Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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Welcome to Chicago, Darling

Today, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago announced the appointment of Michael Darling as the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. Darling is currently the modern and contemporary art curator at the Seattle Art Museum and was previously an associate curator at LA MOCA. "Michael Darling is the perfect creative leader to evolve the MCA as a preeminent contemporary art destination in terms of reputation, influence, relevance and visibility," said Madeleine Grynstejn, the Prtizker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, in a statement. Darling replaces Elizabeth Smith who stepped down last year. Under Smith, the MCA organized or hosted numerous architecture exhibitions and programs including Sustainable Architecture in Chicago, Garofalo Architects: Between the Museum and the City, as well as serving as the Chicago venue for Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe. Darling is well positioned to continue MCA's architecture and design programming. While at MOCA he co-curated the exhibition The Architecture of R.M. Schindler.
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Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

In the last Midwest issue, we recounted Walmarts struggles to infiltrate urban centers, notably in Chicago. But the world's largest retailer and the nation's largest employer has also been eying New York for years, and the Daily News reports that it is making a new push in Brooklyn, which has already met resistance from locals and labor without even being officially announced. The weird thing, though, is how eerily similar there approach is in East New York as with the Pullman project on Chicago's Far South Side. Both are meant to be the anchor tenant in a larger mixed-use development that involves affordable housing (the former is part of Gateway II, the latter Pullman Park) located in the fringes of their respective cities, places that have been historically economically depressed. This puts Walmart in a better position of arguing that the area is in need of jobs, any jobs, not to mention affordable housing, so how dare politicians and unions try to stop it. Whether it works in Brooklyn or the Far South Side, only time will tell, but if Kingsbridge is any indication, it probably won't happen in the Five Boroughs any time soon. Pullman, however, might be an entirely different story, as Mayor Daley continues to agitate for the project's approval.
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Regional Rebound?

For the forth month straight, billings for firms in the Midwest are showing the strongest uptick of the four regions tracked by the AIA. And for the first time since the recession, in March billings in the Midwest have moved into positive territory, breaking the 50 mark, making it the first region to do so since the recession began. (Anything below means billings for work are falling, above rising.) In the graph above, the Midwest region is represented in red, the East in blue, the West in green, and the South in orange. According to the numbers, the recovery has arrived. In other positive economic news, home sales in the Chicago area were up 45% in March over the same period last year. Within the city of Chicago the gains were even greater, posting a 50% increase over the same period last year, according to Crain's Chicago Business. The glut of unsold condos has put a damper on many development projects, so it's encouraging to see the market moving again.
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Philip Johnson Rises from Grave, Heads to Post Office

Developer Bill Davies has engaged Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects to investigate possibilites for the Old Main Post Office Building on West Van Buren, according to a report in the Sun-Times. Davies aquired the massive structure from the city at auction, and speculation has been rife as to what could be done with the building, which is built over several north/south rail lines. Ritchie declined elaborate on the plans. In addition to the future of the Post Office, we were left wondering how long Johnson's name will remain attached to the firm. He passed away in 2005.
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CHA Wrecking Ball Returns

The last five families were moved out of the Harold Ickes Homes at the end of March, one of the latest clusters of high rise public housing the city is clearing as a part of the Chicago Housing Authority's "Plan for Transformation." Dozens of highrise towers have been demolished across the across the city, opening vast tracts of land for mixed-income and in some cases mixed-used development. While few would dispute that the large-scale warehousing of the poor in these projects helped to create major urban problems, the nearly total erasure of these areas seems as blunt as the urban renewal tactics through which they were originally built. Designed by SOM in the 1950s, the buildings reflected the architectural, planning, and sociological thinking of the day. Arguably the Plan for Transformation reflects the thinking of the last 10 to 15 years in public housing: New Urbanism. Chicago architects DeStefano + Partners proposed a contemporary reuse and reimagination of the Ickes Homes in a masterplan that called for making the buildings more sustainable and better integrated into the neighborhood. Their plan called for reducing the amount of parking space, adding green roofs, restoring the street grid, and adding infill buildings to bring the complex closer to the street. They also advocated reskinning the buildings to break up their massing and improve energy efficiency, as well as adding rain gardens and solar canopy's over the remaining parking areas, among other features. The plan was strong enough to win the firm a 2009 AIA award, but it didn't change the Housing Authority's decision to call off the wrecking ball.
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Preservation Gang

