Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fuksas, Pecha, Gang, Josef Frank, Iannelli, Millet, Lai, VJAA, Visionary Cities, more - it's the September Calendar of Chicago Architecture Events and Exhibitions

Once more into the breach, dear friends . . .

After taking August off, we've got a very full  September Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

among the highlights:

  • Massamiliano Fuksas at the Graham (Tuesday, September 11)
  •  Visionary Cities: Urban and Architectural Futures to Come, a day-long UIC School of Architecture conference chaired by Alexander Eisenschmidt with Sam Jacob, Clare Lyster, Sarah Dunn, Robert Bruegmann, Bill Menking and more, at MCA (Saturday, the 22nd)
  •  Mikyoung Kim at ITT (Wednesday, the 12th) 
  • Jimenez Lai offers a "quasi-bookreading" of his Citizens of No Place at the Graham (Tuesday, the 18th)
  • Pecha Kucha Volume 23 with Lee Bay, Kara Kotwas and more, at Martyr's (Tuesday, the 4th)
  • David Van Zanten on The Work of Louis Julien Millet at the Second Presbyterian Church (Thursday, the 20th)
  • Vincent James and Jennifer Yoos of VJAA at IIT (Wednesday, the 19th)
  • Learning from Tristan Sterk, AIA Chicago (Thursday, the 27th)
  • Women of Influence: The Achievements of Women in Chicago's Early History, at Häfele America Chicago Showroom (Monday, the 10th)
  • Glessner House's 125th Anniversary Gala on (Thursday, the 13th)

  •  Secret Spaces Atop Chicago, with author Tony Macaluso, CAF lunchtime. (Wednesday, the 26th)
  • Thomas Leslie discusses How Lateral Bracing Influenced Two Generations of Chicago Skyscrapers, lunchtime at CAF (Wednesday, the 19th)
  • The White City: A Musical, at Glessner House (Friday, the 28th)
Exhibitions?  In addition to the great Skyscraper show at MCA, Wright's Roots at Expo 72 Gallery , and Unseen City at CAF,  this month we've got openings for ArchiTech Gallery's Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design, The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank at the Swedish America Museum, and, of course, the highly anticipated Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects at the Art Institute.

I'm sure we'll be adding more, but already there's over 50 great events this month.  Check out all the details on the September 2012 Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events (and Exhibitions).

Herzog and de Meuron, Souto de Moura, Ando and Venturi add their voices to saving Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital

click images for larger view
The agenda for next Thursday's meeting has yet to be published, but the Save Prentice Coalition has again called for an end to the string of 14 consecutive monthly meetings where the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has deliberately suppressed discussion on the issue of providing Bertrand Goldberg's iconic Prentice Hospital official landmark designation to keep Northwestern University's from its  obsession with smashing it into dust.

In a letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, released this morning, the coalition added the support of Pritzker-Prize winning architects Robert Venturi, Tadao Ando, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Eduardo Souto de Moura to the growing A-list of international architects, designers, and scholars stating that . . .
The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable. It stands as a testament to the Chicago-led architectural innovation that sets this city apart. Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.

As members of the architecture community, we believe Goldberg’s Prentice should be given a permanent place in Chicago’s cityscape. A building this significant – this unique in the world – should be preserved and reused.
The growing list - which already included another Pritzker Prize winner, Frank Gehry, has also added Denise Scott Brown, Bjarke Ingels, Jack Hartray, Dan Coffey and George Miller to the original  60+ signers of the original letter in July.   
image: Landmarks Illinois
You can find our own take on the subject, Northwestern, Grow Up:  Refuting Northwestern's desperate PR campaign to destroy Prentice, here.

You can read the full text of today's letter and see the current list of signatories after the break.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I've Got You (1913) Under My Skin - Virtual Restoration at 618 South Michigan

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We last wrote in October about plans for 618 South Michigan, home to the Spertus Institute until that institution moved into the stunning new home next door,  designed Krueck and Sexton.
618 South Michigan, just this past June
618 originally had the standard Burnhamesque terra cotta facade.  You can see it here in a vintage photo from John D. Cramer's HPRES-ist blog.  It was designed by Zimmerman, Saxe and McBride and after its 1913 completion, it went through a series of name:  The Petroleum Building, the Dennehy Building (afters its developer), the Barnheisel (after Frederick R. Barnheisel, President of H.H. Kohlsaat, the company that claimed to have invented the lunch counter) and The Arcade Building.
618 South Michigan, 1950's curtail wall rehab

