Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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Building Traveling Thinking

We urbanites have all cursed the slow-moving, camera-toting tourists, snapping photos of the iconic buildings in the cities we hustle through daily. As residents, with the dulling nature of time, our appreciation of these structures is diminished. As tourists, they are like vivid stage-sets captured in our minds, but, like all other memories, they are fleeting. We return home and try to explain them to our friends with words, charades-like gestures, and amateur photographs.  Artist Susan Giles explores these ideas in greater detail with her current exhibition, Buildings and Gestures, currently on display at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago through March 13. Travel and tourism are not new subjects in her work and the expansion of these themes to include architecture is, for her, only natural. Giles, not a native Chicagoan, says she got interested in architecture because it’s a rich part of this city’s history. “I spent a couple years abroad in touristy places and I’m interested in buildings as icons and that you can get these souvenirs of famous buildings, but they’re only a small fragment of the experience. That memory is always slipping away.” The exhibit includes four small sculptures fusing together iconic building models into an architectural gobstopper. Some of the paper sculptures are freestanding and others appear to be exploding out of the wall or ceiling, composed of all or some component of postcard worthy sites, like Big Ben, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Duomo. It is easy to recover our own travel imagery with the vaguely anonymous minarets, domes, turrets, and arches of these pieces. And this is exactly what participants in her video, Buildings and Gestures, seek to do.  The video’s subjects are describing a piece of architecture in layman’s voice, complete with curly-q descriptions and accompanying hand gestures.  It is smartly edited and sectioned  into awkward pauses, use of architectural buzz words, like “gothic” and obligatory “-esques”, and sweeping charades, which prohibits the viewer from ever recognizing the structures that the subjects are earnestly trying to describe. The video itself is housed in a large-scale corrugated cardboard and wood structure that compliments the anonymous descriptions.

Susan Giles: Buildings and Gestures

Kavi Gupta

835 W. Washington Blvd, Chicago

Through March 13

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Another Close-Up for Studio Gang

Last Friday’s ribbon-cutting festivities marking the opening of Columbia College’s 35,500 square foot,  $21 million Media Production Center (MPC) in Chicago’s South Loop featured retired anchorman/documentarian/pitchman Bill Kurtis emceeing a ceremony in the building’s large soundstage that included remarks by Mayor Richard Daley and a slew of college officials and donors, all extolling the virtues of the first new building in the school’s 120 years of operation. Columbia claims to have the nation’s largest film and video school, and refers to the MPC as a “state of the art facility designed to foster cross disciplinary collaboration among students in film, television, interactive arts and media and television.” While offering heaping doses of the boastful puffery you might expect at such an event, the speakers also seemed to spend a lot of time archly addressing an imagined audience in the year 2040. The proceedings were recorded, to be placed in a time capsule that would be opened in 30 years for the school’s sesquicentennial. Maybe that’s why a number of those listed on the agenda as presenters seemed to have been cut, including architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang who designed the engaging new building. But you’d have to be comatose to overlook the designer’s role in making this an occasion that merited preservation for future generations. Gang says she was inspired by the aesthetics of filmmaking in conceiving the MPC design. Her approach is apparent in ways both obvious, as in the colored-panels on the exterior alluding to a standard graphic test-pattern, and subtle: the configuration of the building’s primary circulation artery as a “main street” that deliberately manipulates the viewer’s perspective as a movie camera might. “We tried to connect spaces through light, framing views in ways similar to how cinematic space is constructed,” she told AN. It’s hard to see how 2010 could get much better for Jeanne Gang. Her boldly innovative, delicately sculptural Aqua tower--completed late last year--may have had its development woes (a planned hotel operator dropped out mid-construction), but is a hugely popular success for its dynamic contribution to the skyline. Her firm’s planned renovation of Lincoln Park’s South Pond environment should be completed this summer and she says construction should begin on her long anticipated Ford Calumet Environmental Center later this year. She’s been suitably lionized in the media, as one of the New York Times T magazine’s “Nifty Fifty” people to watch, and with the journalistic equivalent of a warm hug from Paul Goldberger in a flattering New Yorker profile in January. But the modest, sincere Gang just wants you to focus on the design. She says Columbia “knew there were things important to the architecture that couldn’t be eliminated in favor of the technological functions,” which allowed for such grand gestures as the entrance lobby/gathering space, with its movie theater-style oversized stadium seating and 11 by 13 foot LED screen. It’s hard to know what audiences in 2040 will think of the recorded proceedings. It’s a likelier bet that 30 years from now, Studio Gang’s MPC design will still feel significant, even as the technology of filmmaking -- and architecture -- zooms on.
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Rough Ride on the South Side

