Sunday, April 11, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. The Railway Exchange. Watch the Doughnut.....

The interior "Piazza" is a characteristic hallmark of most of Daniel Burnham's "Big Buildings." While the lightcourts are certainly one of the most striking aesthetic features of those turn-of-the-century skyscrapers, they exist out of practicality. The "doughnut hole" provides for light, and ventilation of the upper office floors and circulation space on the first floor worthy of those heights above.

Below is the beautifully renovated skylit piazza/lightwell of the Railway Exchange.  Chicago School Ornament given order by the Steel Frame Construction.

But they come in all flavors.

Root's Richardsonian Crystal Palaces. Atwood's Palazzos. Dinkelberg's Chicago School (with a touch of Ruskin) Anderson's 4th Century Rome. George Beersman's Temple of Mausolus (really!). Same subject and verb. Interpreted in time's languages.

But all, Daniel Burnham.


Time's Language.  Today it includes Air Conditioning, and Controlled Lighting.  No need for that Lightwell.  It also includes the language of SECURITY, which precludes interior public space.  One by one, Burnham's spaces are destroyed  -- even as we go green with daylighting and windows that open.  Unfortunately, though, we cannot find the confidence that allows the sense of public community that once was  found so easily, logically throughout the Loop.


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