard against those who would destroy our history just because they can.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Moveable Feast of Healthy Food launches tour today in North Lawndale

Think of it as a really big, motorized camel, bringing rescue to the middle of the dessert.

In this case, we're talking about Chicago's food deserts. And the camel? It's an outdated bus, donated by the CTA . . .
to serve as a one-aisle mobile grocery store serving some of the many food desert areas within the city (swaths of the city with little or no access to fresh foods and grocery stores) . . . access to such foods has been statistically linked with higher cases of diet related diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and even premature death. Food Desert Action's plan was to find a simple way to create a system that would readily, and quickly, fill these voids in the urban fabric of the city. The solution, we feel, to be an elegant answer to the city's crisis.
The Fresh Moves Mobile Market, a collaboration with Architecture for Humanity, who designed the retrofit of the bus, and EPIC, which pairs creative professionals with non-profits, kicks off what is scheduled to be a six week run today, Wednesday, May 25th, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Lawndale Christian Health Center, 3860 W. Ogden, 12 to 2 p.m., at Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, 4041 W. Roosevelt, and 3 to 5:00 p.m., at Green Youth Farm, 3555 W. Ogden. Tomorrow, Thursday the 26th, from 11 a.m. to 2 the market will be t the Herbert Spencer Technology Academy, 214 N. Lavergne, and from 3 to 5 p.m., at Bethel New Life, Division and Lavergne. Check out the website for future appearances.

Metamorphosen: mid spring morning in Lincoln Park

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SOAR meeting on Bertrand Goldberg's endangered Prentice Hospital tonight, Bowling for Prentice on June 6th

This evening, SOAR, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, is holding a "community meeting regarding the deposition of the former Prentice Women's Hospital," Bertrand Goldberg's striking landmark that isn't that Northwestern is intent on grinding into dust.

If you're looking to avoid that grim scenario and you're a Streeterville resident, now is the time to be heard. You can be sure Northwestern representatives will be out in force.  The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m., tonight, May 24th, on the 44th floor of the Hancock building, 175 E. Delaware at 7:00 p.m.,.  Don't expert to get in unless you've RSVP'd, here:  rsvp@soarchicago.org.
And on June 6th, a who's who of preservation groups  including AIA Chicago, docomomo, Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust, and Preservation Chicago will be holding a Bowling for Prentice! fundraiser at 10 Pin at another Bertrand Goldberg landmark that isn't a landmark, Marina City.  Two hours of bowling with pizza, buffer and refreshments for just $35.00 ($25.00 for students with valid ID's; $35.00 for students with invalid ID's.) More information here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hanging Chads in Harry Weese's Punchcard Prison

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Time decomposes dreams.

It's been over 35 years since architect Harry Weese's triangular, 27th-story Metropolitan Correctional Center was completed, and it's hard to imagine Chicago's south Loop skyline without its distinctive presence.  Journalist Dan Weissmann has just taken another look at Chicago's Jailhouse Skyscraper for Roman Mars' 99% Invisible website, with this audio report of the structure then and now.
One of the interview subjects is architect Jack Hartray, who was project manager on what was then called the Campbell Correctional Center.  "The mayor didn't want this building in the Loop," recalls Hartray, "so there was a lawsuit.  I think it took them about 12 minutes to get the thing kicked out of court.  It was impossible to find a judge who wasn't in favor of building the building."

Hartray has fond memories of the quality of the design, "Harry sort of viewed this from the standpoint of accommodations on sailboats.  The furniture was all built in, so you could really do pretty nice furniture . . . It's not a bad place to stay.  We were doing a hotel at the time, and this was better than the hotel."

