Pritzker Prize laureate Tadao Ando has transformed a vintage Lincoln Park apartment in Chicago into a space for exhibitions devoted to architecture and socially engaged art. Wrightwood 659 is a private, non-commercial initiative founded by Alphawood Foundation president and Chicago philanthropist Fred Eychaner and architectural historian Dan Whittaker. The building is the second work by Ando commissioned by Eychaner, whose private residence was designed by the self-taught Japanese architect in 1998 and is located next door to the exhibition space. The Eychaner home was the first free-standing building constructed by Ando in the United States. For Wrightwood 659, Ando worked within the existing envelope of a four-story 1930s apartment building, which has been completely hulled, leaving the brick shell along with minimal classical revival details on the outside. A new rooftop structure hovers above the existing building on a tilted axis from the original building, leaving room for a rooftop terrace that provides skyline views and an additional gallery. Inside, the reconfigured space contains a new steel and reinforced concrete structure, allowing for the creation of a multi-story atrium clad in Chicago common brick reclaimed from the existing building, and a grand staircase of smooth poured concrete, an Ando signature. Wrightwood 659 celebrated a soft pre-opening earlier this year with Trace by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, exhibited in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The exhibition space opens to the public on October 12 with Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture, with works on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, as well as scale models of works of Le Corbusier by students of Tadao Ando. The second floor of the space will be filled with the works of Le Corbusier, while the third and fourth floors will focus on Tadao Ando. The exhibition kicks off with a lecture by the architect at the Art Institute of Chicago on October 11 and continues with a symposium of Le Corbusier scholars on November 8 and 9.
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“A lot of serious careers are reverting back to play.” So says Columbus, Indiana-based designer and Exhibit Columbus curator Jonathan Nesci, who is living up to his statement with an energetic new work on the roof of Chicago's West Loop Ace Hotel. After more than a decade of crafting objects inspired by modernist tropes, Nesci has created an architectural object you can climb into, sit in, and swing on while taking in the complex system of buildings curated within the long, linear view of the Chicago skyline. Nesci has created a crisp blue structural steel dome latticed at the bottom with matching woven rope, reminiscent both of jungle gyms and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center (“it was definitely in the soup” says Nesci). Nesci was looking not to create “just a sculpture or a pavilion, but something you can activate.” Situated within a lush, carefully tended rooftop prairie by Site Design Group, the Nesci Dome is the final key in the collaboration between the Ace Hotel and Volume Gallery, which has filled the Ace with artwork from Chicago-based designers. Nesci is a longtime collaborator with Volume Gallery, showing his work for the first time during the gallery's inaugural exhibition in 2010. Nesci’s grandfather, the owner of a concrete brick company in suburban Chicago, was a fan of objects designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects, and he would also show up each summer to dump a load of sand in the Nesci family driveway for the family's sandbox, encouraging an element of exploration in the young designer.
Chicago’s beleaguered Cook County Hospital is slated for redevelopment after sitting idle for 16 years. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill will transform the Chicago landmark into a dual-branded Hyatt House/Hyatt Place hotel, accompanied by medical office space and retail. Leading the project is the Civic Health Development Group (CHDG) along with Chicago-based developer John T. Murphy. Walsh Construction is the general contractor with Koo Architecture as the interior designers. According to Cook County, the development plan is valued at over $1 billion dollars. Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking on June 12, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several Chicago alderman and Cook County commissioners, as well as Landmarks Illinois president and CEO Bonnie McDonald. “This beautiful historic building has sat empty and unused for far too long.” Preckwinkle said during the event. “This project creates historic and lasting urban transformation in the heart of our County.” With construction commencing immediately on the National Register of Historic Places-listed building, the project is expected to receive approximately $24 million in federal historic tax credits. Designed by Cook County architect Paul Gerhardt, the 1916 Beaux Arts hospital was constructed to provide medical care to Chicago’s exploding population of Eastern European immigrants. It was also a renowned teaching hospital, with doctors pioneering the practices of blood banking, sickle cell anemia care, and modern laboratory work. Later rear additions to the two-block-long brick and terracotta structure grew the Near West Side hospital to over 3,000 beds. With the building proposed for demolition a year before its closure, Landmarks Illinois added Cook County Hospital to its annual list of threatened buildings in 2001, then again in 2002, 2003, and 2005. A reuse study published by Landmarks Illinois in 2003 noted that Cook County had earmarked between $20 and $30 million for asbestos remediation alone prior to the proposed demolition. That same study also noted that in 1999, Cook County felt non-medical use of the hospital wouldn’t fit the character of the neighborhood. The new development is slated to open as soon as late 2019.
