Friday, January 1, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. The Continental and Commercial. A Renovation

Imagine. 2090.

"The Art Institute is proceeding with a major expansion and renovation program. While more than 200,000 SF of subterranean gallery space (intended for primarily digital use) will be added, a major renovation will be undertaken of the nearly 100 year old "Modern Wing."

It has been decided that existing circulation patterns are no longer functional and that the percentage of Gallery space as a part of gross area is unsustainable. The Monroe Street Entrance will be closed and the Nichols Bridge will be removed. A new entrance will be cut into Griffon Court though the Pritzker Garden. New construction will divide the north half of the Griffon into two stories, connecting the East and West components of the "Wing." Existing vertical circulation will be modified inward. Isolated third floor areas will be reallocated to administrative uses. Glass roofs will be sealed with a single ply membrane pending final analysis and funding.

Finally, and importantly, current acceptable aesthetic standards will be met. Inappropriate, early twenty-first century mis-application of structure as a kind of "mannerist" ornament will be corrected. Columns will be thickened to credulity. And color will be added. For a little buzzazz. "

Horrifying? Impossible? Never? Not in Chicago? Happily, for this building, we have some time to deal with the Ghost-of-New-Year-Future.  But, a renovation of surprisingly similar description is quietly proceeding at Daniel Burnham's Continental and Commercial. And without this intense reinvestment and adaptive re-use, the irony is that 208 would surely face demolition. With it, much of this Landmark's original heart is forever lost.

So, on this New Year's Day, 2010, when by nature we all look to the Future and the Past, I am reconsidering responsibilities  to each.

Wondering when almost half is acceptable. Wondering what victories were mistakes. Which fights can be won. And which are already lost. And how much strength lies in what remains.


  1. Wish you and your family A Very Happy New Year!!!

    Loved reading the post... Your images and texts are always a pleasure to go through!!!
    Wish many more images and many more write-up... although this wish is more for us, as we get to enjoy them!

    Thanks for providing great insights into Chicago city planning, architecture and sculptures!!!! I'm sure a big fan of your photographs, especially sculptural images!!!

  2. It's always very good to hear from you. Best wishes for the New Year.