On May 7, the Obama Foundation announced a series of revisions to Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s $500 million design of The Barack Obama Presidential Center. The revisions are predominantly focused on the 20-acre complex’s masterplan and landscapes connecting facilities. The new design replaces a sunken courtyard located within the Presidential Center’s core plaza with a street level, concrete-paneled surface surrounded by soft landscaping. A children’s play area has been moved closer to Stony Island Avenue, which is seen as a more convenient location that provides sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Jackson Park’s Lagoon. Architecturally, the largest revision is to the grass-terraced and curved roof of the athletic center. According to a statement, the shape and roof of the building have been altered to be in line with the more traditional designs found throughout the campus. While renderings of the athletic center’s new design have not yet been revealed, the masterplan provides a glimpse of the facility's new rectangular layout. Additionally, the height of the athletic center has increased from 18 to 20 feet. Since announced in 2016, the Obama Presidential Center has been subject to near continual revisions, a result of direct community feedback, including some controversy surrounding its proposed parking garage, and the challenges of embedding an expansive cultural campus within a large urban center and landmarked park. The proposed changes will be submitted to the City of Chicago’s Plan Commission on May 17.
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The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is preparing to break ground on its renovation of the Warner Grand Theater and the construction of an adjacent lobby and reception building. The $80 million project is led by Milwaukee-based architecture firm Kahler Slater. The Art Deco Warner Grand Theater, located in Downtown Milwaukee, was designed by Chicago-based firm Rapp & Rapp in 1930. The 2,400 seat theater is topped by a 12-story office tower with marble and bronze detailing. Similar to cities across the Rust Belt, Milwaukee is pushing forward with the preservation of historic structures, such as the The Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center, as tools for urban revival. Restoring the theater entails the refinement of original detailing and the installation of modern features. The historic lobby and original ticket booth will be restored to their pre-1950 condition. According to Kahler Slater’s CEO, George Meyer, existing Neo-Baroque finishes within the concert hall are in remarkably good condition, requiring minimal restorative work. However, the project calls for an intense engineering procedure to move the theater’s rear terracotta wall approximately 30 feet east to increase the stage’s size. The Journal Sentinel notes that saving the eastern elevation is necessary to secure $8 million in historic tax credits from the state and federal governments. Additionally, Kahler Slater will add new acoustical features behind historic details to transform the site into a first-class concert hall. To make way for the new lobby and reception area, the MSO will demolish an adjacent two-story restaurant space dating from 1936, as reported by On Milwaukee. While the restaurant building was originally a Moderne structure, past tenants such as Burger King and Taco Bell have wiped away that original detailing. The addition will add contemporary amenities adjacent to the historic structure. The first floor will largely facilitate circulation, while the second floor will be used as a secondary event space by the MSO. A circular skylight, placed above a centrally placed spiral staircase, will illuminate the space. Over the last decade, Kahler Slater has conducted a broad range of conservation projects in the Milwaukee area, including the restoration of the Richardsonian Romanesque Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance headquarters, designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman in 1886. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is hoping to open its new performance space in fall 2020, allowing it to move out of its current home, the Marcus Center of the Performing Arts.
A vestige of Chicago’s industrial history is slated for redevelopment as an ecologically focused public space. According to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, a mile-long stretch of the North Branch Canal will be redeveloped to serve both Chicagoans and wildlife, focusing on the east side of the canal between Division Street and North Avenue, with the plan to be completed by the end of 2018. Financed by Chicago’s Open Space Impact Fees, the Wild Mile of the North Branch Canal would set the groundwork for habitat improvements for fish, turtles, and invertebrates, and create vegetative islands, viewing platforms, and canoe launches, as well as other environmental enhancements. The Wild Mile is a component of the proposed improvement of 760 acres along the Chicago River between Kinzie Street and Fullerton Avenue as a part of the North Branch Framework Plan. The North Branch Framework Plan is integral to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Industrial Corridor Modernization Initiative, a multi-year effort to review and refine land use policies in the cities Industrial Corridor System. The plan for the North Branch Canal would include best practices for implementation and details on cooperation with private property owners and developers. Dug to form a shortcut to avoid the bend in the North Branch of the Chicago River, the North Branch Canal was originally completed in 1857 by Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden. The completion of the North Branch Canal created the area known as Goose Island, where industrial development flourished at the turn of the 20th century and is now gaining popularity as a new tech hub in Chicago. “This initiative will improve the North Branch Canal as a truly unique waterfront for the entire city, where visitors will be able to engage and appreciate the city’s ecosystem through unprecedented public access,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. The proposal for the Wild Mile comes as Chicago aldermen push for increased public access to the entirety of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Private plans to redevelop the riverfront have recently emerged, such as Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards project, which includes the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant and will deliver residential and office buildings, in addition to a connection to the 606, a 2.7-mile-long linear greenway on the site of a former rail line.
