Monday, April 30, 2012

SEAOI Awards presentations, Bachrach's Garden, Wolner's Henry Cobb, Gene Summers memorial - May begins!

It's the first of the month - time for me to start working on the May 2012 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

We've got quite a bit for this week so far.  Among the highlights: Today, Tuesday, May 1, the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois is holding Final Presentations for its 2012 Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards at Pazzo's.  On Wednesday the 2nd, Julia Bachrach talks about the new edition of her book, The City in a Garden: A History of Chicago's Parks, at CAF lunchtime, while later in the day at AIA/Chicago, Andrew Sedgewick of Arup London discusses Current Trends in Museum Design

Thursday, the 3rd, John Quail discusses the Chicago River for Friends of Downtown lunchtime at the Cultural Center, while over at Charley-Persky House, Ted Wolner talks for SAH about his great book, Henry Cobb's Chicago.  At IIT,  Friday, the 4th is the Annual Student Work Exhibition, while on Saturday, there's a memorial celebrating "the life and legacy of architect, design, sculptor, painter, education and entrepreneur Gene Summers."
We still have a ways to go, but you can check out the two dozen great items already on the May 2012 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.  100% proof-reading free!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

At Daniel Burnham's landmark, Goodbye Santa Fe, hello Motorola

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The agenda for this Thursday's Permit Review Committee meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks contains the following item . . .
Proposed reface of the existing non-historic illuminated rooftop "Santa Fe" sign with new illuminated "Motorola" copy on existing structure, detailed in plans dated 3/12/12.
What it comes down to is this:  the sign that marked the identify for as long as anyone can remember of the Daniel Burnham designed 1904 Railway Exchange Building, with its porthole windows and gleaming terra cotta, is about to go away.

Last Thursday, Crain's Chicago Business reported that Motorola Solutions is moving 100 of its employees from Schaumburg to the seventh floor of the Santa Fe, owned since 2006 by the University of Notre Dame.   The Santa Fe has other large tenants, including such architectural firms as SOM, VOA and Goettsch Partners, which I would suspect have just as many employees or more, but apparently Motorola's deal includes the right to rename the building.  So now the landmark sign, in front of the nondescript penthouse in which Daniel Burnham wrote his 1909 Plan of Chicago, will soon read "Motorola".
 The company has signed a ten-year lease, but in the churn of global economics, you have to wonder if it will have anywhere near the shelf life of the structure's previous incarnation.
And speaking of the Landmarks Commission, the Commission staff - Terry Tatum, Lisa Napoles, and Matt Crawford, with Eleanor Gorski as editor -  has done another bang-up job in creating a Preliminary Summary of Information report for the Portage Theatre Building, which is up Chicago for landmark status even as the Chicago Tabernacle is fighting to purchase the theater to turn it into a church.  The group, represented by James (wink, wink) Banks before the Zoning Board of Appeals, is trying to blow past opposition from preservationists, neighborhood activists and 45th ward alderman John Arena.

Tower Theatre
The Commission report, beautifully and exhaustively illustrated, includes not only not only a comprehensive description of the Portage Theatre Building, but histories of early Chicago movie theaters, the Portage's architects, terra cotta use in Chicago building, and even of the Portage's "Six Corners" shopping district.  Among the pictures we we found this spectacular rendering of architect Meyer Fridstein's Tower Theater on 63rd street, a 3,000-seat house now almost completely forgotten.  For anyone who cares about Chicago architecture and history, the Portage Theatre Building report is a must-read, and you can download it here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Past as Appliqué, Bettina Pousttchi's Framework and Echo and the timeline of German architecture

Framework, the latest work of German-Iranian artist Bettina Pousttchi,  which runs through June 17 at Schirn Kuntshalle Frankfurt, is a subversive appliqué that transforms transparency to texture. The textures are derived from the half-timber houses of Frankfurt's old town square the Römerberg, which is, itself, an appliqué on a void, a reconstruction of a historic district mostly smashed into oblivion during World War II bombings. Pousttchi extracted design elements from two Römerberg houses - the 17th century Schwarzer Stern, reconstructed in 1983, and the Wertheym, one of the few buildings that survived the war - and applied them to the glass of the Schirn's rotunda and exterior facade.
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"I would be delighted", Pousttchi says in the video posted above,  "if Framework triggered a dialogue about how we treat our cities, and how we deal with history, with recollection . . . How do we want to live in the future?  Are such "facade cities" what we really want?"

