Its time to look at original views of the Continental and Commercial. 208 South LaSalle. It's time for some fun.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Its time to look at original views of the Continental and Commercial. 208 South LaSalle. It's time for some fun.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO. Shepley Rutan and Coolidge, Howard Van Doren Shaw, Holabird & Root & Burgee, Shaw Metz Associates, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Hammond, Beeby and Babka, Renzo Piano
Today, I stopped in to see the Arts and Crafts "Apostles of Beauty," Exhibit at the AIC. Arts and Crafts has been a part of my design vocabulary for some time - and I was looking forward to seeing a few interesting pieces. A few interesting pieces and then some. This Exhibit placed the Arts and Crafts Movement in a context of time, philosphy, politics, world history, and local events. In a simple sweep it showed relationships between the Industrial Revolution, Japanese history, the Market Crash of 1893, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Sullivan's Stock Exchange. (To name a few) And featured some of the most elegant design ever produced.This Show deserves all stars and all thumbs up for a spectacular collection presented globally, thoughtfully and still directed at its audience. All thumbs up and a special thanks to the Terra Foundation. (No photography allowed in the exhibit)
On the way out of the Exhibit I noticed, for the first time, the remarkable similiarities between Hammond Beeby Babka's Rice Wing central space and Renzo Piano's Modern. Similarities of size and location place them almost symmetrically balanced on either side of their access points near McKinlock Court. The main differences, it seems, are that Art is allowed in one space, but not in the other. And that one has a bridge at both ends of its "organizing" space to avoid dead-ended traffic. The other does not. There are, of course, other variations. To be discussed in future posts.
The first clue might be the lions....
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This is the day that I've decided to start the book "Peirce Anderson in Chicago." Anderson was Burnham's lead designer after 1908, and the design partner at Graham Anderson Probst and White until his death. The idea has been churning for some time, but strangely enough, or proudly, it is the comparison of these three lions that has posed the questions that need to be answered. From Marshall Field and Company (1902) through the Illinois Merchant's Bank (1924) changes, methodical and small brought Peirce Anderson to his position as one Chicago's most influential 20th Century Architects.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
With this post I've proven my over-active imagination. Samuel Insull couldn't have wandered the 21st floor of THIS building. Technology and a zoning code that believed the sunlight was the right of every property owner held the Edison Building to just nineteen stories.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Buildings that have been "intensely" designed, (the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, for example) show dimples, dirt, moisture, and bird droppings more easily than less considered structures. The Edison Building suffers this same fate. The facade is in need of restoration. Even Photoshop can't hide the deferred maintenance.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The Edison Building is immediately recognizable as a Daniel Burnham Building. Tripartite Design. Classic Details. Monumental Cornice. And home to an important turn-of-the-century Chicago corporation. What is not so obvious to the modern eye, are the variances from one Burnham building to the other. In this case a piano nobile rests on a simple base, not on the ground. Corinthian Columns, flattened at the solid corners support a continuous lintel. Office windows span each bay in groups of threes. The loggia is arched; the Building's surface heavily textured. Each decision was consciously made.
These kinds of arbitrary aesthetic decisions seem foreign to us. Until we look across the street, and attempt to recreate the historical precedents that surround Mies' late mid-century Federal Center, or attempt to follow the decision process that wrapped a steel H-section in layers of fireproofing and cladding to mimmick cladding and structure. Or conclude that black was the only appropriate building color.
The design processes, including the arbitrary decisions made in the name of the current definition of "beauty", remain fundamentally the same.
The Edison Building has been much changed. Its towering loggia is now dwarfed by surrounding buildings. The original banking room is gone. And the cornice. And a black band (that once housed a snow-melting heatlamp) wraps the building at the base of the columns. Some column piers have been reduced or relocated. Still, enough remains to give a good sense of what the Building once was -- and what the 1905 definition of "beauty" might have included. Use these links for an historic look at the first floor COLUMN BASE and the ORIGINAL CORNICE.
Laughing, even at myself, I have to admit that Mies was right. "God is in the Details, " he said. I'll be presenting additional details from the Edison Building in future posts.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I can't shake it.
I keep hearing the echoes of last week's CAF tour guide pointing at the the Art Institute of Chicago, and mumbling something about how bose- zarts has nothing original. Nothing creative.
Below are ornamental patterns from the Conway Building (1913), People's Gas (1910) and the Commonnwealth Edison Building (1905), all designed by D.H. Burnham and Company. The range of pattern is remarkable. Especially when considered that they are used consistently on the intermediate shaft of all three buildings.
I have to wonder if these complex patterns were most important in the designer's mind -- or if the play of light across their complex geometries and its effect on each building as a whole was the raison d'etre.
PEOPLES GAS (below)
Daniel Burnham's raison in 1905 was the Plan of Manila. Daniel was about to make it......big time. For the second time. And Peirce Anderson was earning his position as partner in charge of design. Anderson's design influence on the firm becomes unmistakable during this period. Commonwealth Edison clearly bears his signature.
FOR MORE PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHICAGO'S ICONIC ARCHITECTURE VISIT IMAGES IN THE LOOP.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The discrepancy of construction dates is not unusual. Even in a City that says it loves its architecture. It is, however, remarkable for this building: the Edison Building is one of eighteen remaining structures in the Loop designed by D.H. Burnham and Company. Chronologically it falls between Orchestra Hall (1905) and the Field Museum (begun in 1909).
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today, on a Chicago Architectural Foundation Tour, I learned that Daniel Burnham ("who was a businessman but not a real architect") faked his Beaux Arts Columns. (eg. there was "steel inside." And of course, that was BAD. (Though Sullivan remained GOOD) And then in rapid fire repartee I learned that there was nothing original about the Beaux Arts facade of the Art Institute. Nothing. "You can find buildings like that all over Europe." (BAD) Could it possibly be that our arbiteurs of good taste had made a mistake?