The Architectural League of New York has announced the winners of its 37th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, meant to highlight and foster up-and-coming architectural and design talent. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to examine the role of objectivity in today’s society when the notion is simultaneously elevated as well as undermined by technology, science, and politics. If we truly do live in a post-truth world, what does objectivity mean for architecture? The 2018 winners, decided through a portfolio competition, are as follows: Anya Sirota of Akoaki, Detroit Akoaki was cofounded by Sirota and Jean Louis Farges in 2008. The Detroit-based architecture and design studio explores reviving urban spaces in their home city through the use of eye-catching temporary installations that encourage public participation. Some of their more otherworldly designs include a frost generator and a trompe l’oeil “red carpet” in Los Angeles. Sirota is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Bryony Roberts of Bryony Roberts Studio, New York Bryony Roberts is a New York-based research and design firm founded in 2011 that actively combines, art, architecture, and preservation. Bryony Roberts actively works to reinvigorate historical places with new life, and the firm has worked on everything from a series of marble tile studies to choreographing dancers in Rome. Roberts herself is an adjunct professor of architecture and preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh of Cadaster, Brooklyn The Brooklyn-based Cadaster, founded in 2016 by Cuéllar and Mufreh, is an architecture studio whose work explores the cross-section between architecture and territory. Their most recent work includes the research project Subversive Real Estate: The Landholding Patterns of American Black Churches, and Upstate Ecologies: Regional Vision for the New York Canal System, the firm’s entry into the international planning competition for the future of New York State’s canal systems. Coryn Kempster of Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, Buffalo Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, cofounded by Kempster and Julia Jamrozik in 2014, focuses on the roles that experience and memory play in architecture. The Buffalo-based firm has built abstract play fields and super-efficient single family homes, but the same attention to detail and user interaction is found throughout their portfolio. Kempster is an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong of Kwong Von Glinow, Chicago Kwong Von Glinow was founded in 2017 by Von Glinow and Kwong and operates out of Chicago. While still young, the architecture studio has already won plenty of recognition for its radical reinterpretation of forms, including its plans for a modular apartment tower in New York and community-centered apartment high-rises in Hong Kong. Kwong teaches as an adjunct professor of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Von Glinow is a part-time professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dan Spiegel of SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, San Francisco SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, co-founded in 2011 by Spiegel and Megumi Aihara, works at the intersection between architecture and urban design. Their portfolio spans everything from the front desk of the Casper office to a try-on truck for lingerie startup True & Co. SAW was also recently recognized with an AN 2017 Best of Design Awards for Young Architects. Spiegel currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. The jury for this year’s prize was composed of 2018 Young Architects + Designers Committee, as well as Tatiana Bilbao, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Georgeen Theodore, and Claire Weisz. From June 21 through August 4, an exhibition featuring an installation from each of the winners will be installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design / The New School, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, 66 Fifth Avenue. On June 21 at 7:00 PM, Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts will be giving lectures in the exhibition space. On June 22 at 7:00 PM, Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong, Anya Sirota, and Dan Spiegel will be giving their lectures in the same location. The Architectural League has also announced the publication of Young Architects 18: (im)permanence, a collection of projects from the 2016 League Prize Winners.
