Monday, June 30, 2014

Wasting No Time on the George Lucas Museum: Design Competition winners unveiled

First Place Winner Mircea Eni (all images courtesy VIATechnik)
 It's only a week ago that the news broke that Chicago has been chosen by film-maker George Lucas as the winning location for his $400 million Lucas Museum of of Narrative Art.  We'll be weighing in on the topic over the next few days, but we already have a press release announcing the winner of an unofficial George Lucas Museum Design Contest, sponsored by VIATechnik, a Chicago-based firm offering “estimating, LEED Coordination and BIM modeling services to Engineers, General Contractors, and Developers.”
First Place Winner Mircea Eni (click images for larger view)
First place went to recent IIT School of Architecture grad Mircea Eni, currently interning at Krueck+Sexton for the summer.  Eni's proposal circumvents the growing controversy over placing the museum on a lakefront site by lifting up the entire building above the landscape.  According to Jury member Mike Ellch of Related Midwest, as the site is on “a museum campus meant to be enjoyed by everybody” the winning design “has a park that is accessible to everyone, and this is very important to this design, that's why we liked it."  Architect Carol Ross Barney, another juror, referred to the winning design as “taking you to this almost dreamlike level as a great story is being told.  There is this idea of being lifted up, and the illusion it creates is quite nice.”

Filling out the jury was Daniel Peddicord of Pepper Construction and Brian McElhatten of Arup Chicago.  CEO Danielle Dy Buncio said that VIATechnik launched the competition about a month ago, after Lucas made known his interest in Chicago as a potential home to his project.  “We wanted to host an unofficial contest where aspiring designers and architects could showcase their talents and passion for the Star Wars Franchise and its maker George Lucas, while helping Chicago become a destination for what will assuredly be an iconic Museum.”

Second Place recognition went to Andrew Issac Ng and Laura Kiyokane, both recent grads of the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning . . .
. . . with a honorable mention to marketing manager Rodney Marmilic and architect Eddy Stambulic, the Australian duo collectively know as the Womp Rats . . .

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reilly demands less toppings: declares 45-story Friedman Pizza Hotel tower dead.

In an email report to his constituents released late Friday, 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly announced he would not support River North developer Albert Friedman's plans to construct two separate Hyatt hotels in a single 45-story tower at 740 North Rush abutting and abridging the vintage building that's the long-time home to Giordano's Pizza:
I received a tremendous amount of constituent feedback regarding the proposal and the resounding overall sentiment was serious concern regarding the overall density of the proposal and the major traffic impacts and loading challenges associated with it.

After spending the past two months reviewing the proposal and associated traffic analyses to determine whether changes could properly address these challenges - I have concluded that the proposed 620 hotel keys, split across separate hotel flags, is simply far too ambitious for this location already surrounded by failing intersections (from a traffic engineering perspective) and high-density buildings. 
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I did not reach this conclusion quickly. In fact, I met with the development team on several occasions to explore potential changes or other development options to help make the proposal a better fit for this location. Unfortunately, at the end of that process, it became clear that this proposal simply could not proceed.

As a result, the proposed 620 key hotel development for 740 North Rush Street will not be moving forward. I have encouraged the property owners to carefully consider the limitations posed by the infrastructure around their site and existing traffic conditions, as they contemplate future development concepts.
Reilly did not indicate to what level the project would have to be cut back or reconfigured to meet his approval.  Take a last look at the original glassy skyscraper here . . .
Tactical Insertion: Friedman's 45-story 740 North Rush revealed (from a distance)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rahm, Gates, Gang and more - A Photo Portrait of AIA Convention Thursday

Thursday morning was the big keynote of the American Institute of Architects 2014 convention in Chicago, featuring introductions, awards, a benediction by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and talks by Theaster Gates and Jeanne Gang.  We'll proably be writing more about what they had to say later, but for now here's what it looked like on the scene . . .
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Arie Crown Theater, the cavernous barn of an auditorium that didn't have the decency to burn down with the rest of the original McCormick Place back in 1967;

AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling

Rahm talked about Chicago's architectural heritage as “the home of modern architecture”, and the newly announced Chicago Architecture Biennial, to take place in October 2015.  “It will be the largest convention of architects and designers and people thinking about the future of architecture in cities in all of North America”

The Mayor was wearing a colorful handmade “Peace” wristband sold for $1.00 by a six-year boy at a North Side Wal-Mart. Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported that Emanuel “urged the boy to charge his bodyguard $2 for a bracelet.”  Which may go a long way to explaining why those CTA stations are costing so much.  Or am I reading too much into this?
The AIA's 2014 Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education was awarded to Harrison Fraker, who founded what is now the Princeton Environmental Institute and is a pioneer who “pushed the academic study of energy use in buildings to the forefront of the sustainability movement.”
Ivenue Love-Stanley was the recipient of this year's Whitney M. Young Award.  In 1977, Love-Stanley became “the first Afro-American woman to the first African-American woman to graduate from the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech in 1977. She later became the first African-American woman to become a licensed architect in the Southeast. In 1978, she co-founded Atlanta-based Stanley, Love-Stanley with her husband, William Stanley, FAIA, who received the Whitney Young Award in 1995. Love-Stanley and Stanley are the first husband and wife to ever have both received the Whitney Young Award.”
“I asked myself this morning,” said artist and activist Theaster Gates, ”what does it mean to talk to the field of architecture as an artist? What does it mean to have this captive audience to think with me about how our cities look and feel?”

In his keynote Gates answered with a overview of two recent projects - 12 Ballads for Huguenot House and the Stony Island Arts Bank, but only after saying ” I really want us to forget about those buildings and imagine that we're talking about process, that I'm talking about the capacity for the field of architecture and the field of design and the arts to re-imagine how cities function and to re-imagine the agency that we have as design professionals to change the world.”
Gates talked about neighborhoods like those on Chicago's South Side “People forget about them.  [Their architecture] at one time may have been ambitious, the people who live there [now] may have real lives and real ambition.  There's just no reason to talk about it, because it seems like nothing's happening there .  The building that we're looking at is at 69th and Dorchester .  It's one of those buildings.  In my artistic practice, a big part of it is about re-imagining how spaces are activated.  Sometimes I take abandoned buildings.  I perform in them.  I sweep them.  I mop them.  I rehab them.  I do things like an architect . . . like an architect.”  
“I am calling this talk ‘Purpose is Process’, said the mornings second keynoter, Studio Gang's Jeanne Gang.  ”Now when I first heard about the title I wondered, how do you get purpose?  Do you just wake up one morning and find ouy you have a purpose?  It's really not like that.  It shouldn't be a marketing slogan and it shouldn't be something you have to concoct .  It really is something you develop over time. It's a process.  Maybe another way to put it is:  Does architecture correct social change, or    . . . is it social change that determines architectural space?
This launched into Gang providing a history of Northerly Island, including a visual demonstration of how much of the site and its environs were not a green space, but an almost interrupted sea of concrete.  She contrasted that with her design for the Northerly Island Framework Plan for returning it to the public as a 90-acre recreational space, a process that is rapidly nearing completion.  

To underscore how Studio/Gang's practice is based on process and research, Gang concluding by discussing her latest project, creating BLUEprint, a strategic plan for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, which has resulted in Gang learning more about the oceans than most of us could ever hope to know.  

“As architects you never really think that you can begin a project that has to do with the ocean, but in fact I think our skill sets are really attuned to this. . . . The way that we used to perceive the ocean back in Greek times it was one ocean, not multiple seas.  And now today it is a contested space.  It's very heavily harvested for all kinds of different resources and materials.  Only 2% of the whole ocean is protected, which is very different than on land.  When you think about that, it's pretty scary.  Nobody's watching it.  Nobody's caring for it.  There isn't any planning.”

