Thursday, June 28, 2012

Becker to unearth CMD's at Pecha Kucha #0 July 19th

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Barring the organizers coming to their senses or my running off to Brazil,  I'm now scheduled to appear at the fittingly numbered Pecha Kucha #0 When Less is More, on July 19th, the first ever at the Louis Sullivan/Frank Lloyd Wright designed Charnley-Perksy House.  Pecha Kucha is the international phenomenon in which you tell your story using just 20 images, shown for 20 seconds each.  So the good news is that I can cause no more than seven minutes of damage in what will otherwise be a fascinating evening.

Unless someone stops me, I'm thinking I'll be talking about Chicago's Central Manufacturing District. First opened in 1905 on a half-mile square tract north of the old Union Stockyards, it's often referred to as the first planned manufacturing district in the United States.  Largely designed by architect S. Scott Joy, by 1915 it was home to over a hundred companies, now mostly forgotten, but also including Wrigley Gum, whose factory complex we wrote about earlier this year, in Four Buildings and a Funeral - Wrigley:  The Architecture that Remains after a Great Company Dies.

If nothing else, my talk will provide a perfect opportunity to pop out for a washroom break, a smoke, or some quality time playing Style Me Girl on your iPhone,  while waiting for more grounded lecturers to take the stage.  Tickets for the July 19th event, co-sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians, are $15.00, and will include refreshments and the chance to inhabit one of Chicago's architectural masterworks.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; presentations begin at 6:30.  The full roster of presenters will be revealed soon, here.  Tickets go one sale July 5th, at the SAH website here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wright's Roots are Showing: Garrick Theater colors seen for first time in over a century

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It's always difficult to imagine the architecture of the past as it actually appeared to people in its time.  When it comes to the Chicago of the late 19th century, that past, now mostly wiped from the cityscape, passes through the desaturating black-and-white photographic record.   Later photos may be more plentiful, but they usually depict buildings substantially altered from their original design.

We also see architecture of that time through the backward lenses of mid-century modernism, which emphasizes the simplicity of the commercial architecture of what has now been classified as the first Chicago School, seeing it as a precursor to the minimalist modernism of the International Style and the Second Chicago School of Mies van der Rohe and his followers.

But Louis Sullivan won't let you get away with it.  The beautiful simplicity of his Carson Pirie Scott store is anchored by an entrance floor marked by huge shop windows enveloped by the rich, foliate ornament for which Sullivan was famous.  His interiors, especially, were anything but austere, rich with stenciling, often designed with collaborators Louis J. Millet and George Healy, some of which, in a not uncontroversial restoration, was on display at a Crown Hall exhibition at few years back.

Adler and Sullivan's 1891 Schiller/Garrick Theater is a case in point.  Not only was the building itself tragically demolished in 1961, it's original interior design was painted over just seven years after the theater's opening.

As part of the new exhibition Wright's Roots, at the Expo 72 Gallery at 72 East Randolph through September 30th, 2012. curator and Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson endeavored to reveal, for the first time in over a century, the original color scheme of the ornament above the balcony, on the underside of the gallery.
Architectural finishes analyst Robert Furhoff was provided a rescued sample of the ornament, on which he burrowed down all the later paint jobs to document the original color palette.
Erin McNamara executed a sculptural repair of the original, made a mold of the repair and cast new pieces.  Anthony  Kartsonas  of Historic Surfaces LLC, who you see with Samuelson in the video below, then recreated the original paint pattern, using Furnoff's analysis.  And last Friday, Tim Samuelson was kind enough to let us be a witness as, for the first time in nearly 114 years, the original colors were again revealed.

The walls on which Wright's Roots is mounted are painted in the colors of that palette.
Of course, the Victorian palette can take some getting used to - one observer at Friday's unveiling commented it wasn't a palette they would want to paint any part of their home with - but to truly get a feeling of what the experience of an Adler and Sullivan building was like, it's invaluable to be able to imagine being immersed in the colors of the original design.