The Chicago City Council recently approved the landmark designation for the Old Chicago Main Post Office. Built in phases from 1921 to 1932, the 2.3-million-square-foot structure is located on the western bank of the south branch of the Chicago River in Chicago’s Near West Side. The building’s brawny nine-and twelve-story art deco design is the work of Chicago architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, a successor to D.H. Burnham and Company. The Old Chicago Main Post Office was constructed with a 40-foot-wide rectangular hole running through the center of the building, intended to accommodate a provision of the 1909 Plan of Chicago for a Congress Street extension from the South Loop to Chicago’s West Side. While various plans were floated for the extension in the 1930s, the space wouldn’t come into full use until 1955, when the Congress (now Eisenhower) Expressway was completed, connecting the Loop to the western suburbs. The building’s main lobby sports lavish details like white marble and gold glass mosaics, but its original function was utilitarian in nature, with the majority of the spaces dedicated to feed conveyors, hoppers, mechanical tables, and chutes that supported a variety of mail sorting operations. The Old Chicago Main Post Office remained in operation until a modernized facility was completed in 1996, leaving the building vacant. While the Old Chicago Main Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, providing it with the opportunity to capitalize on Federal Historic Tax Credits, it is the local designation that provides a measure of protection from demolition and insensitive alteration, as a National Register listing is primarily used for planning purposes and is honorary. Local designation of commercial, industrial, and income-producing non-for-profit buildings also provides building owners with the opportunity to capitalize on Chicago’s Class L Property Tax Incentive, which reduces property levels for a 12-year period provided that half of the value of the landmark building is invested in an approved rehabilitation project. According to the City of Chicago, the property’s owner, 601W Companies, is implementing a $292 million rehabilitation of the building as retail spaces and offices led by Gensler. The interior and exterior spaces will be comprehensively updated. The work will also repair existing rights-of-way for the Eisenhower Expressway as well as the Amtrak railroad facility located underneath the building.
Chicago-based curator and writer Yesomi Umolu will curate the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Her unique combination of experience in architectural design and curatorial practice will give her a refreshing take on the program, which has served as a barometer for what is happening in the U.S. and abroad. The Architect’s Newspaper: What is your background, and what brought you to the Chicago Biennial? Yesomi Umolu: So my background is in architectural design. I studied it and I worked in practice for a couple of years in the U.K. at Grimshaw, which is a big high-tech practice, and then at a smaller practice called Haworth Tompkins, doing a lot of collaborations with artists, including Dan Graham with his Waterloo Sunset Pavilion at the Hayward Gallery in London. I was working on projects that represented my passion for the arts. Eventually, I went on to curating contemporary art, but kept my foot in the architecture world through my network. I think the types of narratives and discourses that I was interested in were more related to spatial practices and how both architects and artists were dealing with those issues. What brought you to Chicago? I got a job as exhibitions curator at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. So I’ve been in the U.S. for about seven years. I was at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis before that, and then at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State in East Lansing. I’ve worked in really nice buildings: Herzog & De Meuron [at the Walker] and then Zaha Hadid [at the Broad], and now Todd Williams and Billie Tsien [at the Logan Center]. So I have been lucky to be surrounded by good architecture. In transitioning from practice to curation, where would you find yourself in relation to the last two Biennials? I would come at it by thinking about space as an inherently political medium and exploring the way in which we make spaces. Spaces are not necessarily neutral things; there are power dynamics at play. Then there are the different sorts of audiences and visitors to those spaces. The critic Jane Rendell coined the term “critical spatial practice,” which was about how one makes spaces and thinks about the politics behind them. She particularly wrote about the relationship between art and architecture, and how architects had a role to play—not just in the building of cultural buildings, but in the formation of cultural spaces, and that their skills could be lent to those spaces as well. Today there are people like Shumon Basar, Eyal Weizman, and other artists who have taken up the helm. I worked with Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, who are in the Weizman architecture school of thought in London, as well as a whole host of others. So that’s where I would kind of situate myself. Broadly speaking, my work has always been interested in questions of globalization, which of course have a spatial articulation to them as well, whether it’s thinking about the flows of people, resources, or money, and how that affects the spaces in which we live and work. So it sounds like there will be some continuity with the last two Biennials. Yeah, exactly. So I think that’s what I can bring to the table: my particular interest in the Global South and also maybe greater access to it as well. So what can we expect in 2019 at the third CAB? Instead of having an idea and just having people funnel into that, I want to create the best team that’s going to help establish a very rigorous conversation through a project of R&D for the next three to six months or so, and a curatorial idea will follow. The role that arts and culture play is obviously something I’m going to be very, very interested in. Secondly, with the Biennial, obviously the last two editions have had folks that have been super embedded in the discipline, whereas it’s nice to have an individual such as myself who has roots in the discipline but can come at it from a slight tangent. I think how we define public space is really important right now—how to redefine participation in public space, and how arts or architecture can be leveraged to encourage more public participation. I’m also really interested in that, thinking about how architecture is communicated from the space of school to the space of practice. I can’t say for sure that it’s going to be like X, but these are my interest areas. What are some of the shows you have curated that might give insight into your thoughts and process? I did a show recently with two Brazilian artists: an artist called Cinthia Marcelle and a filmmaker called Tiago Mata Machado. They’ve been working together for the last five to seven years doing a series of beautiful minimalist videos that look at the social space in Brazil and raise questions of revolution and chaos. These films usually focus on a specific piece of urban fabric or furniture, and then they orchestrate a series of pseudo-performances around that. So we did a show with them this last September that brought together these four video pieces. I think that resonates in terms of thinking about public space, and again, agency, collectivities, and how space can be activated through either political protest or revolution. Also, I did a show recently with Kapwani Kiwanga, who is a Paris-based Canadian artist with a background in comparative religions and ethnography. So she usually mines in a particular history and particular archives and then creates from that. And she was looking at the histories of disciplinary spaces across the world and their sort of legacies and how they affect human behavior and perception. This interview will appear in the upcoming issue 10 of AN Interior.