Pousttchi's most famous work to date is 2010's Echo, at the Temporäre Kunsthalle on Museum Island, not far from the Altes Museum in the former East Berlin,  The Temporäre Kunsthalle stood on the site of the Palast der Republik . . .
photo: Wikipedia
 . . . a modernist, curtain-walled structure with bronzed mirror windows, designed by architects Heinz Graffunder and Karl-Ernst Swora and completed in 1976 to serve both as the seat of the East German parliament, and a cultural center.
After the reunification of Germany and the move of the nation's capital back to the Reichstag, is was decided to demolish the barely quarter-century-old structure.
photograph: Kid Alex, Wikipedia
35,000 tons of the building's steel was shipped to the United Arab Emirates and used in the construction of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
photo: Magnus Manske, Wikipedia commons
Completed in September of 2008 on the site of the Palast, the Temporäre Kunsthalle, was a low-cost (€ 950,000) rectangular structure designed by Adolf Krischanitz with an exterior shell of fibre cement panels, to house a privately-funded two year showcase for contemporary artists, several of whom used the exterior's blank walls as a canvas.
photo: Bettina Pousttchi, Wikipedia
For Echo, Pousttchi transformed the Temporäre Kunsthalle into the building it had replaced, by applying 970 black-and-white photographs to the blank exterior walls portraying the curtail-wall facade of the Palast der Republik.  It was not - nor intended to be - a literal replication, but rather a reconsideration.
photograph: Achim Bodewig, Wikipedia
After the Temporäre Kunsthalle closed, as scheduled, in August of 2010, present, past and future floated uneasily on the buildings facades as Pousttchi's poster-photographs pealed away, revealing the original blank walls beneath, while the entire structure awaited its own obliteration to make room for another appliqué, a reconstruction of the Baroque 18th-century Stadtschloss, the winter palace for the kings of Prussia, which was the occupant of the site for over two hundred years, before it was damaged beyond repair by Allied bombings and demolished in 1950.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Waiting for the Skin: 400 South Jefferson Stripped to the Bones

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Above is the corner of Jefferson and Tilden in February.
This was the corner of Jefferson and Tilden this weekend.

400 South Jefferson was constructed in 1946 for the Newman-Rudolph Lithographing Company.  Architect Alfred S. Alschuler II's streamlined, Art Moderne structure slipped a bit of the Bauhaus into Chicago beneath the radar of controversy,  Set within a  near West Side commercial district full of turn-of-the-century loft buildings, it was an optimistic statement for a post-war Chicago that was actually about to enter a final peak flowering just before going into steep decline.  Now it's being skinned alive of its gracious, multi-toned masonry facade.  Late 20th century printing presses could thrive bricked up like Fortunato; 21st century office workers chafe.

Newman-Rudolph Lithographing moved out in 1966. Although the building would remain home to a number of other printing companies, its most famous occupant was the Selective Service, as seen in the 1967 photo below, courtesy of the Chuckman Archive.  During the Vietnam War, thousands of inductees were processed like cattle on their way to the slaughterhouses of Southeast Asia. 
In the last decade, the derelict near-West Side has again come alive as a primarily residential district, one loft building after another converted to condos or apartments, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel still has plans to reinvigorate it as a commercial district, as well.  Last December, he announced that 400 South Jefferson is to become the home to half of the Sara Lee Corporation, relocated from Downers Grove with the assistance of $5 to $6.5 million of taxpayer assistance through the Canal-Congress TIF.   Sara Lee is splitting itself into two companies, and we're getting what's currently operating under the placeholder name of MeatCo - Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park, etc. The press release claimed a minimum of 500 jobs would be coming to Chicago, a number less than half the division's current employee head count.  Reports that a Mrs. Nellie Lovett of London has been contracted to manage outplacement of non-survivors remain unverified.
According to a recent Advertising Age report,  MeatCo is in the midst of a year-long process to come up with a permanent identity. Apparently Wild Onion Meats has already been ruled out.   Reportedly also falling away from the list of finalists are Dead Animal Flesh 'R We, and Beatrice.
Sterling Bay Companies acquired the 230,000 square-foot structure, on a two-acre site, in January of this year, and have entered into a long-term lease with MeatCo for 95% of the space.  "Sterling Bay began a complete renovation of the building, including: replacing the façade with a new glass curtain wall, installing new passenger elevators, updating all major building systems, and creating indoor parking for over 60 cars."  The city's Department of Community Development Report lists Gina Berndt of Perkins+Will as architect of the $30 million project, which should look pretty much like this when finished next year . . . 
[image removed]
(Note:  comments to this post from Proteus Group objected to not being credited in the rendering of the project.  It was presented at a public press conference, but we've still removed it.  Normally, we're more than happy to accept corrections, but the snarky, self-satisfied tone of their posts doesn't encourage humility.  Proteus Group is not mentioned in the official city document we cited, and Sterling Bay failed to respond to our request for the names of the architects for this project.  If you want to be properly credited, don't ignore our emails.  Or at least get your client's website to admit you exist.  The renderings there don't show your copyright either. And speaking of accuracy, you may want to fix your own website, which claims "Proteus Group focuses 100% on healthcare facilities."  And try not to be such pompous windbags.)

