Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. Orchestra Hall.


Continuing our mystery (see previous post).....who designed Orchestra Hall?

Georgian Architecture is broadly described as late 18th C and early 19th C interpretations of neo-classicism. Which is code for what we generally call Colonial. In the late 19th C and early 20th C interest revived in Colonial Architecture (then renamed Colonial or Georgian Revival) particularly among those who defined themselves as America's upper class. So it is no surprise that the 1904 Orchestra Hall should have been constructed in, what was then, the very trendy, ultra respectable, Georgian motif.  (Remember that description -- "ultra respectable") (You may need it in our next post)

But in 1904, Burnham's designers were not doing Georgian. I think that this is the right moment to say that "the Devil is in the Details."

Georgian Architecture was much simplified from the styles that preceded it. Balance, proportion, simplicty, and symmetry were of utmost importance. Link to additional photos of Orchestra Hall HERE.

The most famous example of Georgian Architecture in Chicago is the Bryan Lathrop House -- which preceded Orchestra Hall  by some 12 years. Bryan Lathrop's selection of the very refined Georgian style in the face of Richardsonian Romanesque was a fairly gutsy step in 1892. Remembering that John Root and Louis Sullivan were Chicago's trendsetters.

But back to Orchestra Hall and our first interesting coincidence. Bryan Lathrop (among other cultural endeavors)  was the President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1899 - 1916 and over saw the construction of Orchestra Hall.. The golden rule of any mystery (especially in the selection of Design Architects) is "to follow the money."  And Bryan Lathrop had lots of it.



The Art Institute has a very nice exhibit describing the Lathrop House at 120 East Belleview. Link HERE for details.


I can't take credit for connecting Bryan Lathrop to the Chicago Symphony: thanks are due Chicago Architecture Foundation docent (and FB friend) Rick Lightburn for that enlightenment. Link HERE for a schedule of the fine CAF walking tours of Symphony Center. Standing on the stage of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is an experience not to be missed.




  1. I´m learning a lot about Chicago architecture by your blog. Thanks for sharing all this information and of course for your wonderful photographs.

    Kind regards.


  2. These images are just amazing!