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Lippold said he would like more space, and, to his amazement, the builders agreed on the spot to push the lobby wall back eight feet . . .‘Radiant I’ is a thirteen-by-fifteen-by-twenty-four foot construction of gold, stainless steel, and enameled copper set over a rectangular reflecting pool, and in the opinion of Lippold, Inland Steel, and nearly everyone else it is a complete success; it convinced him that he could do his best work in collaboration . . .Lippold wrote in a magazine article that to have that collaboration to be a success, the artist must “attach his work so tightly to the building, in similarity of proportion, material, and technique, that try as he might, the user cannot pry it loose [visually] and thus is forced to move though the sculpture or the painting, to the building, and, of course, back down through it again to himself . . . The architect's responsibility in this is simply to allow the artist to achieve this double rapport.”
The Frank Gehry reception desk, on the other hand, is a study in contrast and assimilation. It's placed at the far end away from the Lippold, along the south window wall and entrance doors.
|seriously - click the images to see a larger view|
midst of a major renovation to bring its functionality up to current standards, but as an officially designated Chicago Landmark, the original feel of the design, right down to the original single-pane windows, has had to be scrupulously maintained. It's important to remember that the Inland Steel, one of the glories of Chicago Architecture, was in its day a gloriously radical statement, and that statement is being preserved and restored.
As an autonomous object, the Gehry reception desk is an intriguing work. Inserted into the relentlessly angular grid of the Inland Steel Building and its lobby, it's also a subtly subversive one, providing a small explosion of the 21st century into the late 1950's vision of Netsch, Graham and Lippold. While not changing their vision in any way, it keeps it from being embalmed as a museum piece. It's like the young cat introduced into a household dominated by a beloved aging feline - the relationship is often uneasy, but it invigorates both. Even as we're left to admire how things once were at a snapshot point of architectural history, the Gehry reminds us how things have changed, as it places past and present in dialectic tension.
And, of course, it's reversible. It's furniture, not structure, and if it ages badly, it can be carted off, respectfully, long after Frank's gone. My sneaking suspicion, however, is that once we get used to it, it will become one of those funky objects beloved by the Chicago public.
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Visited this wonderful building in June without knowing anything about the Gehry desk. Noticing it, I thought: oh dear, they got that wrong. Ice and steel? It's such a lumpen counterpoint to the Radiant sculpture that it seems like a bad joke. Well, as you point out, it can easily be removed and it is at the edge of the space...Something, I suppose.
One of the best details about this building: in the bathroom stalls, the door latches are also cigaeette holders and ash receptacles. After you;re done sitting and smoking, flipping open the latch casues your ashes to fall into a little box. Made of stainless steel, of course, in keeping with the design of this corporate headquarters.
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