Friday, November 09, 2012

Mies's 860-880 Lake Shore Drive. Love the Building? Click the Website.

click images for larger view
The two towers of Mies van der Rohe's 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive are among Chicago's most essential landmarks.  After long decades of being able to express his ideas only through drawings or models, 860-880 was first time Mies was able to turn his conceptions for tall buildings into a built reality.  For better and for worse, the world has never been the same since.

There's a new website, 860|880 Lake Shore Drive that provides an excellent overview of the building, its creator, history and importance.  It's the work of The 860|880 Website Committee -  Sara Coffou, Chris Enck, Joel Herm, Ann Knowles, and others - and it serves both as sort of an intranet for current and potential residents, and a font of information for everyone else.

The site includes an overview of Mies's work first in Europe, and then in America, and facts about the building (the original cost was $6 million, the cost for Krueck and Sexton and Gunny Harboe's award-winning restoration fifty years later - $10 million -  seems, giving the place and inflation, quite a bargain.)  There's an excellent gallery of current and historic photographs and, from 1957, both a brochure created by the tenants, and a link to a Life Magazine spread on Mies and his work, including 860-880.

There's a great essay by designer Susan Keig, who studied with Maholy-Nagy at Chicago's New Bauhaus, fell in love with 860-880, and has been living there for over fifty years.
I'm not sure how many architects live in the building.  The reason Mies gave for shacking up in a Robert S. De Golyer Italian-palazzo apartment block rather than his own iconic structure was that he feared being busted down to quasi-janitor,  trapped in the elevator listening to tenants' plumbing problems.  Still, I'm betting more than a few architects have been drawn to this temple of modernism, and one of them, John Ronan, who lives at 860-880 with another architect - his wife Claire Lyster - and their two young daughters, provides a compelling analysis of the building and its importance in his Essay in Steel and Glass . . .
It contains certain truths. It wasn’t about self-expression. It was about working through a problem and finding a solution that could be used again, elsewhere. 860|880 is Mies’ understanding of what a steel and glass building should be . . . There’s a definitive ‘statement’ quality to it. Subsequent iterations of the type looked for ways to make it cheaper, and ended up diluting the purity of the original approach.
 Great stuff. Check it out for yourself:  860|880 Lake Shore Drive
There are a number of other worthwhile building-oriented websites, including one for The Marquette Building, the Holabird and Roche landmark that found the perfect owner/protector in becoming home to the MacArthur Foundation.
And, of course, the grand-daddy of them all is the one created by Steven Dahlman for the Bertrand Goldberg masterpiece that I call home, Marina City Online, whose City Within a City: The Biography of Chicago's Marina City, is one of the most exhaustive and entertaining accounts of a single building you're ever likely to find.

I'm sure there are more.  Let me know what I'm missing.

1 comment:

Becca@plumbingmelbourne said...

Yeah, I just love the building. How it felt to be fulfilled if you have such feat to build a beautiful structure.