The concrete tower functioned  less as a long term retention facility than as a holding pen for suspects going on trial at the nearby Federal Courthouse designed by Mies van der Rohe.  Since none of the residents were yet convicted, a way was sought to avoid the brutal nature of most jails.  According to Kathleen Murphy Skolnick, co-author with Robert Bruegmann - who's also interviewed in Weissmann's report -of the new book, The Architecture of Harry Weese,
Each 7 x 10 foot room contained a single platform bed with drawers for storage underneath, a desk, shelves, and a chair . . . Carpeting eliminated the need for acoustic treatment. . . The butcher-block furniture chosen for both the individual rooms and the common areas created a residential quality and was easy to clean and hard to destroy.  A bright red, white, and blue color scheme replaced the drab gray and sterile white so frequently found in the conventional correctional facilities.
The building's facades are animated by a series of slits, actually floor-to-ceiling windows, beveled to bring the the maximum light, but just five inches wide to come in below federal guidelines where bars would begin to be required.

 While Weissman was unable to gain entry to the interior of the building for his report, he did interview someone who visits it regularly, prison reformer Phil Carrigan, "Show me the hotel," he says, after hearing Hartray's remembrances.  Carrigan says today's detainees would be "aghast" at such rosy descriptions, given the facility's current condition. "MCC is not a spa", he says. "It's very drab, gunmetal gray."  Those carefully designed furnishings?  "They're gone.  The bunks are steel, two-tiered structures - no wood."  The floor-to-ceiling glass slits?  "The windows are generally frosted.  Doesn't allow for sunlight to come in. The place is old.  It's definitely undergone some changes.  None of them have been for beautification."

Weissman has come up with a great portrait of good intentions curdled by time.  Listen to it here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coffee Tables Everywhere Rejoice: Festival of The Architecture Book 1511-2011

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On May 22nd, 1511 - at 3:00 p.m., I think, as he always liked to take the daily bacteria count from the Grand Canal around 2:00 - architect Fra Giovanni Giocondo published the "first illustrated architecture book ever to be printed."  There was so much excitement that La Schiavona put Titian on hold just to go and take a look.  By 4:00 p.m. Giocondo's shop was packed.  By 5:00 p.m. it emptied out at word of a team of jugglers arriving at the Piazza San Marco, and by 6:00, after  it became known that Giocondo's product was nothing new, but a reprint of a 1,500-year-old tome by Vitruvius, the book was showing up on the remainder tables right next to a stack of copies of  la Divina Commedia, Illustrated for Dogs.

Chicago's cultural institutions have, nontheless, taken the 500th anniversary of Giocondo's publication of De Architectura libri decem, to put on the Festival of The Architecture Book 1511-2011.
The Festival of the Architecture Book will demonstrate the broad range and intrinsic value of the illustrated architecture book as a work of art and imagination. By having numerous venues under separate curatorship, the series hopes to present both a survey and in depth views on specific aspects of the medium. Over 300 books, and other related materials will be displayed, featuring highlights of the Western tradition, including many of Chicago interest. The programs surrounding the anniversary of the 1511 De Architectura libri decem celebrate the history of the illustrated architectural book and give rise to questions about its future.
Through June 30, the UIC Richard J. Daley library, 801 South Morgan, is offering up Illustrated Architecture Books: Highlights from 500 Years of Theory and Practice a selection of architectural books from the past 500 years from Venice, Rome, Paris, London, Antwerp and Chicago.  The library is open Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:30, Wednesdays to 7:00.  Northwestern University, Loyola, and the U of C are also offering up their own exhibitions, with From Vernacular to Classical: The Perpetual Modernity of Palladio opening at Notre Dame June 10th, and The Story of a House opening at Glessner House on June 1st.

Are we now at the end of the line? Do printed architectural books - any more than any other kind of book - have a future in our digital age? Will they be cramped onto an iPad, or blossom in the expanse of a wall-size flat panel? Will the illustrations of today's architectural books become postings on Flickr and Facebook, and their theoretical musings 140 word tweets? Or has it happened already?

