Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pecha Kucha 28, Lally's Air from Other Planets, World (Color) Palette 2015+, Dyja's Unbuilt Third Coast, Christmas Gaudi and more - the December Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events

December is all parties and holidays, but that there are still dozens of great items for you to make time for on the just-published December Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.
It begins on Sunday the 1st with a lecture on the modernist S.B. Fuller House in Robbins, and continues of Tuesday the 3rd with volume 28 of Pecha Kucha Chicago, and the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois looking at Loyola's new Sports and Student Center

The academic theme continues on Wednesday with Patrick Loughran of Goettsch Partners discussing his firm's new home for the Bienen School of Music on Northwestern's Evanston campus.
Thursday the 5th sees Sean Lally at the Graham signing copies and talking about his new book, The Air from Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come, and a screening of the parkour documentary, My Playground at the Wit Hotel.

On Thursday, the 12th, Kai-Uwe Bergmann of BIG (Bjarke
Ingels Group) is at the MCA, where Pamela Bannos discusses Cap Streeter and the development of Streeterville on Saturday the 14th.

On Wednesday the 11th, RTKL's Diane Legge Kemp and Smith+Gill's Christopher Drew discuss China, Abu Dhabi and Offshore Urbanism: Exporting our Design Capital at AIA Chicago, while over at CAF, William Tyre talks about Howard van Doren Shaw's Second Presbyterian Church.  On Monday, the 16th, Hafele hosts the unveiling of the Color Marketing Group's World Palette 2015+.

Wednesday the 18th, CAF lunchtime, author Thomas Dyja talks about Unbuilt
Third Coast, including such unrealized projects of Mies's convention center, the scorched-earth Ft. Dearborn plan, and Harry Weese's concept of building a string of islands off the Lake Michigan shore.  That evening at CAF, an Archeworks panel including Studio Gang's Claire Cahan, SOM's Phil Enquist and moderators Iker Gil and Joshua G. Stein, among others will be considering Trickle Up: The Scale of Water in Chicago.

And to end 2013, the Gene Siskel Film Theatre will be continuing their holiday tradition of a week of screenings of Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1985 documentary Antonio Gaudi.

There's a lot more we haven't mentioned here, so check it all out on the December Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

Will December be the last of our monthly calendars?  We've received a grand total of about 5 responses from readers regarding our possible decision to suspend the calendar for 2014.  If you have strong thoughts on the matter please let us know.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Great Architecture is Fleeting, Ugly Garages Forever

click images for larger view
Even as Curbed Chicago is showing the scaffolding going up around the concrete cloverleafs of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital,  a 500-car urban cockroach of a parking garage at Randolph and Wells is getting a reprieve.
We had written back in May about the new 23-story tower by Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture that was set to replace the raw-boned garage.
151 North Franklin, John Ronan Architects
Last week, however, Ryan Ori of Crain's Chicago Business reported that the garage was sold out from under the tower's developer, J. Paul Beitler.  Competing developer John Buck has purchased air rights above the garage to stop any construction from blocking the views from Buck's proposed new 36-story 151 North Franklin, just next door.  151 North Franklin tenants and the apartment dwellers of Randolph Tower, just across the L tracks, will now be able to amuse themselves observing each other's behavior patterns without obstruction.  According to Crain's, Buck still needs city approval and an anchor tenant to get his 825,000 square-foot project off the drawing board, but that hasn't stopped him from creating a 151 North Franklin website which includes this video walkthrough . . .

151 North Franklin from REA on Vimeo.

The design, which would be the first skyscraper by John Ronan Architects,  includes this deep dish lobby space . . .
151 North Franklin, John Ronan Architects
The tower will replace a nondescript Walgreen's on the corner of Randolph and Franklin that was previously home to the legendary “Max the Hat's” Zimmerman's Liquors, in it's time proclaimed to be the largest wine and spirits store in the world.
In addition to its own plaza . . .
151 will share the park across the street separating it from Buck's 155 North Wacker tower to the west.  The project will be presented to the community at a public meeting next Monday.

According to Crain's, Beitler is scouting another location for his tower.  The garage's new owner, InterPark Holdings - which “parks over 20 million cars annually” - is expected to undertake some renovations at the nearly high-century old garage.  Let's hope its intrinsic charm survives.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Light and Shade at Polish Triangle: Wheeler Kearns' 1611 West Division

click images for larger view
Except for the required shadow analysis, how often do architects study the effect of light on their buildings.  You could argue, “What's the point?”  The sun comes, the sun goes, hour to hour, day to day, season to season.  There's not much you can do about it.  It is what it is.

