Saturday, September 12, 2009

PEOPLE'S GAS. Tripartite with a Twist

The People's Gas Building contains the typical facade elements of an early turn-of-the-century Chicago Skyscraper. A Bottom, a Middle and a Top define the Tripartite design. The level of detail, however, exceeds the Chicago norm. The street level colonnade is punctuated with bay windows and decorative panels (reminiscent of the Insurance Exchange...and the Rookery). The transition to the building's body is made with Lions and Light Fixtures (newfangled and electrified). Every inch of the "Middle" is covered with ornament. And the highly ornate loggia is topped with a cornice of even more Lions and Victory Garlands. But one thing is strikingly different. The cornices that typically divide the Middle element from the Loggia are omitted at the corners. This emphasizes both the building's height and stability, and contains the diverse design components within a single mass. (See August 31st post and photo.)

All this seems a little over-the-top these days. But remember the construction date is 1910. This building is part and parcel of Daniel Burnham's vision of Chicago. It is a Beaux-Arts re-interpretation of Paris. Built right here. On South Michigan Avenue. It must have made quite a statement overlooking the railyards that bordered the Lakefront and Michigan Avenue for those so many years.

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