You can check out the festival and festival events on its website, here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chicago Streetscene: Snowglobe Skyline Sunset

click for larger view (recommended)

Gordon Gill and Adrian Smith, John van Bergen, Unity Temple - still more events for May

More new events just added to the May Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

On Tuesday the 17th, the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation  will be holding its annual meeting, with food, tours and updates on the buildings planned Geothermal HVAC system, Art Glass lancet windows and more.  On Thursday the 19th, Marty Hackl will be presenting drawings and documents by noted Prairie School architect John van Bergen that have never before be seen by the public, at the Barrington Area Historical Society, while at the Field Museum, the fourth annual Comer symposium on The Future of Sustainable Design will feature Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill, and Dr. Mitchell Joachim.

And if you're up and around this morning (Saturday) and willing to brave the return of the cold, today is the formal season opening day for City Farm, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at 1204 North Clybourn, just south of Helmut Jahn's Mercy Lakefront Near North SRO.

Also coming up this week: On Tuesday the 17th, Henry Hobson Richardson in the Landscape, at Glessner House; Chicago's Civil War History, Memory and Landscape, at CAF lunchtime on Wednesday, North Lawndale's K-Town Historic District, at the Cultural Center on Thursday, the same day the Chaddick Institute will be offering Plans, Projects, and Priorities: The Planning Legacy of the Two Mayor Daleys.

There are nearly two dozen great events still to come this month, so check out the May calendar here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chicken from Space lays Humongous Eggs - asks where she can find Jim Perdue

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"Don't the chickens participating in those commercials known what he has in store for them?", the fine-feathered alien inquired.

Go ahead.  Call MVRDV's latest design comical.  They won't mind at all.

It's their winning entry in a competition to design a new home for the China Comic and Animation Museum (CCAM) in Hangzhou, China.
And those aren't really eggs, but speech balloons, "a series of eight balloon shaped volumes create an internally complex museum experience of in total 30.000m2. Part of the project is also a series of parks on islands, a public plaza and a 13.000m2 expo centre. Construction start is envisioned for 2012, the total budget is 92 million Euro."
Services such as the lobby, education, three theatres/cinemas with in total 1111 seats and a comic book library occupy each their own balloon. If two balloons touch in the interior a large opening allows access and views in-between the volumes.  . . . One of the balloons is devoted to interactive experience in which visitors can actively experiment with all sorts of animation techniques like blue screen, stop motion, drawing, creating emotions etc. The core attraction of this space is a gigantic 3D zoetrope. The routing of the museum permits short or long visits, visits to the cinema, the temporary exhibition or the roof terrace restaurant. The façade of the museum is covered in a cartoon relief referring to a Chinese vase. The monochrome white concrete façade allows the speech balloons to function: texts can be projected onto the façade. The relief was designed in collaboration with Amsterdam based graphic designers JongeMeesters.
It was announced this morning that MVRDV's Winy Maas was been made a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Curtain Wall, Lightly Crumpled, emerges at VOA's Roosevelt U Vertical Campus

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The glass is starting to go up at Roosevelt University's new, 32-story-high Vertical Campus, designed by VOA Associates. I kind of like the windows to the left, which give the building a sort of Scottish Parliament vibe, however temporary.  On the north side of the building, the pegboard back cover is also rising.
It's there because there's a big parking lot on the corner waiting to be filled, once economic conditions revive, with another Solomon Cordwell Buenz residential high-rise, Buckingham II.  You can see the Vertical Campus rise and the empty site to the northwest in this shot from our indefatigable correspondent Bob Johnson.
Buckingham II was projected to be almost as tall as the Vertical Campus whose height, I think, is something like 469 feet, although I can't quite recall where I saw that figure.
This is what it's supposed to look like  when it's all finished.  With that corner space empty, it looks like half of a Miesian duo, laid out, as at the Federal center, right angle to each other, but ditching the black tie formality for a full-up "let's party" mode.

You can read our previous post on the construction - copiously illustrated - here.