With project's like the Gary Comer Youth Center, designed by John Ronan Architects, and the SOS Children's Villages by Studio Gang, Chicago's South Side has some of the most exciting non-profit institutional architecture in the country. Chicago Magazine takes an in-depth look at one project that has had a decidely bumpier ride, the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, once planned for Bronzeville in an Antoine Predock-designed building, now destined for West Pullman in a less ambitious piece of architecture designed by Antunovich Associates (above). The piece lays out in detail how in 2004 the project was scuttled when then Alderman Dorothy Tillman vetoed the project, saying she wanted a shopping center on the site. The project was then relocated to West Pullman, with a slightly less expensive design by Murphy/Jahn. When that design proved too expensive, the client, the Salvation Army, looked at four Chicago firms, not named in the piece, and ultimately chose Antunovich. Even with the more modest design, the project boasts a number of green amenities, including a green roof and solar panels. Ronan and Gang have shown you can get great design on a tight budget. Even if the Kroc Center won't be a destination for architecture buffs, the project will improve the quality of life for young people in the neighborhood. Construction on the center is expected to begin in the next few months.
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Turning Up Design

We have previously reported on Chicago’s burgeoning independent design scene, and now the Windy City is gaining a new venue to see the newest design thinking. The Volume Gallery will serve as a “platform for emerging American designers to engage with an international audience,” according to a statement form the organizers. Their first exhibition on designer Jonathan Nesci, called THE NEW, will be held at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery in the West Loop, and will feature limited editions, including tables, chairs, and pendant lamps. Nesci’s work has been widely published and has been show at Design Miami, ICFF, Design Art London, and the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Founded by Sam Vinz and Claire Warner, both previously of the prestigious Wright Auction house, Volume’s tenancy at Andrew Rafacz Gallery will be temporary. “We plan on having a few of these events throughout the city over the course of the year, until we decide on a permanent space. Each time, we will present newly commissioned (limited edition) works from American contemporary designers,” wrote Vinz in an email. The Volume Gallery’s premier exhibition, THE NEW, will be on view from March 19-23 at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 West Washington Blvd.
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Burj Inaugurated and Renamed

Today marks the official inauguration of the world's tallest building, the Burj in Dubai. While the opening comes at a rocky time for the emirate and for the global real estate market, it was greeted with great fanfare, including, cannily, renaming the building the Burj Khalifa, after the president of neighboring Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The move signaled both Dubai's gratitude for Abu Dhabi's recent bailout and the unity of the emirates through the financial crisis. Designed by SOM Chicago along with former partner Adrian Smith, the Burj Khalifa was also officially declared 2,717 feet high, far surpassing its nearest rivals. The 160-story tower has 54 elevators that will carry an estimated 12,000 people to the building's offices, hotel rooms, apartments, nightclubs, and mosques. According to the New York Times, many of the building's apartments have sold, but the prospects for finding office tenants are poor, as the office market is particularly soft in Dubai. The Burj is just another example of how Chicago offices are continuing to lead in the field of tall building design. Given the climate, Burj Khalifa may be the world's tallest for some time to come.
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High Tech Holidays

The Chicago office of SOM has designed a modern take on the menorah, which recently took top prize in a charity competition sponsored by Steelcase. The solid wax menorah, which was created by Colin Gorsuch, burns so that the eight inch square frame is revealed with the passing of each night of Chanukkah. The melting wax "falls onto the wooden base and paints a pictorial timeline of the Hanukkah celebration," according to a statement from the firm. SOM's Adrian McDermott designed a wreath for the competition, formed out of 80 overlapping toruses that create a lattice ring.
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Northerly Night

The Chicago Parks District is holding a public meeting on the future of Northerly Island tonight at the Spertus Institute from 6-9pm. The 91-acre peninsula, which is connected to the lakefront by a causeway, has played an important and evolving role  in Chicago's civic imagination. It figures prominently in the Burnham Plan, was home to 1933-1934 World's Fair, and later the Meigs Field airport, and was part of the 2016 Olympic bid. The meeting will offer a preview of plans for the island and solicit public comment.
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Bright Holiday Ideas

The Object Design League, working with Pavilion Antiques, is opening a pop-up design store in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood. Opening the day after Thanksgiving, the shop, called Worth Your Salt, will feature pieces by 19 American designers, including lighting, accessories, jewelry, and household items. The designs explore themes of "industriousness and play" according to a statement from the league. Craighton Berman's Coil Lamp, for examples, is made from a single electrical cord wrapped around a nearly invisible frame in the form of an everyday table-top light. Click through for a preview of a few of the objects that will be offered. Lynn Lim's PenBall turns scattered writing utensils into desktop sculpture. Steven Haulenbeek's Dubbot Modular lighting can be configured for different applications. Pieces can be added or subtracted according to changing needs or tastes. Iacoli&McAllister's Facets rings are made from scraps of Corian that are laser-cut and polished to a glassy sheen. Worth Your Salt will be at Pavilion Antiques, 2055 North Damen, Chicago, November 27 through December 11.
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City Stunts