This isn't the first time I've run into this kind of conceptual/historical architectural dissonance. But perhaps with the attachment of the Anti-abortion Amendment to the Health Care Debate and the newfound, heartfelt remorse over our failure to rescue Bear Stearns I have less patience with re-written history and mindless opinion.
At least in Chicago, at least with Architecture, we have what we have and it is all good. Louis Sullivan's glittering arches (structureless though they may be) glitter with a young mind's early attempt with original ornament. Daniel Burnham's penchant for the Beaux Arts resulted in his trust for Peirce Anderson and the stunning row of Ionic Columns at the base of People's Gas. (Not to mention the Field Museum) Frank Lloyd Wright remade Oak Park. Prairie School. Bauhaus. Beaux Arts. Modernism. These are not Oppositions. They are each and all coin in our hands. To be treasured. Respected.
The Restoration of Board of Education Building and the Preservation of Michael Reese are not unrelated issues pursued by opposing forces. And Albert Fleury's classic allegory above the proscenium of Louis Sullivan's stunning stage represents perfect Unity.
I've received a couple of notes asking about the slowing of posts to this blog. Apologies are due. But it is also with great pride that I will shortly be announcing the publication of CHICAGO FIGURAL SCULPTURE. Volume I 1871 thru 1923 -- which has taken more time than I could have ever imagined. Take a look, too, at the new photography presentations at Images in the Loop.
On a lighter note, on today's CAF Tour I met DESIGNSLINGER -- in person. And would like to take this opportunity to again recommend their work, with best wishes from CHICAGO AND POINTS NORTH.
Next week, we'll be back on message, with a review of the Com Ed Building.
TO SEE ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF CHICAGO ICONS VISIT IMAGES IN THE LOOP
Friday, October 30, 2009
But as important as all of these is the Context of the Architect.
In 1908 Daniel Burnham re-organized his firm. And Designer Peirce Anderson came out on top. After years of collaboration or compromise design decisions after 1908 were largely assigned to Anderson. People's Gas "belonged to him." This must have been a period of great optimism for Anderson. His contributions to D. H. Burnham and Company were substantial.
1905 The Plan of Manila
1907 Union Station. Washington DC
1909 Wanamaker's Department Store. Philadelphia
1910 People's Gas Light and Coke. Chicago
1911 The Insurance Exchange. Chicago
1912 80 Maiden Lane. New York
And another career awaited with Graham Anderson Probst and White. .... delayed only shortly by The Great War.
Credits are due to Sally A. Kitt Chappell's "Architecture and Planning of Graham Anderson Probst and White"page 173: it is a rare and highly recommended biography of Anderson.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There is mention, there, of Daniel Burnham, Peirce Anderson, Ernest Graham, Larry Perkins and Carter Manny. These Architects have their legacies, with many others. And those of us working in Chicago have inherited their traditions, no matter how distant they may seem or even how little we recognize their contributions.
Working with this Blog I have searched other Cities and watched their Blog communities. Not one, not even New York (not even) compares with what is happening, even now, in Chicago. Not only what we have in scope, but what we also have in teamwork. Chicago Architecture and Cityscape kindly recommended this Blog in a recent post. And now its my turn to return the favor -- Chicago Architecture and Cityscape is a must-see ---and don't just stop with the recent posts. This Blog is a years long commitment, extremely broad in range and scope, to Chicago's important Architectural Landmarks and a remarkable resource to us all.
Friday, October 9, 2009
The People's Gas Light and Coke Building was clearly something new. Different. A change of scale, proportion, and mass, foreshadowing even larger changes to come.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Daniel Burnham, and his designer, Peirce Anderson, understood the subtle nuances of scale. A building, (or a masterplan, for that matter) is perceived at a variety of speeds and distances, at a variety of times and during any number of recurrences. And while heavy massing at People's corners may seem without logic while standing adjacent, their statement of stability won't be missed from Grant Park. The delicate and intricate patterns carved into each stone are for the benefit of the neighbors. Not for us down below. Those missing eagles - would have been seen from inside and out. And perhaps noticed only the second or third visit. The list is almost endless. Some examples are shown below.
People's Gas, on the other hand, has much to give. And whether it is a gift that is theoretically appreciated or opposed -- or simply considered precious antique -- it is a piece of architecture that speaks directly from turn-of-the-century Chicago and directly from the man who shaped much of what we are, and how we see ourselves.
Well worth a second look, I would say.
Friday, October 2, 2009
There was just one problem. We retail architects knew, even in the 80's, that Retail Architecture was not real Architecture. And with the perfect hindsight of 20 years later, we can see that even some of our best attempts ended in caricature.
Look at the diminished Heart of Peoples' Gas. Elegant wood, nicely detailed storefronts. Considered patterns of terrazzo. Reuse of Peirce Anderson's light fixtures. Columns that recall the original. And a fairly accurate echo of the original skylight -- lowered to the scale of the newly down-sized "court.". And to satisfy "retail users" a forty- five degree angle clip to maximize frontage.
The result, however, is a cartoon of the original. A suburban mall. A Disney recreation at three quarter scale. With the final irony being that the destruction of the original interior space, the carefully rendered Heart of the People's Gas Building, has ended in empty storefronts and wasted space. And the conceptual denigration of the entire building.
Credits are due to author Kristen Schaffer and photographer Paul Rocheleau for the excellent resource "Daniel H. Burnham, Visionary Architect and Planner. It is highly recommended.