Saturday, August 29, 2009


Its easy to say you know something, or understand it. But I'm beginning to believe that unless you write it down, review it, revise it, go away and come back to it, you may really only think you know. This is my sixth post on the Insurance Exchange. And I can say, after researching it, photographing it, thinking about it, walking away from it, and coming back to write more, I do like this building more than I knew and will regret moving on. Finally I know why.

Interior Public Space. This building is tied to the street, the sidewalk and the City. This is no dead- ended, securitized system. The ground level spaces are a continuation of the urban environment.

"Green" Planning. What could be more "green" than a light well, windows that open, and high ceilings to take advantage of natural light and ventilation. And as for materials, regionally made masonry and Terra Cotta add additional "points"

Conceptually in Context. Remembering the whitewash village at Mykonos, the Bazaar at Kashan, the cliff dwellings at Canyon de Chelly and understanding that unity of style is as important as style itself, the arbitrary style imposed by turn of the century Beaux-Arts planning gave Chicago the visual contextual rules to build "unity." This building belongs in this place. It is a contribution to the City.

A Bottom. A Middle. A Top. Its always good to know which way is up. And each of these elements relates to similar elements in adjacent architecture. And to the reality of"gravity."

Historically Referenced. This building is anchored in time. It is clearly identifiable as a turn of the century skyscraper. Tripartite design. Light Well. Public Space. Classic details. And its whiteness recalls the White City. I am aware of my past and present with the building.

Quiet Complexity. Walking by the corner of Randolph and Wacker's new tower, for example, you've "got it" in a minute. With little more to learn. The Insurance Exchange reveals itself more slowly. Nuances of space, circulation and ornament add value and richness of "place." And although buildings with similar design concepts exist (Railway Exchange, People's Gas, the Conway), this one is unique.

The last reason is not so easy. (Although there are theories.) Some people like Vanilla. And some people like Chocolate. Happily both flavors exist. And beyond logic or reason (although there is plenty of both) for me, the Insurance Exchange strikes the chord, rings the bell.
Next: People's Gas Light and Coke.

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