That facade was replaced in the 1950's when IBM took over the building, with a tight grid of a glass and steel curtain wall that better fit in with it's tenant's ultra-modern branding. 
624 South Michigan Chicago Musical College, 1908, C.A. Eckstrom, architect
Columbia also owns 624 South next door, perhaps best known for the huge, ovoid Torco sign that long stood at its crown. 624 South, acquired by Columbia for $8 million in 1990,  was built in 1908 as the home of the Chicago Musical College for the schools' founder, Florenz Ziegfield, Sr.   The original design included an 800-seat theater, the Ziegfield Picture Palace, which was destroyed when A.S. Alschuler added seven stories to the structure in 1922 for H.H. Blum's expansion of "Blum's Smart Shop." 

Alschuler replaced the remarkably open and graceful first and second floor terra cotta facade with a less porous and far more ponderous stone cladding.  Splices are seldom happy affairs, but Eckstrom's original, for all its fussy detail, actually seems a lot more amiable - and modern.
After 76,000 square-foot 618 was acquired by Columbia under the direction of former Chicago planning director Alica Berg, now Columbia's VP of Campus Environment, the 1950's curtain wall was found to be crumbling.  Gensler was called upon to come up with the replacement, and under Regional Design Leader Elva Rubio the idea was hatched to make the few facade a mediation between Krueck and Sexton's cutting-edge sculpted steel and glass to the north and Eckstrom and Alschuler's classically-styled masonry cladding to the south.
While Gensler's new curtain wall is as structure-spare and glassily sleek as the Spertus, it's also  been designed with a "ghost image" of the building's original terra cotta facade, digitally printed as a ceramic frit placed between the dual pane glass, which Berg, in an interview with the Columbia Chronicle, claims is a first in the U.S.. Not only does the new curtain wall provide a major boost in energy efficiency, the fritting is expected to flatten the transparency of the facade just enough to discourage the usual carnage when migratory birds try to fly through hyper-transparent glass.
In its master plan, Columbus noted that the similar floor levels between 618 and 624 allow it to expand its library across both buildings.  Already, Columbia has created a new gallery space on the 2nd floor overlooking Grant Park and the lake called The Arcade, a nod to one of 618's original names.  (Gallery scheduled to re-opened September 4th.)

Obviously, the appearance of the facade will change depending on the light.  The pictures you see here were taken late afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how it resolves in direct sunlight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Runners and Sculptures at the end of a late summer day

click images for larger view (recommended) - sculpture by Christopher Newman

view the entire portfolio after the break . . .

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crain's, Chicago Tribune add their voices: Prentice Should be Saved

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The headline in this week's Crain's Chicago Business sums it up succinctly:  Prentice should remain part of Chicago skyline.  The editorial rebuts Northwestern University's current full-press PR campaign to convince the public that, even with a two-block square lot across the street that has been nothing more than a chain-linked gravel pit for over three years, the University has no alternative but to destroy Bertrand Goldberg's spectacular 1975 Prentice Hospital.
"In our view, the university hasn't made the case that the structure can't be preserved," says the editorial, and it notes that "Northwestern hasn't even retained an architect, which creates the prospect that the city could trade this gem for yet another utilitarian edifice on the medical campus."

That point is tellingly reinforced over at the Chicago Tribune by Cheryl Kent, who, with Ron Grossman, is taking over the paper's architecture beat from Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Blair Kamin while he's away on a fellowship.  Kent chose to use her debut piece in her new role to counter the Trib's editorial board's gleeful pandering to Northwestern's lust to trash Prentice into dust.
"Northwestern," writes Kent, "has inadvertently provided proof of Prentice's uniqueness by way of its mediocre replacement, the new Prentice, a boilerplate building that is inhuman in scale and tedious in design."  

Has the Trib buried Kent's piece?  It carries an August 24th dateline, but unless I'm blind - always a possibility - I was unable to find it in the print editions of Friday, Saturday or Sunday. (Maybe it'll be in tomorrow.)  The title of the webpage Why Prentice should be saved, is much less ambiguous than the vague headline. 

Kent lays out the truth that Prentice meets at least three - probably four- of the criteria required for designating a structure an official Chicago landmark, and calls out Northwestern for its power play politics, "If Prentice is demolished, it will be for reasons other than its worthiness as a landmark."

This is a key point often overlooked.  To Northwestern, this is not about a building, it is about power.  Northwestern is at the top of Chicago's power elite.  It does not like to be challenged.
Its public advocacy campaign to destroy Prentice is so sloppy and factually challenged that it seems almost half-hearted.  (The Chicago Sun-Times David Roeder calls it, "an embarrassment for a school of Northwestern's caliber.")  Northwestern wants it gone.  That should be enough.  