A substantial part of Wright's Roots traces the early, formative years when young Frank Lloyd Wright worked under the direction of Louis Sullivan, the man for whom he never lost his deep admiration and affection.    Wright's hand can still be seen in many of Adler and Sullivan's buildings of that period, and Samuelson  painstakingly lays out key examples.
The decorative panel you see above came from a Chicago apartment building built for Adolph and William Loeb in 1892.  It was rescued by Samuelson, hanging upside-down from the roof, just before the structure was demolished. The apartments were attributed,  rightly, to Adler and Sullivan, but as Samuelson relates . . .
When shown a photograph of the this long-forgotten project by architectural historian Richard Nickel in 1957, the ninety-year-old Frank grew momentarily quiet and then said, "So . . . you found THAT one, did you?"  After another pause, he said the design was his.
Another piece of ornament that didn't make it into Wright's Roots documents the different route Frank Lloyd Wright would take from that of his mentor Louis Sullivan.
In the above photo from the Chuckman Collection of the Garrick Theater under demolition, notice the large rectangular lozenges forming the outermost part of the arch.  (The flat, white interior surfaces of the rectangles were originally a nine-part stencil.)  Notice the border around each lozenge.  It was designed by young Frank Lloyd Wright, and this is what it looked like . . .
This is about as far from Sullivan's style of ornament as you can get.  Rigidly geometric, it has a vaguely Mayan feel that seems to anticipate Wright's later work.

There are a lot more fascinating stories in Wright's Roots, which we hope to write about in more detail (famous last words) soon.    Needless to say, it's a don't-miss event.  See it, and let your own imagination run free.

Chicago Streetscene: Black Box, White Box

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Chicago Streetscene II: Stegosaurus

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Monochrome II Chicago, sculpture by Nancy Rubins, "Aluminum boats, stainless steel armature, stainless steel wire cable."  BIGart at Navy Pier, 2012.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lonely Flowers at the Gravesite of the Abandoned Subway Station

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State and Washington
October 17, 1943 - October 23, 2006
buried alive with $300 million in TIF funds
in the never-opened "Superstation" beneath Block 37.
(former stairway entrance filled in with unkempt lawn)

Crunching the Numbers: Perkins + Will number 3 on Architectural Records's list of top 250 firms

It's that time again.  Architectural Record has released its 2012 edition of the Top 250 Architectural Firms in the U.S.  And, of course, quality doesn't always equate to quantity.  Studio/Gang, John Ronan, Tigerman/McCurry, Krueck and Sexton, and many more award-winning Chicago firms are nowhere to be found.

On the 2008 list, total architectural revenues for the top 250 totaled over $12 billion, 18% of it from overseas projects.  On the 2012 list, total revenues were under $9 billion, with almost a quarter coming from foreign projects.

Perkins+Will, at number 3, remains Chicago's largest architectural firm.  Its 2011  revenues of $365 million was down 10% from 2008, but was good for third place among U.S. firms.  San Francisco based Gensler, which has a large Chicago office, moved to number one by growing it's revenues by nearly 20%, to $764 million.  The former number one AECOM Technology of L.A., saw its revenue in free fall, at $445 million, less than half what it took in in 2008.  VOA, at 42, was the second biggest Chicago firm.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is new on the list this year at position 87, with revenues of $28.5 million, all but $1 million of which comes from foreign projects.  SOM, which has a large Chicago presence, continues to have a roughly 50/50 split between foreign and domestic, while over 70% of Goettsch Partners' (#111) revenue comes from overseas.  In contrast, the billings of Solomon Cordwell Buenz (#83) are entirely domestic.   Also making the list this year:  FGM Architects, Epstein, Wight and Company, Legat, Anderson Mikos, Chipman Design and DLA Architects.