Still, sunlight makes dramatic differences not only in how we see buildings and, quite possibly, but how they affect our psychological balance.  This is the landmark former Home Bank and Trust at Polish Triangle on a overcast day.
And this is how it looked a couple weeks ago in full sunlight.  The heavy stone takes on a mimicking lightness, becoming almost luminous.
The day I stopped by, it was well into afternoon, and so the shot you see at the top of this post of Wheeler Kearns Architects ' 1611 West Division, which began welcoming tenants last month, was on the shadow side of the sun, tending to flatten the contours of its jagged facades, just as it does with classically-styled bank building under similar conditions.

Walking back to the western side of the building, the impression was quite different . . .
The building goes full-up 3-D.  The metallic metal jigsaw pieces pop, stressing a verticality held together by the black spandrels.  The windows become cool blue streams of reflected sky.  The tall concrete service core at the corner becomes the anchor that holds all the lightness in place.  What appears in shade as a monolithic metal box with perforations, becomes, in sunlight, an articulated facade of discrete elements in lively conterpoint.

Clearly, Wheeler Kearns was looking for a new way for designing an anchor building at a major intersection, something between the heavy stone massing of traditional design, and the generic  sameness of the modernist glass box . . .
A page on the projects website discussing the architecture refers to “an expressed circulation core pulls away to clearly read as a separate public entry to a mix use of offices, exercise and bicycle storage above." 
Holding the Corner, Framing a Gateway.
Responding to the pivotal location on the park and the communities expressed desire for a major building/gateway to and from Division Street, 99? apartments are built above, with easy access to public transport and the city. The perfect opportunity to use Transit Oriented Design strategies.

Folded Facades Give Back.
The two street facades are pushed back, creating an enigmatic profile from the street, the facets catching light in subtle ways, emphasizing verticality. The sidewalk experience benefits from these widened pedestrian ways, around the bus shelter and puts the retail more in view.

A Woven Façade. Thought of as a mass wrapped by fabric, the façade is created by luminous, vertical metal panels and deeply recessed windows, more open where living occurs, more closed where sleeping does. Implicitly acknowledging the varying characters within, each façade varies in composition as it rises, making each apartment a unique experience.'

In direct response to the neighborhood and city, the project eliminates parking for residents, creating a development marketed entirely towards mass transit goers, bicyclists and pedestrians. It also addresses the larger environmental goal of providing higher density housing and services without adding un-desired traffic. The project is a rare example of cooperation and collaboration between community, municipality, developer and architect that embodies the vision and mission of Wheeler Kearns Architects.
As discussed by Chris Bentley in his report for the  Architects Newspaper's Chris Bentley, the community's campaign for something more ambitious than the usual Walgreen's with surface parking dates back to 2007.
Served by three major bus lines and the Division stop on the CTA Blue Line, 1611 actually walks the TOD talk.  Although the building includes retail on the first floor, offices and studio space on the second, and 99 apartments on the top eight floors, the only parking is nine spaces for the retailers, first-come/first-served, at the adjacent Wendy's parking lot.  
Known as the Tower of Pizza Hut after the site's previous tenant, 1611's design has inspired spirited discussion, which is welcome.  The great banks and department stores that anchored our neighborhoods for most of the 20th century are long gone; the proud buildings they constructed survive as historical artifacts often starving for viable re-use.  We need new ways for larger-scale structures to visually anchor the “town squares” that channel the character of the city's neighborhoods.  Wheeler-Kearns 1611 is a bold calling card in that debate. 

On a related note  . . .
From Drugs to Dollars to Deli: the story of Walgreens and the Landmark Noel State Bank

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Preview: The new Jones College Prep at Night, plus image updates for the Hilton Garden Inn.