More importantly, Northwestern has deliberately subverted having a debate on Prentice in the forum where it would be most appropriate:  The Commission on Chicago Landmarks.  

In June of 2011, the matter of Prentice made its way onto the Commission's agenda. As Kent demonstrated, if any Chicago building meets the criteria, it's Prentice, and any neutral debate would most probably result in Prentice's designation - and protection - as an official Chicago landmark.  Northwestern, of course, can't have that.  So they used their clout to have the matter pulled from the agenda, and have kept it off, month after month, ever since.

According to a report in Skyline, when preservationists who are a part of the Save Prentice coalition tried to  bring up Prentice at the Landmarks Commission  meeting earlier this month, Commission Chairman Rafael Leon cut them off.  "At the appropriate time, then you can make your statement."  And when, actually, would be that time?  "I don't know, to be honest."  Even as Commissioner, Leon apparently has zero control over his own agenda; he just follows orders passed down by the Department of Development.

For 15 months, the administration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has enforced an official omerta on the fate of Prentice.  What actually have they been talking about?  Wars have been settled in less time.   Are they really talking at all, or is Northwestern simply deploying its clout to make sure there is no talking? 

In June, the Martin Schnitzius Cottage got the Landmarks Commission nod for official designation.  Now well into the second year, Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital can't even be discussed.  It may be classic Chicago politics, but that doesn't make the city's subversion of due process to placate clout-heavy Northwestern any less of a scandal.
image: Landmarks Illinois

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ziggurat with Pointy Stick

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 Reliefs by Gwen and Eugene Van Breeman Lux.
Century Tower, previously Corn Products Building,
originally Trustees Systems Service Building, Thielbar & Fugard, 1930

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

River North Hotels - One Sleeks Up; One Dumbs Down

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The last time we looked, in 2009,  at the design (from HOK Architects) of the new three hotel complex on Clark Street between Illinois and Grand, the Clark Street facade of the Aloft Hotel had been changed from masonry and glass, to a glass curtain wall.  Well, that curtain wall is largely in place, and it's a definite an improvement on the original putty-colored verticals, with super-transparent zig-zags interspersed among the other glass of the facade.
Is it too much too hope that the mud colored surfacing of the easternmost portion of the building will be left a lighter color, closer to what you see now?  As it is, the dramatically cantilevered topmost slab of the original design and the glass cornice of 2009 seemed to have both bit the dust in favor of a far more conventional slab with a - at least at the moment - rather forlorn looking trellis sticking out from it.
The transition on the Hyatt Place next door, at Clark and Illinois, is less felicitous.

Either the Aloft got shorter, or the floors in the Hyatt Place got taller.  What was a 15-story building,  shorter than the Aloft and topped with a slopping, windowless service block on top has become a 15 story building that shares the same cornice height as the Aloft.  On Clark street, the 2009 tri-partite arrangement for the Hyatt Place facade, with a rhythm of 3-2-3, has disappeared, replaced with a uniform omni-grid, from eight windows and four verticals, to five larger windows and six verticals.
The verticals, rendered in 2009 for each floor as either four separate pieces or scored to look like it, are now a single piece.   The eight-piece gray insets that were on either side of the two three-window sets  have disappeared entirely.  The windows now spread flush to the verticals.   The spandrels, rendered in 2009 as continuous white horizontals, eight pieces above each 3 window set and six above the two, are gone, replaced by two gray spandrel panels beneath each window, recessed within the white verticals on either side.
The Illinois Street facade has undergone a similar simplification.  The two-dimensional grid of the 2009 design, with its intimation of multiple pieces, now simply extrudes the Clark Street grid around the corner: strong, continuous verticals, cladding for each floor in single pieces, and recessed gray spandrel panels.  For some reason, the operable windows,  to the left in 2009 rendering, have all shifted to the right as-built.
"God is in the Details", someone once said, and in Hyatt Place, that God apparently had to be sacrificed.   The final result looks rather cheap, less like a luxury hotel and more like a Class B (or C) office building. The Fairfield Inn next door is less far along, but seems to proceeding more to the original plan.

Mr. Becker Inquires . . .

Last Wednesday, I concluded a 20-year engagement with one of Chicago's leading advertising/marketing firms.  I am looking for, as they say, new opportunities and challenges, including at least some, to risk indelicacy, that involve money changing hands.

I hope you'll indulge me if I use this blog today for a bit of shameless self-promotion.  Back to normal (?) tomorrow.