All told, Chicago proper has eight firms on the list, with another five in the suburbs.  Gone from the 2008 list are DeStefano (disbanded), OWP/P (absorbed by Cannon Design) and Teng (derailed by their failed bid to become real estate developers).  Murphy/Jahn, which held down 72nd place in 2008, with over $50 million in reported revenues, has completely dropped off the 2012 list.  Of course, the firm is in good company.  Last year, AR acknowledged that firms such as Gehry Partners never respond to requests for information.  Pelli Clarke Pelli, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and Richard Meier and Partners are also among the Bartleby contingent of heavyweights that never appear on the list.

Check out the full Architectural Record list here.

Chicago Streetscene: Pride

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why a Duck? To Get to the Other Side! Evanston Viaduct Cam!

Live broadcast by Ustream The CTA Purple Line is closed down this weekend as new 400,000 pound steel bridges are maneuvered into position to replace century-old viaducts at Grove and Dempster streets. The Dempster Street viaduct is expected to be put into place between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m., today, Saturday, June 23rd, with the Grove Street viaduct slipping in between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Normal Purple Line service is expected to resume early Monday morning, with the project completed on Tuesday.

Design Evanston members are holding their own Viaduct Party at Dempster and Sherman at 2:00.

There are video cams at each of the sites, and you can check them both out here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

If Dogs Ruled the Art World - Canine-ized Matisse, Dali and Seurat at Churchill Park

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So, it's not exactly Roy Lichenstein's cribs on the work of the likes of Cezanne, Gris, and Frank Lloyd Wright on view at the don't-miss Art Institute retrospective, but then, it's not Dogs Playing Poker either.

At the Churchill Field Dog Park in Bucktown, painted along the side of the rail viaduct that is to become the Bloomingdale Trail, there are a series of murals in which the artists pay tribute to some of the most iconic works of Western art by depopulating the humans and replacing them with dogs.
Colleen Cothern
John Bambino
Rainbow Kitty
(if you know the artist's name, please add a comment)

I'm sure the cats would respond in kind, but - wait - there are no cat parks.  What's up with that?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jenney's Home Insurance Building lives on - in Lego . Build Your Own Lego City at Crown Hall July 21

photographs: Bob Johnson
William Le Baron Jenney's Home Insurance Building, often referred to as the world's first true skyscraper, has been gone since it was torn down in 1931 for the Field Building.
 Last weekend, however, it lived on in this Lego replica, created by Gordan Grguric,  Ph.D, who can seen to the right in this photo with our indefatigable correspondent Bob Johnson, who sent us these pictures from his visit to this year's Brickworld event held last weekend at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, a gathering were Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs) come together to run amok creating structures with the popular toy.
This is in way of reminder that another Legomaniac event is coming up.  On July 21st, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Crown Hall on the IIT campus, the Mies van der Rohe Society will again be sponsoring Build Your Own Lego City.  Last year's event is depicted in the photo above.
Build a masterpiece within a masterpiece. Pint-sized architects and their helpers are invited to build a city of LEGO creations within Mies' masterpiece, S. R. Crown Hall. We'll provide the bricks, and the rest is up to you.
It's free, but registration is required.  More information and registration here.

And, from 2007, check out what a bunch of Asian Architectures did with Legos in my article, Toy Futures: Building Asia Brick by Brick.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Buy your own Gehry, Libeskind, Holl, Bjarke - it's Architecture for Humanity's I Love Architecture auction on eBay

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Starting a few hours ago, and continuing for the next ten days, Architecture for Humanity's I love Architecture Auction looks to raise $150,000 to help fund AfH's humanitarian projects in over 20 countries.  Included are over 70 sketches, paintings, prints, renderings, lithographs - and a pigskin.

