Saturday, December 31, 2011



It is possible to be overwhelmed by Louis Sullivan's ornament at the Schlesinger and Meyer Department Store on Chicago's State Street.  Or to overlook it entirely. Two stories of black metal spanning enormnous sheets of plate glass on a gray day can camouflage Sullivan's highest art. Afternoon sun, in late summer, can make this remarkable Sullivan masterpiece ... unforgettable.

Symmetrical patterns contrasted with pure flights of fancy.  Incised geometries in opposition with three dimensional sculpture.  Heavy geometries. Organic metal ... sprung to life.  Hidden in the consistency of this black facade, Sullivan (etal) has created a highly complex and contradictory fantasy.  One that changes - unpredictably -  with the light and season.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Who is George Unger?
George Unger is typically listed among the credits for the bas reliefs at the Medinah Athletic Club. Other credits include Carl Beil and Leon Hermant.  And the Medinah's architect, Walter Ahlschlager.
Having never heard of him, and being familiar with the others, I could never have guessed the significance of his participation.
A quick trip to the Netherland Plaza and Carew Tower in Cincinnati, where Unger is liberally credited will dispell any questions.  Carew Tower and the Medinah Athletic Club were concurrent commissions for  Chicago Architect Walter Ahlschlager.  And both commissions required a lot of "bizazz".  Fresh from New York and his commissions for the Roxy and the Beacon, Ahschlager knew "bizazz" - and set interior/theater designer George Unger to work.  In both locations.  And somehow ... the Medinah's potentates of Chicago .... found themselves inspiring rams, dolphins, and seahorses in Cincinnati. 
A small world indeed.

Link Here for photos of Chicago's Medinah Athletic Club.

Link Here for photos of George Unger, Carl Beil and Leon Hermant's Bas Relief "Contribution."

Link Here for photos of Cincinnati's Netherland Hilton

Link Here and Here for photos of Cincinnati's Carew Tower

George Unger may have died in Los Angeles in 1951. Unconfirmed.  I have been unable to trace his life through the War and Depression that spelled the end to Deco and flights of fancy that make the Medinah Athletic and the Netherland Hilton Landmarks in the 21st Century.