Saturday, January 16, 2010

CHICAGO and the Alcazar

My education in Art and Architecture very much follows the norm. I've been taught artists, time periods and styles. Classic. Roman. Romanesque. Ottonian. Carolingian, etc. etc. etc. I can name architectural styles and substyles and their proponents. Particularly in the 19th and 20th Centuries. And I must say I like them all. Some more than others. Each represents an intellectual experience. A sense of purity.

But my "gut" reaction comes from someplace else.

From the unexpected flash of color in a late Courbet: the one that hints of impressionism. From a sense of movement and the absolute certainty, that column by ornate column, Durham Cathedral is lifting itself from the Romanesque to Gothic. The perfect unity of Norman, Byzantine and Arab at Palermo's Monreale. Siracusa's Temple of Athena. The Alhambra. Seville's Alcazar.

It strikes closer to home, too. William LeBaron Jenney's steel frame skyscrapers covered with cherubs or grotesques. Martin Roche's, undeniably successful combination of technology and art at the Marquette. (See previous post.) John Root's melding of a Romanesque fortress (albeit Richardsonian) with the Crystal Palace at the Rookery. Peirce Anderson's Beaux Arts vocabulary applied to 20th Century building types. That vague sense that Louis Sullivan knew the ornate patterns of the Madressa e Madar e Shah at Isphahan. Hugh Garden at the Madlener House. Holabird and Root at the Palmolive. More.

Exciting stuff. Undefineable stew. Transition. Change.

But even the most revolutionary change can only be defined by a status quo. The current is defined by the traditional. We need each one, each other to exist. Opinions that seem opposed (My moment of change/ Yours of clear style.) only differ in their time and location in the continuum of living and art. Not in their basic substance. This allows me to speak out for the preservation of the Test Cell. You, Michael Reese. Another, for the restoration of People's Gas and Com Ed-- with the hope that we might be a dependable, unified crew. A force to be reckoned. It would allow, too, an uncommon pride in the City of Chicago. Home of the Skyscraper and the Columbian Exposition.. The City that produced both the Pritzker and the Driehaus Prizes for Architecture.



  1. "My moment of change/yours of clear style." Wonderful.

  2. Thanks for the comments, and best wishes for your ongoing study.