On August 31, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) gets a new home and a new name. The new Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) will make its debut once the space at 111 East Wacker, also known as One Illinois Center, opens to the public, a 25-year change from the organization's previous location in the 1904 Railway Exchange Building, designed by D.H. Burnham & Company. The new location gives CAF more symbolic and physical visibility from the commerce of North Michigan Avenue, as well as proximity to the dock for CAF’s popular river cruise highlighting the city's riverfront architecture. The 20,000-square-foot CAF space will be housed inside a 1970 structure designed by The Office of Mies van der Rohe. Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) is at the helm of the design for a series of custom spaces for tour orientation, public programs and education, as well as nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibit space. AS+GG is working in partnership with museum design firm Gallagher & Associates. The new exhibits will be located on two floors. On the first floor, the popular Chicago Model will be expanded from 1,300 to 3,000 buildings, with an interactive light show to assist visitors in understanding Chicago’s growth as a frontier outpost and its rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as well as highlighting neighborhoods and significant architects across time. The second floor will be the home of the Skyscraper Gallery, featuring the Building Tall exhibit, to be filled with supersized models of skyscrapers around the world, including the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, the world’s tallest building slated for completion in 2020. Established in 1966, the CAF began as an advocacy organization to save the threatened 1887 John J. Glessner House, the only H.H. Richardson building in Chicago. Over time, the CAF pivoted from advocacy to education, offering lectures and architectural tours, as well as running Open House Chicago, an annual architecture festival that provides the public with free access to both iconic landmarks and unique neighborhood treasures.
At the tail end of Historic Preservation Month is what would have been Richard Stanley Nickel’s 90th birthday, on May 31. The storied historic preservationist’s legacy still looms large amongst architecture and historic preservation intelligentsia like no other practitioner living or dead. In Chicago, Richard Nickel’s hand seems to guide how the built environment is documented, gives a level of honesty to those that practice architectural salvage, and provides a saint-like martyr for traditional preservationists. No one interfacing with the Chicago School of Architecture–specifically the work of Louis Sullivan–is able to detach themselves from what Richard Nickel wrote or what he saw. Nickel has been studied and dissected in many ways before, but a new organization seeks to take a fresh, objective look at the raw body of his work. Bianca Bova is associate director of the Chicago Architecture Preservation Archive (CAPA), who, along with storied City of Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson, is at the helm of the organization devoted to "the documentation and stewardship of materials" of early urban preservationists, specifically Nickel. “Richard Nickel is a moving target,” says Bova, “and CAPA is an open resource to help maintain his ongoing relevance.” CAPA is in the process of creating a full inventory of the collection, which is complementary to the contents of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries architectural archive. While the Richard Nickel Archive includes negatives, photographs, contact sheets, architectural drawings and other effects, including Nickel’s personal library, CAPA’s collection comes from Richard Nickel’s friends, like Tim Samuelson, and architect John Vinci. It contains salvage, personal items, the working files of The Complete Architecture of Adler and Sullivan, and perhaps most importantly Nickel’s datebook, which Bova has poured over and determined that many of the individuals within it are “still around and have a lot to say.” Richard Nickel has long been presented as a tireless martyr, a preservationist willing to lay down his life. On April 13, 1972, Nickel left home early to salvage architectural fragments inside the Chicago Stock Exchange, an 1894 structure by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan slated for demolition after a lengthy advocacy campaign. Demolition halted after Nickel didn’t return home that evening. Friends and family continued to search for him for a week, only finding his briefcase and hardhat amongst the rubble. Once demolition resumed, a worker spotted what looked like a human shoulder, two floors beneath the Trading Room, in the Stock Exchange’s sub-basement. Richard Nickel had been crushed to death, but his body had remained intact. Debris and rubble, along with cold water seeping into the building had kept decomposition at bay. An autopsy later revealed that Richard Nickel had suffered from pulmonary emphysema and chronic bronchitis, a result of breathing in 20 years of dust and airborne debris from salvage sites. Through the nature of his death, Richard Nickel’s legacy began to take on a cult-like status, a perspective that Bova feels Nickel would take issue with. “He was a good person, but not a saint.” The collections at CAPA, housed inside Mana Contemporary Chicago, strive to allow Nickel to speak for himself through primary source material. While CAPA may provide a 21st century answer to preservation, Bova is reserved when asked about how Richard Nickel might feel about the contemporary historic preservation movement, “I would never presume to speak for Richard.”