Gang talked about how unknown the oceans actually are.  While 563 astronauts have visited space, there have been only 4 descents into the deepest level of the ocean.  While NASA spends over $17 billion a dollar a year exploring space, the budget for oceanic exploration was listed as under $25 million.    Much of the ocean floor remains unmapped.  As vast as it appears, the almost alarmingly finite nature of the oceans - on which all earthly life is so completely dependent - was demonstrated by an incredible graphic of an earth stripped of all its water, and the entire cubic volume of that water orbiting the earth in a tiny ocean-blue moon only 860 miles in diameter. 

Tribune architecture Blair Kamin talking with Stephen Cheung at the Architect Live booth.
Walgreens Manager of Sustainability Jamie Meyers draws a crowd at the AIA Chicago  Lounge. (Heads up from a reliable source: Karen Erger and Eric Singer reportedly make the topic of Residential Risk Redux: Managing Risk in the New Economy -12:30 -1:30 p.m. Friday - not only informative, but a lot more entertaining than you might imagine.)
Stairway to Heaven

Ghost Towers

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

For the tired AIA Conventioneer: A Quick tour of Chicago Architecture just outside McCormick Place

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If you're an architect here in Chicago for the AIA Convention, odds are you're overbooked with keynotes, sessions and lectures morning to night.  If it gets to the point, however, where you need a break, relief is just outside the doors of McCormick Place.
In just a few blocks, you can find a surprisingly varied survey of Chicago architecture, past, present and future, with structures by Bertrand Goldberg, Carol Ross Barney, Howard van Doren Shaw, Cesar Pelli and others.
We've created this map with some of the many points of architectural interest on and around a stretch of Cermak Road little more than a half-mile long..  Just click on its red marker to read details and history of a building, and see a picture.   We recommend you click on the rectangle symbol in the upper right corner of the black title bar to view the map full size in a new browser window.
If you set a brisk pace, you should be able to run the full circuit within 45 minutes to an hour and be back at the hall with time to spare for that session on sealants.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

John Vinci to receive AIA Chicago 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, even as his indispensable Adler and Sullivan book still out of print

Davis House, Vinci|Hamp Architects
AIA Chicago announced last Thursday that long-time architect, preservationist, and activist John Vinci will receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award at this years Designnight Gala October 24th.
Vinci has just finished curating the open-air exhibition Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs, on the park's North Boeing Gallery, which runs through October of next year.  From the press release . . .
Vinci, 77, has been practicing architecture since he graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1960. A collaborator with famed architectural photographer Richard Nickel, Vinci is known for his staunch, outspoken defense of classic Chicago architecture over the past 50 years.  From his initial preservation work as a student - organizing an IIT exhibition on the work of Adler & Sullivan or salvaging ornamentation from the then soon to be demolished Garrick Theater - he has played an integral part in the preservation and restoration of works from architects as varied as Frank Lloyd Wright to modernists Ed Barnes, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen. Among his numerous restoration projects, Vinci was instrumental in the salvation and reconstruction of Louis Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room.

“No one has moved so effortlessly from past to present to future as John Vinci,” says AIA Chicago executive vice president Zurich Esposito. “His designs are rooted in history and informed by his scholarship yet most certainly of our time.”

“John is both a consummate designer and life-long advocate and practitioner of preserving Chicago’s historic architecture,” Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois says. “Because of his leadership and perseverance, some of Sullivan’s and Wright’s greatest works have been restored for generations to enjoy. And his dedication to the legacy of Adler and Sullivan, especially as documented by the late Chicago photographer Richard Nickel, resulted in The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan – a book that will continue to motivate all of us to preserve Chicago’s great architecture.”
KAM Synagogue, from The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan
That book, a collaboration between Vinci, Tim Samuelson, Ward Miller, building on the work of photographer, preservationist and scholar Richard Nickel, is one of the most essential resources on Chicago architecture, but it remains out-of-print, only four years afters its publication. (The going price is around $600.00 both at William Stout Architectural Books and Amazon.)  The volume is now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, which acquired it as part of acquiring the Richard Nickel Archive in November of 2010.  AIC could bring something to the Vinci - and Chicago architecture - party by announcing sometime between now and October their intention of bringing out a new edition - or even a web version  downloadable as a PDF.

