Wednesday, June 27, 2012

HUBERT BURNHAM


I remain fascinated by the aerial view of Chicago, 1950.  A time capsule of Chicago, 1935.    The "Gray Towers" rising from the City.  Buildings that, though today are dwarfed, remain Landmarks. The Board of Trade. The Civic Opera Block.  The Pittsfield. The Field Building. The Bankers and Engineering Buildings. Carbide and Carbon.  Foreman Bank.  Roanoke Tower.  They are the work of a very few men. Visionaries, I would say.  Alfred Shaw and  Charles G. Beersman at Graham Anderson Probst and White.  The younger Holabird and the younger Root.  Hubert Burnham and Dan Jr.  Karl Vitzthum. Frederick Thielbar.  Walter Ahshlager.  Their fathers were classicists, inventors.  But these were the architects of DECO. And a vertical scale without limits.    

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I physically ache when I see a photograph of the now demolished Diana Court.  Or stand in the lobby of the Board of Trade. Or the Field Building.  (And re-imagine  the mirrored elegance of Queen Azura's Light Bridge.) Such confident optimism!  Who can pass beyond the elevator doors at One North LaSalle and NOT know they are on the way to some very great height?   And I have the sense that this - might have been - just a beginning.  But it was not. It was lost on October 29, 1929.

Instead, these architects simply died or retired.  To Boca or La Jolla.  The few who survived Depression and War, though successful, were clearly diminished. The dream had died with the Century of Progress.

But their few buildings still, remarkably, live.  And so should their creators.
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 This is the man who imagined a gold champagne cork on a green bottle - at the 40 storey Carbide and Carbon.  Who proved he understood the essence of vertical statement at the Bankers Building.  Whose original ornamentation at the Engineering Building is among the best in the City.  And who in 1934 hired Louis Skidmore and Nat Owings.


HUBERT BURNHAM

Very special thanks to SBK.



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Fine Art Photographs of Chicago Landmark Architecture and Sculpture

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