Yesterday, in his newsletter to constituents, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly released a link to high-res renderings of the Hilton Garden Inn project on East Wacker, so we've updated our own report from this week,  adding floor plans and the section you see above.  Crain's Chicago Business used our interview with Reilly as the basis for their Thursday story on National Association of Realtors proposal for a new tower on North Michigan..  Read: Alderman Reilly Puts the Brakes on the Realtors, plus What's Up With that Shear Wall at the Hilton Garden Inn?
Click images for larger view
Last night, I had an amazing tour of the new William Jones College Preparatory High on South State Street with Perkins+Will's Ralph Johnson and Bryan Schabel, Chicago Public Building Commission Executive Director Erin Lavin Cabonargi, and Jones Principal Dr. Joseph Powers, who were all extremely generous with their time.  The new Jones is the quintessential urban school, with its large expanses of windows and multiple terraces taking often spectacular advantage of the South Loop cityscape that surrounds it.  Dr. Powers provided an especially rich insight into how the building functions in actual day-to-day use.  I hope to be writing an extensive report in the new few weeks, but to whet your appetite, here are just a few photos from last night . . .


Our forthcoming overview will be copiously illustrated.  We took a lot of pictures, some of them actually in focus.  You can also see a great timeline photoset of the project in daylight, from drilling caissons to completion, on the PBC website here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ronan's Stackables: Erie Elementary Charter School's new addition

click images for larger view
Last Thursday marked the neighborhood open house for a new addition to the Erie Elementary Charter School designed by John Ronan Architects.  The school was founded in 2005 as part of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's Renaissance 2010 project to create 100  new schools.  It's run by the Erie Neighborhood House, a social service agency founded in 1870 to serve what was then the neighborhood's Ukrainian immigrant community.

Erie Elementary Charter opened in 2005 with 80 students in the century-old St. Mark's school building, about half a mile to the south.  In 2010, it moved to its present location at 1405 North Washtenaw.  That building dates back to 1960, when, with 21 classrooms and a 1,000 student capacity, it was constructed as a school for St. Fidelis Church across the street, which had been serving Humboldt Park's blue collar Polish Catholics since its opening in 1926.  In 1960's, the neighborhood began its transition to a Latino community.  Attendance declined, and after structural issues arose with the church building, it was demolished in 1968.  It's still a parking lot today.  Mass was moved to the cafeteria of the school, until  church and school were closed in 2006 and merged with St. Aloysius Parish.
image: Google Earth
An apartment building on the corner site just south of the school was demolished to make way for Erie Elementary's new 16,000 square-foot addition, built with $12 million of funding from the Illinois Jobs Now! program.  Ground was broken in April of last year, and construction completed in about a year and a half.  Ronan's new building packs a lot of program into a constrained site, and is expected to help support an increase in the school's capacity to 400 students. from Kindergarten to 8th grade.

St. Fidelis Elementary brought a bracing contrast of International Style modernism to its Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Fifty years later, it hasn't had much influence on the neighborhood.  Here and there, you'll new construction in a modern idiom . . .
 . . . but the historic traditionally-styled architecture has proven both resilient and inviting, especially when it's rehabbed and spruced up with a new coat of paint. . .
Now Ronan's more contemporary kind of contrast has nestled its way into this historic working-class community.  In the words of the architects, the exterior's pre-cast concrete panels, with a ground and polished finish, are “stacked like blocks to lend a playful character to this elementary school addition in Chicago that responds to the owner’s modest budget, . . . transforms an otherwise commonplace building component, and offers the institution a simple yet noble character.”
The carefully considered geometrics extend even to the alley entrance . . .
The playfulness of those “stacked blocks” also manage to play fast and loose with what the exterior seems to represent.  It reads as a double-height ground floor, topped by second and third floors and a cornice.
In the interior layout, however, the only double-height component of the ground floor is the reception area . . .
Image courtesy of John Ronan Architects
. . . surrounded by two floors of spaces.  On the first floor, there's a computer lab and an adult education/ large conference room.  On the second floor, a library . . .
Image courtesy of John Ronan Architects
. . . after school lounge, play and conference rooms.  What reads on outside as the second and third floors is, in fact, a double-height gymnasium . . .
Image courtesy of John Ronan Architects
. . . with a rooftop play area at the fourth level . . .
As you can see in these illustrations, one of the great things about Ronan's addition is the way those supersized-windows and rooftop openings bring the historic architecture of the surrounding neighborhood into the very contemporary interiors.  Outside and in, abstracted modern meets ornament-rich tradition to create a bracing, contrapuntal urban fabric interweaving the physical expression of successive moments in time.