Vinci will receive AIA Chicago's Lifetime Achievement honor Friday, October 24th, at the Designight Gala in the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier

Sunday, June 22, 2014

LERATA returns to Chicago, RFP deadline extended to June 27

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If you're a Chicago designer, you probably already know that L.A.-based LERATA, a/k/a Laboratory for Experimentation and Research in Art, Technology and Architecture  is looking to repeat last year's LEVEL festival of nocturnal multi-media installations and to take them to location's beyond last year's focus on the Chicago river.
There are two primary conditions for installation sites as indoors or outdoors. The outdoor locations will consist of open courtyards, building rooftops, plazas, or alleyways. The interior locations include building lobbies, unoccupied building floors, and covered walkways/concourse. Most of the locations are ‘hidden’ from public view, in that they are private, normally closed and/or inaccessible to the public. All of the locations will be viewed at night, thus the proposals should respond to this condition. For the outdoor locations we are seeking installations that are viable when exposed to the elements (rain, moisture, etc.) and also respond to/in the dark (illuminated or otherwise). 
The 2014 host committee includes such heavyweights as Patrica Natke, Brad Lynch, and Ed Uhlir, among others, and now, for the chronic procrastinators in our midst, the deadline to respond to this year's LEVEL RFP.  has been extended to 11:59 p.m. PST, June 27th.  Winners will be determined by July 7th, for 11 to 14 still-to-be-announced sites in the  10 x 20 block grid that defines the greater Loop from Michigan to the river, Wacker to Roosevelt.

Once again, this year's event will be held in parallel with Expo Chicago, the mega-art exhibition that takes place at Navy Pier, September 18 to 21.
See our photoessay on last year's installations here - Chicago Under the Dome: The urban visions of Level Chicago 2013.

Chicago overrun by Architects as AIA Convention Looms: Moreno, Gernaga, Luis, Lai and Sterry at the Apple Store

For the first time in a decade, the American Institute of Architects national convention rolls into Chicago later this week, and in addition to an almost overwhelming array of keynotes, talks, panels, and tours, there are any number of related events, many of which we've captured on the June Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.
Starting on Monday, the Royal Institute of British Architects is sponsoring a series of nightly lectures 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue.  The series, Fringe Benefit Lecture - Architecture Showcase: Diversity in Design, kicks off Monday with  tymedesign's Bohdan Gernaga talking about “embracing color”; NRI Chicago's Ashley Mistry on 3D printing, and architect Juan Moreno of JGMA discussing how his firm's projects are “transforming some of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods.”

On Tuesday, there's Monte Chapin of Graphisoft N.A. showcasing BIMxDocs, his firm's iOS app, Lira Luis presents “fringe ideas for rebuilding after a disaster”, and Zoological Lighting Institute founder James Karl Fischer talks about “photobiology and nocturnal habitats.”   The series concludes on Wednesday, with Jimenz Lai, IDEO Chicago's Sara Frisk, and “design scientist and futurist” Melissa Sterry speculating on “how nature would design a city.”
Chicago-based architect

Sterry will also be giving an RIBA-sponsored lecture at the Doubletree on Thursday, Learning from Life: The Biologically Informed City, the same night there's a special AIA Convention Design+Dining Pecha Kucha at Martyr's, with the participants including Linda Keane, Petra Bachmaier, Catherine di napoli, Jonathan Parker, architects Miguel Del Rio, Carl Sergio and Dan Wheeler, SOM's Eric Keune and Michael Pfeffer and Architectural Record Senior Editor Joann Gonchar, with Peter Exley as MC.