Prentice Hospital:Still Not Dead - but Not for Lack of Trying- Bertrand Goldberg masterwork among Landmarks Illinois Ten Most Endangered 2012

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Landmarks Illinois has just issued the 2012 list of its Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, and prominent on the list is Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital,  which Northwestern University is hell-bent on grinding into dust so it can leave still another massive vacant lot in Streeterville.

It's been almost a year since an official omerta has descended on the battle to save the modernist icon after a Commission on Chicago Landmarks agenda item on Prentice was mysteriously pulled from the June, 2011 agenda.  Private talks were supposed to be going on between the city and Northwestern, but so far, the rest is silence.  The Landmarks Illinois page on Prentice is an excellent compendium of people to write to, links the the resource study that proves, against Northwestern's contentions, that the building has be profitably re-used, as well as to statements from everyone from Helmut Jahn, Ron Krueck, Mark Sexton and Jeanne Gang in support for saving the building.
Perhaps Northwestern can take a page from another of the Ten Most Endangered, the twelve-story Bresee Tower in Danville designed by Mundie and Jensen in 1917.  The current owners are willing "to 'gift' the building to a non-profit. "  A rehab/retrofit would qualify for the usual tax breaks, and the structure is in a TIF district.

Elsewhere on the list are Guyon Hotel on Chicago's west side, Keck and Keck's Blair House in Lake Bluff, and Historic Neighborhood Schools throughout the state.  Check it all out here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mummy No More? Valerio's Staybridge about to Escape its Wrappings

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We've written several times about the project at 127 West Huron, referred to variously as the Duke Miglin, or Staybridge Suites Hotel.  It's the striking building designed by Valerio Dewalt Train using innovative staggered truss framing, where the sheets never made to the guest beds but instead have covered up the project's steel frame since the money ran out almost four years ago.
Now that may finally be about to change.  We received an email yesterday from John W. Rutledge, President and CEO of the Oxford Capital Group . . .
With regard to 127 W. Huron; after acquiring the loan, Oxford has now settled various claims on the project and has recently acquired full title from the original developer and as such is in the midst of a formal remobilization. Oxford expects  to deliver an upper upscale boutique/lifestyle hotel in 2013.
 With regard to the Langham Chicago Hotel; Oxford Capital Group, LLC remains the managing partner of the local Chicago based development team executing the project.  You’ll be pleased to know this project has formally commenced construction and we expect to deliver this luxury Langham Chicago Hotel in the summer of 2013.
The Langham Chicago, of course, is the project that's currently keeping the southern part of lobby of the Mies van Der Rohe-designed 330 North Wabash (aka IBM Building) under wraps while construction of the hotel continues.
 We wrote about it last on February 20, and a few days later the Trib's Blair Kamin reported that Mies's grandson, Dirk Lohan, who is doing the lobby redesign, is promising that any changes to the ground floor will leave Mies's original vision largely intact.

So get out cameras and take your pictures of the Mummy of Huron Street while you can.  2013 isn't that far off, and by then you may be seeing something a lot closer to what the architect originally intended . . .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Goose Island for Obscura Day, Kalmbach's Grand Mansions, Buckley's Utopie, Doug Garofalo memorial - still more in April

We don't usually include tours on our calendar because there are just so damn many of them, but we did one to mention two:

Next Saturday, April 28th, is Obscura Day "an international celebration of unusual places" and Forgotten Chicago is offering a walking tour of Goose Island and Pulaski Park from 12:00 p.m to 2:30.
Goose Island is one of the more obscure areas of Chicago. Primarily industrial, it once contained a working class Irish residential enclave as well. We’ll discuss the history of much of the island, and examine remnants from its manufacturing and residential past.

We’ll also venture off the island to tour the once working-class neighborhood surrounding Pulaski Park. The area is dense with mixed architectural uses and history. Additionally, it has been shaped by various political forces over the years, from Progressive Era reformers to less-than-progressive machine politicians. We’ll check out some of the tangible physical evidence that reflects the area’s political history, and architectural oddities and other curiosities in the built environment.
The cost is $12.00, and with a limit of 35 participants, I'd expect it will fill up.  Get information and buy tickets here.