Lynn Becker

Author and Critic
  •  Writer on architecture for the Chicago Reader, with nearly 50 articles and four cover stories.  Also articles in Metropolis Magazine and the Harvard Design Magazine.
  • Contributor to the books Reveal: Studio Gang Architects, State Street Village IITInsight Guide Chicago, and Urban Planning Today (University of Minnesota Press)
  •  Guest curator of Chicago Architecture Foundation exhibition: Boom Towns: Chicago Architects Design New Worlds, September 23 - November 21st, 2008, and February 12 - May 1, 2009.
  • Author of Repeat website on Chicago architecture and culture, with 1.8 million visitors and 3.2 million page views since its inception, and the blog ArchitectureChicago Plus, with nearly half a million page views in the last two and one-half years.
Tech Guru

  • IT Technician/Help Desk Specialist, supporting nearly 200 Mac users - problem solving, preparing and upgrading computers, purchasing, managing assets, backups, storage maintenance, training, documentation, and more
  • VOIP Support Specialist for 400+ phone system - problem solving, preparing phones for users, asset management.
  •  Manager, including analysis, strategy, budgeting and project management, working with and motivating associates in everything from a department of three and one-half people, to a national division with six offices and 200 employees 
  • Named Agency's "Employee of the Year" after first year of service.

More detailed information and amusing anecdotes available upon request.


. . .  and now for something completely different: Elvis sighting at Lurie garden . . .

Today at 4:00 at the Newberry: In Search of Wiliam Pretyman

image courtesy Glessner House Museum
William Pretyman was one of the key interior designers in Chicago at the end of the 19th century.  He was a great friend of John Wellborn Root, which was a factor in Pretyman being appointed "Director of Color" for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.  When it became clear to Pretyman that color - Root had planned the architecture of the Fair to be highly polychromatic - was not to have a big place in what was to become  the "White City", he resigned his post, in 1892, to be replaced by Frank D. Millet.  Today from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., in the Towner Fellows' Lounge at Newberry Library, architect John Waters will lead a colloquium, In Search of William Pretyman, also touching on the recently restored stencil by the artist at Glessner House.  Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Future Prentice: ideas for saving endangered Bertrand Goldberg building subject of Chicago Architectural Club's 2012 Chicago Prize competition

Northwestern wants to destroy Bertrand Goldberg's iconic Prentice Hospital Building.  They say there's no other way.

The Chicago Architectural Club begs to differ.  Partnering with the American Institute of Architects/Chicago, it's made the structure the focus of FUTURE PRENTICE, it's 2012 Chicago Prize Competition . . .
. . . an international, single-stage ideas competition open to anyone with a vision of what the former Prentice Women’s Hospital could become: students, architects, landscape architects, planners, designers, artists and concerned citizens alike.
click images for larger view

The FUTURE PRENTICE Competition seeks to explore alternative solutions for this historic piece of architecture. What would you propose to do with this structure? What other uses are possible? How would you re-envision this iconic building? How can a building that changed the course of modern hospital design and structural engineering be re-used for the future? What new business models for healthcare, eduction and research would you propose to bring continued economic prosperity to an urban neighborhood defined by an interconnected hospital and university campus.
The hospital is considered ground-breaking for its cutting-edge architecture and advanced engineering, as well as for what was a progressive design approach to organizing medical wards and services. Prentice Women’s Hospital received international press coverage and an award from Engineering News Record for its innovative tower and open floor-plate layout that eliminated the need for structural support columns. Partially occupied until fall of 2011, the structure has been determined to be in sound condition, but in need of repair.
Today the building is in imminent danger of being torn down by its owner, Northwestern University, but it’s fate ultimately lies in the hands of the city’s administration. A study was commissioned by Landmarks Illinois in 2011 to propose alternative uses for the structure, which is now vacant, as Prentice Women’s Hospital had moved into a new structure less than a block away. The three schemes produced were rejected by Northwestern University as either not needed or too limiting for the university’s research agenda.
Entrants may consider just the actual site of Prentice Hospital, or also use the two-block square site across the street which has remained vacant and chain-linked since Northwestern demolished Schmidt, Garden and Erikson's Lakeside Veterans Hospital four years ago.

First prize is $3,000; second $1,500 and third $750, with up to three honorable mentions.  A QandA sessions closes September 15th, with online submissions due by October 15th.  Winners, "decided by a jury of notable professionals and academics",  are scheduled to be announced in November.