On Tuesday, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) installed a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, the same artist behind Chicago's Cloud Gate (better known as the Bean). The two sculptures are remarkably similar: both are hewn in shiny stainless steel and occupy prominent public spaces in their respective cities. They even have similar names and public sitings: Cloud Gate frames Millennium Park horizontally, while Houston's Cloud Column is mounted vertically in front of the Glassell School of Art. In light of the install, writers in both cities took to the pages of their respective papers-of-record to defend their hometown sculptures and throw serious shade across the continent. In the Chicago Tribune, Kim Janssen derided Cloud Column as a johnny-come-lately Bean and took cheap shots at Houston's arts scene:
If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices.Kapoor told the paper Cloud Column, which he imagined in 2000 and brought to life in 2006, is a totally separate thing from Cloud Gate, despite the obvious resemblance. Today, Houston Chronicle senior digital editor Lisa Gray responded to Janssen in a letter:
Yeah, it's true that we have a giant new shiny bean that stands upright. But Kim, did it occur to you that maybe we wanted it just because it's a cool thing? It's a piece of art, and works by the same artist often look similar. Our Calder looks kinda like other places' Calders. It made me wonder: Is Chicago feeling defensive? How bad is it there, knowing that Houston is set to pass you in population, taking your spot as third-largest city in the U.S.? Are you feeling—well, to steal someone's joke from Twitter–like a "has-bean"?Janssen, of course, volleyed back. The Chronicle lovingly reprinted their dogged this-is-the-city-booster-hill-I'll-die-on correspondence under "Dear Chicago: Houston's bean is better. And so is Houston"–a shots-fired headline if there ever was one. Here's a selection from the conversation:
Chicago: "It's a leftover bean, a second-rate bean that's been lying around in storage for the better part of 20 years, because nobody else wanted it. Nobody except Houston wants a leftover, second-rate bean." Houston: "Our art critic, Molly Glentzer, tells me that our bean is actually the better bean—the original bean, the one made by hand, the one that reaches for the sky. Appropriate for its spot in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston's fast-growing complex—which is, as far as I can tell, the fastest-growing big art museum in the country." Chicago: "If art were measured by the yard—and I can see the appeal, to a Texan—you might have a point." Houston: "Any final thoughts? It's been a pleasure fighting with you." Chicago: "As a certified hater, I thought I'd never find as chippy a city as Chicago. But the outpouring of bile from Houston has genuinely surprised me, and given me hope that you may one day amount to something worthy of our rivalry. In the meantime, enjoy your bean, which is not as good as our bean, and never will be."Separate from this beef, in a statement on the install, MFAH Director Gary Tinterow copped to the Chicago influence: “When we had the opportunity several years ago to acquire this precursor to Chicago’s Cloud Gate, I could only imagine that it would be as extraordinary for this city as Anish’s work has been for Chicago," he said. "Its elegant form and the subtle humanity of its hand-worked surface will fully animate this new gathering place for Houston.”