Friday, AIADIV and Chicago Women in Architecture is sponsoring a Global Inclusion Reception at the Hafele Chicago Showroom with Ambassador (Ret) John F. Maisto
This is all in addition to major convention keynotes with Jeanne Gang and Theaster Gates, Ed Mazria and Tony Hsieh.  Check out the full convention scheduled on the AIA website, and all the events still to come this month on the June Calendar of Chicago Architecture Events.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

20 Feet High? How about 23 stories? The forgotten sign that Trumped Trump

Photograph: 1934, Gordon Coster, courtesy Calumet412
If the Donald Trump sign wasn't already nearing the endpoint of its 15 minutes of fame. my appearance on a Tuesday panel on WTTW's Chicago Tonight with Ward Miller and Peter Exley, hosted by Elizabeth Brackett, discussing the topic should finish it off for good.  And so, I thought it a good time to tell you about another, now-forgotten sign that makes Trump's look like chump change.
photograph courtesy The Chuckman Collection
In the 1930's,  a spectacular, 23-story-high sign hawking Chevrolet was erected near what was then the Illinois Central Railyards. on Randolph just east of Michigan.  It's largely forgotten today, but Chevrolet commissioned a promotional film, Behind the Bright Lights, a “Jim Handy picture” to document all the details behind the massive project.

The film tells how “sign monkeys” attended to the “millions of lights, and how the average bulb would have a life of 6 to 8 months. “Rarely a day passes within 30 to 40 having to be replaced.”  According to the film, an electrical engineer was always on site.  The lights were controlled by something called “a flasher”, whose 305 separate contacts made it “the largest one in the world.”
Another machine controlled the hands of the massive clock, “and it has kept the clock in perfect time for over a year without a slip.”  (See? Donald Trump didn't invent hyperbole.)
The promotional film goes into fascinating detail about how the whole thing works.  Actually, it's how all signs of this type - now largely only a memory - worked.  Chevrolet just did it on a completely larger scale.  The scrolling text was made possible by a moving “motograph.”
You want to know how it works?  Well, every light bulb connects by a wire to a small contact point or brush.  The tip of the brush presses against a copper plate, and the return wire carries electricity through the plate, brush and wire to light the lamp.  A strip of paper inserted between the copper plate and the brush stops the flow of electricity and the lights go out.  But where a hole in the paper lets the brush touch the copper plate, electricity flows through again and lights the bulb.  No matter how many light bulbs and crushes are connected, each of them operates the same.
If a strip of paper is passed between the copper plate and the brushes, the lights will all go out.  But wherever holes in the paper permit any brushes to touch the copper plate, the lights connected to these brushes will go on.  The message is punched in a role of heavy paper, light a player piano roll.  When the paper passes between the brushes and the copper plate,  different groups of lights on the sign panel flash on and off and when running, makes you think the lights are moving, when they're not. 
It apparently didn't take too many years for the sign to become more trouble and expense than it was worth, and by the 1940's it had been converted into a massive multichrome promotion for Pabst Blue Ribbon.
photograph Jack Delano, courtesy Library of Congress
And then the sign was torn down.  By 1952, the corner had been taken over by a rather inelegant construction promoting Coca-Cola and Four Roses Whiskey, the Skid Row staple.
photograph: Joe + Jeanette Archie via Flickr, Creative Commons license
And then that sign disappeared as well, and in its place rose a new construction, the audacious Prudential Building, the first new Chicago skyscraper since the Great Depression.  Beginning in the 1970's, the massive railyards atrophied and were covered over by the sleek towers of Illinois Center.  Across the street?  Millennium Park, this summer celebrating the 10th anniversary of its opening.  There's a sedate sign atop the Prudential, but today the most prominent branding is expressed not in text, but in the billowing sales of Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion.

Sunday, June 15, 2014