Jeanne Gang and Zoka Zola are among the local architects represented, with items contributed by everyone from Kevin Roche, who just celebrated his 90th birthday . . .
Michael van Valkenburgh . . .
Daniel Libeskind . . .
Steven Holl . . .
Bjarke Ingels. . .
Matteo Cainer's Busan Opera House . . .
Chris Bosse's LAVA Laser Cut Plastic Origami Tiger . . .
plus Frank Gehry, Paolo Soleri, David Adjaye, Moshe Safdie, Michael Graves, Renzo Piano, Richard Meier and many more.  Almost four hours into the auction, on eBay, less than half a dozen items had a opening bid, so this could be your big chance.   Check all all 70 items, and make your bid, here.

back to Wright's Roots, forward to Chicago Unseen City - two new exhibitions open Friday

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We may be heading into summer, but that hasn't stopped two exhibitions from making their way into the city this week, both with official Friday, June 22nd openings.
Over at the Expo 72 Gallery at 72 E. Randolph, Chicago's Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson is curating Wright's Roots, which explores the formative years of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  When we think of Frank Lloyd Wright, we think of the larger-than-life persona he created for himself as the self-proclaimed "greatest architect on earth".  Wright's Roots looks beneath the veneer . . .
Every icon has their start somewhere. Frank Lloyd Wright’s reputation as a brilliant architect and outsized personality came from complex roots – many going back to his early years in Chicago.

Since his death in 1959, the story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life and career has become legendary – and sometimes drifted into myth. Many of today’s perspectives came from Wright’s own accounts of a professional career that spanned three quarters of a century. His path to becoming a colorful public figure synonymous with modern architecture was filled with many little-known detours and diversions, but all contributed to his lasting fame and reputation.

Using seldom-seen illustrations and original artifacts to tell the story of his complex personal journey during the often-overlooked early period of his life and career, Wright’s Roots explores Wright’s formative years. 
That rendering at the top of this post?  Not a Charles Atwood special, but a youthful indiscretion by a young FLW, the man said to have selected the names of composers included on the Auditorium's proscenium.

While the official opening is Friday, I'm hearing you may want to stop by next week to see the show in its full glory.  Wright's Roots runs through September 30th.

Meanwhile, over at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan,  there's another opening on Friday the 22nd.  The Unseen City: Designs for A Future Chicago, four Chicago academic institutions presents their visions of the future for city life.  Participating are Archeworks, UIC and IIT, in partnership with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and Adrian Smith + Gordin Gill Architects, rethinking such locations as Cermak Road and Garfield Boulevard.

We've just added a new event for June.  On Monday, June 25th, in the Lower Core of Crown Hall at IIT, Rajnish Wattas will lecture on Chandigarh's Identity Crises: Garden City to Urban Juggernaut?  On Thursday June 28th, there'll be an all-day symposium Trees as a Legacy in Design and Development, at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  There are still over a dozen great items to come on the June 2012 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lichtenstein Express

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It's really meant to be seen above-ground as your car barrels down the Kennedy Expressway, a view  you can actually experience at about the 2:45 mark in the video found here.
The mural wraps around three sides of the loft building at 1735 North Ashland- -just south of the rail line that is becoming The Bloomingdale Trail - that had been home to the American Sample and Printing Company in the 1920's, and the Chicago Apparatus Company in the 1960's.  In the 1990's, the late Chicago menswear retailer Bigsby & Kruthers used the building as a warehouse, and began the practice of advertising via huge 8,600 square-foot murals facing the Kennedy, featuring Chicago sports figures such as Sammy Sosa, Michael Jordan and, most infamously, Dennis Rodman, whose mural featured a change of hair color every few days and resulted in gawking motorists ramping up travel times by up to 40 minutes.  It's identify as an architectural billboard eventually subsumed the structure's identity - it's now officially know as The Mural Building.
After LaSalle Bank assumed Bigsby's lease, it continued the program with its own murals.  LaSalle Bank was later absorbed and rebranded as the Chicago branch of the Bank of America, one of the key underwriters of the spectacular Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, exhibition, running at the Art Institute through September 3rd, which has already blanketed the city with a promotion campaign including banners, stickers double-decker buses and election-day palm cards.
Working with the School of the Art Institute, a competition was held among students "to design a mural in the Pop Art style highlighting Chicago’s scenes and unique heritage."  The $7,500 first prize was won by Adam Horrigan, "a native of Grand Island, N.Y., who is pursuing a post-baccalaureate certificate in visual communication design."