Archeologists involved with the federal review of the proposed Obama Presidential Center have unearthed artifacts from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The proposed presidential library is located atop the former fair grounds in Chicago's Jackson Park. The Chicago Tribune reports that the artifacts range from pieces of fair buildings such as Louis Sullivan’s Transportation Building (pictured above), to waste associated with services from the fair, including animal bones. Prestigious firms D. H. Burnham & Company and Olmsted, Vaux & Co led the design of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. Designed and built according to City Beautiful principles, much of the 1893 campus was comprised of temporary structures built of form worked plaster painted white to resemble limestone. While the discovery of archeological artifacts can impact the timetable of a development, especially one of this scope, the Chicago Tribune notes that officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation who oversaw the archeological dig do not believe that the cluster of artifacts are significant enough to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The archeological findings will be presented March 29 during a public hearing at the University of Chicago, which will also discuss neighboring historic properties that the Obama Presidential Library will impact. Unless state preservation officials disagree with the Illinois DOT’s findings, the Obama Foundation intends to gain planning approval in May and open the facility to the public in 2021.
Chicago-based general contractors Skender are getting into the modular manufacturing game, with an announcement that they will be building a factory on Chicago’s southwest side that can crank out hotel rooms and entire apartments. Skender is going all in on the new factory and modular fabrication startup, which they claim will put 100 people to work (an impressive number, as Skender only has 300 employees), and is using the opportunity to shift towards a design-build model. The company has bought out local firm Ingenious Architecture and will use the 10-person studio to guide the design and manufacturing of the modular units. Tim Swanson, formerly the head of CannonDesign’s Chicago office, will be joining as Skender’s chief design officer, Kevin Bredeson has been named the chief technology officer, and the company is hunting for a CEO to lead its factory. The move represents a huge expansion in scope for Skender, which has also changed its name from Skender Construction as part of the new direction the company is pursuing. “We are asking new questions,” said Skender President and Partner Justin Brown in a statement. “Why can’t we apply sophisticated design principles to modular manufacturing? How can we eliminate weather delays by bringing large parts of the process indoors? How can we significantly boost productivity without sacrificing quality?” Skender is expecting to roll full apartments, hotel rooms, and pieces of both multi-family residences and healthcare buildings off its new assembly line. Everything can be fabricated at the factory by tradespeople, from cabinets to light fixtures to units that have been pre-wired and set up for plumbing, then shipped to the potential construction site and unloaded via crane. Besides being able to construct modular buildings from the ground up (similar to New York’s Carmel Place), Skender plans to use the factory to work on both the interior and exteriors of its projects simultaneously, and standardize production. To say that modular architecture has had its ups and downs in recent years would be an understatement. While the world’s largest modular hotel, the Stephen B. Jacobs Group-designed CitizenM, is nearly complete in New York, the industry is still smarting from the bruising battle it took to complete 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn. The Pacific Park tower eventually became the world's tallest modular building, but was mired in lawsuits between Skanska and developer Forest City Ratner until the latter cut their losses and sold their modular manufacturing factory to architect Roger Krulak and his company, FullStack Modular. It remains to be seen if Skender can make the model work for them, but their smaller scope should help. If all goes as planned, Skender expects to pick a site for the factory in the coming months and to begin production in the fourth quarter of this year.
Hot off the closing of a sometimes controversial Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) that still drew nearly 550,000 visitors, CAB leaders and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel have announced that Yesomi Umolu has been chosen as the artistic director for the 2019 Biennial. The 2019 Biennial, now in its third iteration, will run from September 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020. A committee comprised of Chicago Architecture Biennial board members and past artistic directors considered candidates from around the world and from a variety of disciplines ultimately selected Umolu for this year's biennial. “Yesomi is a visionary curator with strong roots in Chicago, and she will work tirelessly to cultivate an incredible cultural, educational, and economic event for the city,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement sent to AN. “With Yesomi at the helm, the third Chicago Architecture Biennial is sure to secure its reputation as the most innovative architectural, art, and design showcase of its kind.” Umolu is a Chicago-based writer and curator with a background in architectural design and curatorial studies and a focus on global contemporary art and spatial practices, whose work frequently explores the political nature of the built environment. Umolu will formalize and gather an international curatorial team of practitioners with strong knowledge of architecture, visual arts, and design practices globally in the coming months. The members of the curatorial team will be announced this spring. The move is a natural one for Umolu, who also serves as the Exhibitions Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. “I am honored to be invited to serve as Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial,” said Umolu in a statement. “Having my roots in the field of architecture, spatial questions have always been an important consideration of my work with contemporary artists, architects, and urbanists from across the world. I am excited to embark on the journey of engaging the city of Chicago and it publics, as well as visitors to Chicago from across the country and around the world, in these conversations.” The jury cited Umolu’s deep ties to the city as well as her curatorial achievements–she was chosen for an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship in 2016. “Umolu’s curatorial practice, which boldly, yet elegantly, traverses the fields of art and architecture, makes her uniquely situated for success in this role,” said Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors, in a joint statement. “The Biennial is a complex and multifaceted platform for exploring both the history and present-day challenges in the field, and we eagerly await the outcomes of Umolu’s curatorial inquiry and exploration.” The 2019 Biennial will also align with the opening of EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, following a successful partnership in 2017. Todd Palmer, Executive Director of the 2017 Biennial, will be returning to lead the 2019 edition.