More information on the Architectural Club website here.   You can download the competition brief here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicago Streetscene: Patterns

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Mind in the Gutta: Lichtenstein's Entablatures

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As you move through the foyer of the Art Institute's essential exhibition  Roy Lichenstein: A Retrospective, you will see, on the walls on either side of you one of the artist's series of Entablatures.

Just coming off his series of Mirror paintings, Lichtenstein began a study of entablatures, in classical architecture the intermediate bands that separate the columns from the pediment.  The artist looked at examples in ancient buildings he found in architectural journals, and then he took the streets around his lower Manhattan studio, taking photographs at noontime, when the high light brought out the features of the ornament in sharpest detail.  The buildings he photographed were, of course, far from ancient, but contemporary, buildings that appropriated the classical idiom to link the architecture of power in ancient times to the architecture of power in modern times - the banks and financial institutions of the Wall Street district.  Copies of copies of copies, much in the same way that Lichtenstein drew on existing images for his own work.
Entablature #8, 1972, 30 x 240 inches
In the words of art historian Barbara Rose, Entablatures are "like the comic strip in that they are reductive, symbolic and diagrammatic images closer to the world of abstract signs than to that of representational imagery.”  Although each of the Entablatures are of finite size, the standardized, repetitive patterns seem infinitely extrudable, each extension like another Warhol Campbells Soup can or Brillo box.
Entablature 1975, 54 x 216 inches
In his essay in the excellent catalogue for the exhibition, Two Birds With One Stone, Yve-Alain Bois relates that shortly his death, the artist was asked if he had ever produced art without an element of humor . . .
We'll I'm trying to think.  Even the Entablatures are meant to be humorous in a way, because they don't seem to be funny but they mean imperial power or something like that.  That's the work I can think of that's maybe the most humorless, but it's still meant to be humorous in some way.
There were 30 paintings in two series.  The first, from 1971-72, were black-and-white.  The second, 1974-76, in color and using textures.   As Bois notes, the series could be seen to be prophetic.  In 1972, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's Learning from Las Vegas was published, and Post-Modernism in architecture, which Bois disdains, was off to the races.  But the time Post-Modernism was in full flower a few years later, Lichtenstein had already moved on to somewhere else.

"This series," said Lichtenstein, "can also to seen to represent, in a humorous way, the establishment."
Now Lichtenstein is the establishment, entombed, for the moment, in Thomas Beeby's neo-classical Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, from 1988, with its Doric-columned courtyard.
And yet Lichtenstein rebels.  The amazing color of his canvases burst out of the Rice monochrome, like the vanished applied color of ancient Greek temples that classicists like Beeby always leave out of their contemporary re-imaginings.
We first wrote about Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, all the way back in June, in Lichtenstein Express, about a building-sized Lichtenstein mural created by School of the Art Institute students on the sides of a former warehouse facing the Kennedy expressway.

Tempus Fugit.  We are now fast closing in on the September 3rd closing date for this remarkable show.  For its final four days over the Labor Day weekend, the Art Institute is extending its hours through 8:00 p.m.

If you the only thing you thought about Lichtenstein was that he was the guy who did comic book stuff, you're in for a delightful shock.  While early critics honed on his work as being all the same, what strikes you at the Art Institute is how Lichtenstein took a basic idiom, and stretched and re-invented it in multiple directions throughout his career.  His final canvases included both a series of nudes . . .
Interior with Nude Leaving, 1997
and Japanese-inspired landscapes . . .
Landscape in Fog, 1996
 Confronted with heroic canvasses, like Lichtenstein's take on  Laocoön . . .
Laocoön, 1988
. . . you might be tempted to pass up the long gallery filled with mostly small things, works on paper.
Don't.  Here you'll find the studies that are not only superb works of art in themselves, but testimony to Lichtenstein's craftsmanship.  You can even see his penciled notes and color studies for his Haystack and Haystacks consideration of the same-named paintings of Monet.
The Red Horseman (Study), 1974
Most considerations I've read of Lichtenstein's work downplay the significance of content.  Since the images are appropriated, they're seen as almost incidental, a road to the craft of the finished pieces.  Yet while how he chose to make things as an artist may be the key to Lichtenstein's importance as an artist, what he chose to see is, at least to me, no less compelling, and the overall impression of Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is of an exceptionally capacious mind, an unsentimentally optimistic character, and a body of work that is a bracing counterpoint to the often self-absorbed fatalism of  much of the art of our time.

After Chicago, the show barnstorms to the National Gallery in DC, the Tate in London, and the Pompidou in Paris.  You have another 15 days to see if here.  Why wait?