Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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Ebert Gives Modernism Two Thumbs Down

Everyone may be a critic, but none moreso than Roger Ebert. While film has long been the Chicagoan's preferred medium, he has increasingly cast his eyes and pen elsewhere on his Sun-Times blog (begun after a bout of thyroid cancer). Yesterday, he fixed his attention—and mostly scorn—on modern architecture. It's a highly opinionated piece, one in which Ebert openly admits his increasingly "reactionary" preferences:
It was not always so. My first girlfriend when I moved to Chicago was Tal Gilat, an architect from Israel. She was an admirer of Mies. Together we explored his campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. She showed me his four adjacent apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive and said they looked as new today as when they were built. It is now 40 years later, and they still look that new. Then I was impressed. Now I think of it as the problem. They will never grow old. They will never speak of history. No naive eye will look at them and think they represent the past. They seem helplessly captive of the present.
Ebert goes on to bemoan the loss of character in Chicago and beyond, in buildings new and old. "Remember a deli, with its neon signs, its daily prices, its sausages and cheeses and displays of pop and wine in the window. Now it has been defaced and replaced by this branch of the Bank of America, which was not even conceived for this site, but offers as little glass and metal as it possibly can, devoid of any ornamentation at all." Yet this seems much more like a problem with capitalism than architecture, not to mention that the latter has always been a product of the former, a reality of both the most grandiose and spare buildings. There's long passages applauding Sullivan—and defaming Mies for denuding him, as Ebert sees it. With all this praise for the past, is there anything he does like? Never having watched much Ebert ourselves, we always got the sense he was rather conventional. What does he think about Jean Gang's Aqua or the compelling work of Krueck+Sexton? Surely it can't all be bad, much as Ebert seems to be remembering the past a little too fondly, as there has been the good and the bad throughout history, architectural and otherwise. Over at the LA Times there's a poll asking readers what they think of Ebert's arguments. About a little more than a third say he's being too simplistic, while the same amount find him to be right on the money. Whatever said you take (and we think we can guess what that is) it's still a thoughtful, if disagreeable piece, and well worth reading.
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At Home With Jeanne Gang

The undulating balconies of Aqua have become one of the most recognized and talked about additions to the Chicago skyline. Less attention has been paid to the handsome townhouses, called "Parkhomes," in the building's base. Magellan, the developers, are trying to right that balance and drum up interest amid the still sluggish downtown condo market by enlisting Studio Gang to fit out the interior of one of the units. The six 3,200 square foot Parkhomes, have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a two car garage, a rarity for condos in the immediate vicinity of the central business district. Gang worked with the Brazilian company Florense to furnish the apartments. Works by local artists hang on the walls (available for purchase, naturally). The units, priced from $1.6 million, face Lakeshore East Park, and have access to all of Aqua's amenities, including the 80,000 square foot roof deck.
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Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world's largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times' incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us:
An Olympic dream denied, with no other job- and revenue-generator on the horizon. Aldermen weary of being squeezed from both sides. A retailing behemoth thwarted in other cities desperate to advance its urban strategy. All of those factors--and a site change to a Far South Side ward whose alderman is more popular than his Chatham colleague--helped to bring the long-running Wal-Mart saga to a successful conclusion. But the six-year battle over Wal-Mart's plan to expand its foothold in the Chicago market ultimately came to a close because it was too big to pass up and because the world's largest retailer blinked.
How an agreement for 21 stores is considered blinking is news to us, even if Walmart has made wage agreements (or not!) for the first time in its history. With this one settled, how long before Brooklyn is next?
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Eavesdrop MW 03

CROWNING PORKOPOLIS

What’s the cliché? You can dress up a pig but it’s still a pig? I can’t remember. Some terrible former governor, who will not be named, used the line a lot. Anyway! The Great American Tower, the newest addition to Cincinnati’s skyline, was recently topped off with a giant tiara inspired by Diana, Princess of Wales. The glitzy tower could be the ugliest building in the Midwest. It’s a toss-up as to whether the Royal Family will add this to its rather lengthy list of regal embarrassments—oh Fergie!—or delight in the ghastly tribute. After all, the tower will be the tallest in the city, surpassing the Carew Tower, which reigned supreme since 1930 with its beautiful art deco interiors. The tiara’s (and building’s) design cred go to Gyo Obata, the “O” of HOK. Eavesdrop wonders why Gyo did not look to local royalty, like former mayor Jerry Springer. A skyscraper inspired by guests throwing chairs at one another could be interesting!