The mural begins with the Trump Tower and ends with Marina City.  In between is the Chicago River and a ship moving under an opened bascule (not drawbridge, Conan) bridge, the Chicago flag and what looks to be a deep dish pizza.  The back fire escape actually looks like a three-dimensional expression of the structure of the bridge's under-carriage.
An estimated 400,000 people pass by the mural every weekday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Saturday: Chicago Center for Green Technology celebrates 10 years; Kevin Harrington on Mies, Hilberseimer and Caldwell at Lafayette Park

This Saturday, June 16th, the Chicago Center for Green Technology marks its 10th anniversary with an all-day celebration featuring food, games, a raffle, a dunk tank and a Build Smart Expo with 40 product and service vendors.  It all takes place at the CCGT, 445 North Sacramento.  Check out more about Saturday's event, and the CCGT's ongoing mission of promoting and advancing "sustainable homes, workplaces and communities . . .  through Green Tech U seminars, guided and self-guided tours, the Green Building Resource Center, and more, here.
Also on Saturday, 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. down at Crown Hall on the IIT campus, 3360 South State, Kevin Harrington will be discussing Figure and Pattern -Mies, Hilberseimer and Caldwell at Lafayette Park, a talk held in conjunction with the Crown Hall exhibition, Lafayette Park: The Settlement Shape - running through July 27 - on the pioneering Detroit urban renewal project that is still thriving today.

Sounds interesting.  Even without a dunk tank.

Chicago Streetscene: Music, Dismembered Trunk

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Alternative Realities at Wolf Point

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From Sepideh Abtahi's Textiles and Architecture at the he School of the Art Institute AIADO graduate thesis exhibition, Tele Vision, at the Sullivan Galleries through July 21st.

Today, Tonight: Tele Vision SAIC AIADO Exhibition Opening Reception, Panel Discussion

Kristina Jnuskaite-Sparks, mediating the edge (click images for larger view)

Today, Monday, June 11 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., the School of the Art Institute AIADO will be holding an opening reception for Tele Vision, this year's graduate thesis exhibition of the work of its emerging designers in the fields of architecture, interior architecture and designed objects.
Tele Vision, interpreted through its Greek and Latin roots, means “seeing from a distance.” The projects presented in the 2012 graduate design show share a long-view perspective, far-reaching in speculation, application, or duration. The exhibition is curated and designed by SAIC faculty member and architect Odile Compagnon with fellow faculty member Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder, who are partners in the design brand ODLCO and SAIC alumni (MDes 2008). Tele Vision features work by 45 SAIC students finishing their graduate degrees in seven programs
 The exhibition runs through July 21st, in the Sullivan Galleries, 33 North State, 7th Floor (you know - right above Target! ) The Galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m., - 6:00 p.m.

Pierina Benvenuto Giorgetti,
North Lawndale Argriculture Park
The reception will be preceded by a panel discussion at 3:30, also in the Sullivan Galleries, which will "summarize and expand upon the themes that emerged during a day of critiques of the work the students included in the exhibition.  The panel will include Lisa Norton, moderator,  Professor of Sculpture and Designed Objects at SAIC; Obi Nwazota, architect, designer, and co-founder of Orange Skin; Martin Klaeshen, Adjunct Associate Professor at IIT and Principal in the architecture practice “HouseHaus” based in Chicago and Germany; Gillion Carrara, teacher of History of Fashion at SAIC and a highly regarded metalsmith exploring the relationship between materials, design, and function; and Pierina Benvenuto Giorgetti, an architect with roots in Chile, Argentina, and Europe, the editor of Revista Ciudad y Arquitectura, and the first prize winner in the recent North Lawndale Urban Agriculture Park Competition. From the student side, there will be 2012 graduates Sia Khorrami from Architecture and Shelley Getzendanner from Designed Objects.