Then in May, architectural historian Sally Kalmbach will be offering From Grand Mansions to Luxury Apartment Buildings, The Story of the changing skyline of Lake Shore Drive, covering both the buildings, residents, and the architects, with an emphasis on Benjamin Marshall.  The tour is being offered Saturday May 19th and Wednesday May 23rd, both times from 10 a.m. until noon.  Cost is $25.00 per person.  For more information and to reserve your place, contact Sally Kalmbach via email.

And just to prove it's never too late to add to the April 2012 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events, on Tuesday April 24th, 6:00 p.m. at the Graham, there's a lecture by Craig Buckley of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture on Utopie: Encounters and Missed Encounters, followed by an open discussion moderated by Sara Knox Hunter.

Elsewhere this week, there's Digital Design at SOM at the Arts Club on Monday the 23rd, Peter Skosey discussing Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago's New Route to Opportunity, CAF lunchtime on Wednesday the 25th, SEAOI's Midwest Bridge Symposium, ULI Chicago's Rebirth of the East Loop and State Street, and Gunny Harboe's tour of Unity Temple, all on Thursday, the 26th.  And on Saturday afternoon, April 28th at the Hyde Park Art Center, there will be a "public memorial celebrating the life and work of visionary architect Doug Garofalo."

Check out the dozen events still to come on the April Calendar.

North Dakota Republican Defends Modernism: Can the Apocalypse be Far Behind?

photograph: Bobak Ha'Eri, (click images for larger view)
According to an Associated Press report, it all began with a gibe from a Minnesota legislator, calling the State Capitol building in Bismarck, North Dakota "embarrassing . .  . State Farm Insurance called.  They want their building back."  It resulted in North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple shooting back that his state's capital was "one of the most pleasing Capitol buildings in the United States, and I have seen several of them myself."

Not only is the North Dakota capitol modernist, it's a bit of Chicago on the Missouri, a 241-foot-, 8-inch tall tower designed by Holabird & Root to replace the previous building, completed in 1884, which burned to the ground in 1930.
Image: North Dakota Historical Society
In 1931, the state legislature appropriated $2,000,000 for a new building, a spartan amount compared to recent Capitol structures in Louisiana ($4,000,000), and Nebraska ($10,000,000).  "Domed pseudo-Renaissance state capitols are sinking low on the Western horizon," said architect F.A. Gutheim, and in Bismarck, Holabird & Root, working with two leading North Dakota architects, Joseph Bell de Remer and William F. Kurke, came up with an undeniably spartan profile, made even more so when much of the detailing Holabird & Root used in their Chicago skyscrapers was deleted as "unneccessary adornments," moving the design away from Art Deco to something more in line with the emerging International Style.  Because North Dakota was lacking in quarries, the structure used Bedford limestone from Indiana and Black Wisconsin granite for the cladding,  gray-white Tennessee marble for flooring, and polished travertine from Montana for the walls.
In the depths of depression, keeping costs low was primary.  Half of the 320 acres of the Capitol grounds were sold off to raise funds.When workers making 30 cents an hour struck to get 50, the construction site was placed under martial law.  After all was said and done, when the new building opened in 1934, it came in under budget, with an official completion cost of $1,984,488.26. Which is only a little more than the estimated $1,952.490 (and no cents) required to reverse the ravages of time on the building's envelope, as quoted in a 2010 report prepared with the assistance of Wiss, Janney, Elstner.

Still, the final work is striking and gracious, with bronze sculpture by Edgar Miller "representing the Indian, Hunter, Trapper, Farmer, Miner, and the Mothers of the State", and a light-filled, 342-foot-long, 42-foot high memorial hall with striking Art Deco chandeliers providing views of the city, the Missouri, and the distant bluffs.
North Dakota Historical Society
The legislative chambers are semi-circular, paneled in chestnut and oak, with curving stripes of lighting in the ceiling.
ND State Capitol House of Representative, Bismarck, United States
This ;travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Bismarck Day 1

Governor Dalrymple, I'm with you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pop-Up Art Saturday: Show of Hands

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The Hatchery is an interactive [Pop-Up Art Loop™] storefront art installation designed by artist Dave Harding and engineer Nemil Stefanovic.  Located in a vacant corner storefront in the Loop (210 N. Wells), the piece aims to surprise and entertain the passerby by providing a user-activated light show.  In it's inactive state, the pointy fabric form is frozen in the space's center and pulses with light to attract the attention of the passerby.  Once the user activates the sensor, the programming suggests a rebirth and enlightenment through sequence and timing.  Additionally, "touches" are logged and later displayed through graphics and charts on the installation's website.

This may be slightly off-topic, but did I mention that when I was a very small child, I had recurring nightmares of hands coming out of the baseboards and grabbing me? Psychologists - professional or armchair - feel free to post your interpretation to the comments.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Road Trip

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