After nearly a year of restoration work, Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House is set to reopen to the public in June 2018. The building is owned by the Elmhurst Art Museum, located in Wilder Park in suburban Chicago. As reported by the Daily Herald, Berglund Construction is completing the $400,000 restoration with the guidance of Elmhurst-based Heritage Architecture Studio and the Elmhurst Art Museum’s Executive Director, John McKinnon. The initial objective of the multiphase restoration plan is the removal of a 1990s corridor addition. Originally located on Elmhurst's Prospect Avenue, the structure was purchased by the Elmhurst Arts Museum in 1992 and was moved to its current location in Wilder Park in 1994. Following the migration, the McCormick House was physically connected to the museum through the construction of an addition. The extension, a series of pavilions connected to the McCormick House via a corridor, was designed by Chicago-based firm DeStefano + Partners, who won the 1998 Design Excellence Award from AIA Chicago for the project. While this addition facilitated movement between the two buildings and was in keeping with Mies’ original design, it obstructed views of his spartan and elegant façade. The one-story McCormick House, composed of glass and steel set upon a concrete slab, was built in 1952 for prominent Chicago inventor and magnate Robert McCormick Jr. and his wife, Isabella Gardner. According to the museum, the McCormick House was meant to serve as a prestigious suburban dwelling for the McCormick family as well as a prototype for prefabricated middle-class homes assembled with the same mass-produced materials, a real-estate project envisioned by McCormick Jr. The large-scale modular development scheme never came to fruition due to a lack of popular suburban amenities, such as air conditioning and a basement. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, former Executive Director of the Elmhurst Art Museum, Jenny Gibbs, stated that the restoration is intended to establish the McCormick House as a freestanding destination and gallery space, elevating it to a status similar to the Mies-designed Farnsworth House 40 miles to the southwest.
Chicago’s historic Merchandise Mart (rebranded as theMART), a massive art deco design center on the bend of the Chicago River, will play host to a 2.6-acre art installation come fall of 2018. At a press conference this Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city cultural officials, and representatives of building owners Vornado Realty Trust’s Chicago branch announced a plan to convert the front wall of The Mart into a canvas for large-scale, projected art. “Art on theMART” will paint the river-facing wall of the Mart with high-resolution images and videos, including indie works, through an open-source software. Mart Chief Operating Officer Myron Maurer has promised that the project would never be used to display ads. A curatorial board would be set up as early as this spring to select which works would be screened, including holiday-specific pieces and work from student art shows. First proposed in March of 2017 as a joint effort between the Mayor’s office and theMART, the project was envisioned as a “large-scale architectural projection” that would contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the Chicago waterfront. Vornado had reached out to New York City-based A+I Architects and San Francisco-based Obscura Digital to conduct the feasibility study and will be paying the $8 million installation cost and $500,000 yearly maintenance costs out of pocket. Obscura has worked on enormous projections and screen-related art projects at Grand Central Terminal, the Empire State Building, and at the Sydney Opera House. With the project moving forward, Mayor Emanuel is advancing an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for the installation of the 34 necessary projectors under a 30-year license. If the City Council approves, theMART’s light shows could begin by October of this year, and works would be projected for two hours a night, five days a week, for up to ten months a year. “It brings two great strands of the city of Chicago together,” Mayor Emanuel told reporters on Sunday. “What we all know as the Merchandise Mart will now become the largest canvas in the world.” Art on theMART is the latest in a continuing transformation for the building, which has recently shifted from housing wholesale retailers and showrooms into a tech hub and office building. A video mockup of the installation is available here, courtesy of The Chicago Sun Times.