Saturday, March 20, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. The Railway Exchange. A Unity of Two and Three Diimensions

The Unity of detail and whole, so clearly apparent  in the "Progress" and "Civilization" allegories,  presents itself throughout the Railway Exchange.  The light fixtures are reflected in terra cotta bas-relief, which tell an even more intricate story. (The plot remains temporarily unknown.)  A neo-classic geometry (of bound wire?) springing from nature (the modified leaf) supports the stem of a fleur de lis ,but ends, whimsically, as a delicate  (crocus? tulip?)  blossom.  I'd be glad for some help here.......
The Railway Exchange's spectacular light fixtures  flanking the grand staircase are photographed above.
Daniel Burnham's lead designer, Peirce Anderson, was an electrical engineer. And electric lights in 1903 or 1904 or 1905 were a very big deal. So was music. For most visitors to turn-of-the-century Michigan Avenue the newly completed Orchestra Hall (another Burnham building) and the Railway Exchange represented "marvels". Without radio, Dvorak's New World could only be heard here. And electricity illuminating a glass roof? Only here. A fast train to Los Angeles. Or New York. Fresh oysters at Christmas. Morning bananas.

And Aaron Montgomery Ward's image of Progress (Diana of the Tower) - a startling gold, nude weathervane spun wildly in the wind, just up the street.
Please, Mr. Hines, don't talk to me about a cacaphony of style.


I'm about to say that Daniel Burnham was a great Architect.  A really great Architect.


1 comment:

  1. The flower on the top looks like Iris!
    Although fleur-de-lys is said to be stylized lily, it always reminds me of Iris.. Iris was considered to be a part of Lily family and it was only in the 19th century that Iris was accepted as a separate family from Lily..

    The flowers in the side looks like stylized Bleeding Heart. However, I have never seen the flower Bleeding Heart represented in any painting or sculpture [it's beautiful still, it coudnt find any art patron] so I am not too sure about the flowers on the side...