On the heels of their much praised Aqua tower, Studio Gang is talking on a very different kind of project, the renovation and conversion of the historic Shoreland Hotel in Hyde Park into rental apartments, and retail and event spaces, the Chicago Tribune reports. The building, which was most recently used as student housing by the University of Chicago, is in rough shape. Some of the once opulent interiors are in tact, but other spaces have been gutted or badly damaged, which could offer interesting opportunities to juxtapose contemporary insertions with historic elements. The project adds adaptive reuse and historic preservation to the firm’s already diverse portfolio. If the project is successful, perhaps it will help breathe life into the firm's other major Hyde Park project, Solstice on the Park, which has been languishing on the boards.
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The Makers of the Design Canon

You probably would not expect to find the ubiquitous "@" symbol in the same category as the Olivetti portable typewriter, the Saarinen tulip chair, or the Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 GT car. But on Saturday at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, persuasively argued for its inclusion in MoMA’s famed design collection alongside the items described above. Within the very small world of museum architecture and design curators the AIC’s symposium, “Modern Construction: Creating Architecture and Design Collection” assembled a blue-chip group to discuss acquisition methodologies, philosophies, and approaches. In addition to Antonelli, speakers included Ingeborg de Roode, Curator of Industrial Design, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Frederic Migayrou, Deputy Director, Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre de Creation Industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou; and Mirko Zardini, Director, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. AIC’s Joseph Rosa, John H. Bryan Curatorial Chair of Architecture and Design, and Zoe Ryan, its Neville Bryan Curator of Design, completed the roster. Each offered a history and overview of his or her collection, collecting principles and acquisition strategies. Any discussion of architecture in the museum arena has to start from the central idea that a museum can’t really “collect” architecture. As Rosa explained in his introductory remarks, museum architecture departments have traditionally acquired drawings, models, photographs and fragments relating to buildings. But that’s changing. Over the course of his career, Migayrou has built two large architecture collections, practically from scratch: first for the FRAC Orleans, and later for the Pompidou, and seems to have had a swell time doing so. He breathlessly ripped through scores of images of items he had acquired at both institutions, which validated his belief in niche collecting. By originally focusing on unbuilt projects of the post WWII era, he said he was able to obtain a lot of material “that MoMA didn’t want,” including such gems as le Corbusier’s original collage limning the familiar Modulor graphic and the two most iconic illustrations from Koolhaas’ Delirious New York. Beyond acquiring items in traditional formats, curators of contemporary work are grappling with issues related to digitization. In the architecture and design areas, more so than with “fine art,” it’s probably a more significant concern, because so much of the production increasingly exists in digital format. For CCA, this has meant making much of its traditional holdings--drawings, plans, correspondence and other ephemera--available online. Zardini said it’s an important new kind of presence, a different framework for institutions, and one that brings its own set of issues: when you select which items to make digitally available, you’re editing, making a collection within your collection. Antonelli also stressed the importance of embracing new media and formats. “Digital capabilities could free curators from the constraints of physical collecting,” she predicted. But it’s not without its challenges. In one instance, she wanted to acquire an early iteration of an e-mail graphic interface, but wondered what, precisely, to acquire.  The original (probably broken-down) computer where the program was created? The actual programming code? A new machine with the old graphic interface? Video of designers revising the code for the new machine? All of the above? “Everything,” she said, “goes into the big minestrone of progress.” Unlike architecture, design collection is generally a lot more straightforward, since many design objects are small and portable, and available to purchase outside of the high end auction houses. This has helped Ryan acquire an impressive group of objects by contemporary designers, although, having just started to build AIC’s collection over the last three years,  she said, “our work has just begun.” Her comment touched on one subject area that went more or less unexplored: what it all costs. This was an odd omission in a symposium about acquiring things.  Although Migayrou revealed in his presentation that he had gotten several of his holdings “at a good price,”  it was just about the only time anybody addressed the issue of money. This attendee would have enjoyed hearing the curators talk about how private collectors are competing with museums for the best items, and how the general economic malaise has affected acquisition funding--thorny problems for everyone in the museum community.
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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.