Monday, July 6, 2009

LASALLE STREET. Fraternal Twins

Those twins of LaSalle Street, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Illinois Merchants Bank are both solid, considered, and thoughtfully designed buildings. They both have a conceptual basis. They are designed to become a part of the "Plan". Despite the "quirks." (See June 27 post below.) Neither, though, could individually "capture the imagination" like the pair. Neither could, individually, call attention to their differences. Separated, Ionic or Corinthian matter little. Together, it seems more than a little odd that the staid Federal Reserve would be assigned those flamboyant Corinthian Columns ... and not the Merchant's Bank. A matter of question or conjecture. A little mystery.

This corner has made me rethink the value of order. Of symmetry. Of the variations allowable within seeming duplicates and implied order. Would these two buildings be better if they perfectly aligned? I think not. Both Ionic? No. Could just one of Mestrovic's Indians (just up the street) guard Grant Park? Of course not. Would exact duplicates weaken the power of their apparent symmetry? Hmm. Spearman, Bowman, Merchants Bank and Fed.

Staring at the rendered aerial view of Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan for Chicago (for the gazillionth time) I again notice that the Randolph Street Pier is not exactly the same shape as the Pier Planned for 12th Street. That the Chicago River curves and splits and plays in counterpoint to the gridded streets. Remember that the Field Museum is slightly off-angle from Soldier Field. And consider the possibility that the Beaux Arts tradition in Chicago could be significantly more nuanced than I had previously considered.
Credits are due for use of the image above, of course, to Daniel Burnham.


  1. Another of your thoughtful and though-provoking, insightful and well presented article!!!

    I have seen many blogs on Chicago and many concentrating on architecture ... most of them seem to focus on the latest developments ... But you seem to be grounded in the historical perspective ... which puts the modern developments in a broader context! I love reading your posts. Thanks.

  2. Adding to your list of Beaux Arts twins, the Edward Kemeys lions guarding the Art Institute. They are nearly symmetrical but not quite.

    Seconding the previous comment let me add that your photography is exquisite.

  3. Jyoti, Jamesiska, as I am sure you must know, I follow both of your blogs and consider you both respected colleagues. Thank you so much for your comments. And your posts. And links.