A new exhibition at the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House puts urban residents on notice: engage your community, become amateur planners, designers, and architects. Actions: What You Can Do with the City was organized and curated by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and seeks to challenge traditional planning’s organization of the built environment into work, residential, and leisure zones. The exhibition is composed of 99 actions, "common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening that are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition.” The actions range from cheeky solutions to lying down on hostile benches (Action #38) to sensible maps of how and where to forage for urban fruits and vegetables (Action #9). City dwellers often come up against barriers – often by design (e.g. anti-sitting devices, Action #43) – to full enjoyment of their surroundings. The resulting friction is pervasive throughout the show. The actions not only propose alternatives or means around the impediments, but sometimes heighten the dialogue by suggesting new ones. On the same table sit decorative metal skateboarding-deterrent starfish (Action #42) and shoes modified with plastic cutting boards (Action #30) that allow pedestrians to slide on hard edges and railings. One item is designed to curb pedestrian damage, while the other encourages movement on unintended surfaces. These seemingly contradictory ideas and other actions challenge our thinking on urban environments and inspire greater engagement and participation. Actions: What You Can Do with the City Graham Foundation 4 W. Burton Place, Chicago Through March 13, 2010
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Eavesdrop MW 01

PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES Word on the street is that Chicago’s modern design auctioneer extraordinaire Richard Wright and Philip Johnson Glass House executive director Christy MacLear have been spending time together. That’s a lot of design obsession for one relationship, we’re just sayin’. Moreover, what about the poor flooded Farnsworth House? Wright, it seems, prefers to rendezvous at the imitation over the original, even as its water-stained furniture is being restored. Richard—your hometown needs you! (OK, so the Glass House is actually older than Farnsworth, but we all know Johnson borrowed his best ideas.) JEALOUS MUCH? Speaking of love affairs, some architecture publicists we’ve spoken to lately are grousing that Blair Kamin has been giving too much affection (in his writings at least) to a certain attractive female architect who shall not be named. Come on boys, quit complaining. She can’t be blamed for having great curves, built or nurtured. ON TO GREENER PASTURES Mayor Daley loves to crow about how Chicago is the greenest city in the U.S. Well, he forgot about the 51st state. We should say he forgot aboot it! Sadhu Johnston, Chicago Chief Environmental Officer, stepped down on September 30 for a job in Vancouver. Oh, and Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics! Double smarts! Hey, all you LEED APs, turn those frowns upside-down. It might be time for a career change—public sector jobs are so This Economy! Send gossip, salacious whispers, and wheat-grass shots to eavesdrop@archpaper.com
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AIC Adds Architecture Curator

Another sign of the growing importance of the Art Institute of Chicago's Architecture and Design Department, the museum announced the appointment Alison Fisher as assistant curator. Fisher, who will focus on the department's historical collection, joins department chair Joe Rosa, and curator Zoe Ryan, who has been building the department's contemporary design collection. The department, which now boasts the country's largest architecture and design galleries, is working on a major exhibition on Bertrand Goldberg, among other shows. Fisher previously served as a curatorial fellow at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and she is completing a doctorate in art history at Northwestern.
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Broad Shoulders, Big Ideas

Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century, another event commemorating the Burnham Plan Centennial, taps local architects, planners, and landscape architects to envision the ideal Windy City of the future. Some designers took a creative and sometimes whimsical approach, while others offered up more practical concepts. Filter out the public relations boosterism and the show offers plenty of inspiring ideas to further Burnham’s goal of creating a beautiful lakefront accessible at all points north and south. On the far south side of the city, Phillip Enquist of SOM envisions a high-density mixed-use development at the 573-acre site of a former steel manufacturer. The surrounding neighborhoods, many of which are economically depressed, could benefit from Linda Searl’s temporary three-year functional structures, designed as infill for empty lots. The infill structures would act as a catalyst for commerce, development, and to improve the overall quality of life of the neighborhood. Other proposals took the title of the show to heart: big and bold. Adrian Smith’s two mile-long eco bridge would arch out into the lake from Monroe Harbor, the center of which would stand a tall tower to harvest wind and solar energy. Others inspired strong reactions, like the Jeanne Gang’s shudder-inducing eco-casino or Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will’s international airport developed in Lake Michigan at the terminus of Congress Parkway. The show, while not as flashy as the Centennial’s other events, is no less important. Building on the legacy of Burnham, it will help facilitate conversations about future planning and showcase the city's current design talent. Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century is at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph St. through October 4.