PARTY IN THE POMO PHIL-JO LIBRARY

Shannon Stratton, executive director of threewalls, the contemporary art incubator and gallery, kindly invited Eavesdrop to their annual party and silent auction being held in Philip Johnson’s postmodern office building 190 South LaSalle. The so-strange-it-was-fab event, themed “Office Romance,” took place in the Library, a nutso 40th-floor Cambridge-inspired law library and event space whose stacks are overlit with 80s-tastic green fluorescent bulbs. Among the guests donning faux-cigarettes befitting the Mad Men-meets-Bret Easton Ellis vibe, Eavesdrop stumbled into architects Dirk Denison and David Harris Salkin (a graduate of Tulane’s School of Architecture and URBANbuild). We were grateful for the company, but perhaps we got too comfortable and had one too many Manhattans. The silent art auction was suddenly irresistible, and brought out a competitiveness in Eavesdrop previously only seen during rounds of mini-golf. We walked away with a large-format photograph by the Swiss-born artist Selina Trepp. Shannon, you can send a thank-you note to Eavesdrop, c/o AN.

Send thank-you notes, castle moats, and old billy goats to midwesteavesdrop@archpaper.com.

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Eavesdrop MW 02

DANCING WITH STARCHITECTS Eavesdrop got all flustered when the Chicago Dancing Festival, an annual event celebrating American dance, announced the theme for its August 27 event: “The Dancing Skyline.” Could this be like Dancing with the Stars or a Pilobolus-like pile of dancers recreating buildings from Chicago’s iconic skyline? Probably neither, as the festival’s website simply describes it as “a lecture and demonstration focused on themes of architecture and dance.” Still, we would have paid good money to see Jeanne Gang paired with the likes of Jay Franke of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company prancing off against Helmut Jahn and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet. A gossip columnist can dream! CURATOR SHUFFLE Ever since AN broke the news that Joseph Rosa is leaving the Art Institute’s architecture and design department to direct the University of Michigan Art Museum, speculation has abounded about who will replace him. The AIC says design curator Zoe Ryan is in the running, but Eavesdrop guesses she’s pretty happy building the museum’s new design collection. Others have pointed to Brooke Hodge, previously of LA MOCA, but might her interests overlap too much with Ryan’s? Oh, and another Ryan, first name Raymund, the architecture curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, could well be in the running. Then there’s John Zukowsky, the former AIC curator, who is conveniently back in town. Seems unlikely. What about Elizabeth Smith, the former chief curator at the MCA? She’s had a longstanding interest in architecture and wrote a wonderful and much lusted after book on the Case Study Houses. Eavesdrop hears that Trustee John H. Bryan, who endowed the chair, holds the key to the kingdom. Send season tickets, croquet wickets, and rusty spigots to midwesteavesdrop@archpaper.com.
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Eavesdrop Takes Artopolis (Eats Out of Garbage Can?)

Chicago may be better known for NeoCon--that’s the design show, not right-wing political philosophy--but the contemporary and modern art equivalent, Artropolis, appears to be holding ground with another solid run at the Merchandise Mart over the last weekend. Artropolis, the Midwest‘s answer to Art Basel, is comprised of three fairs: Art Chicago; NEXT, an invitational exhibition of emerging art; and the International Antiques Fair. AN’s Midwest Eavesdrop took a spin around the preview party to peep who turned out for the free booze and what was showing at the fairs.   Kavi Gupta and his namesake gallery were positioned front and center with work by a sampling of his artists, including Susan Gilescontorted-architecture-as-sculptures and Tony Tasset. Both artists were included in the large-scale works displayed inside and out of the Mart’s first floor. Liz Nielsen, director of the Swimming Pool Project Space curated the Goffo section of NEXT, including an interesting architectural model of the International Space Station. Daniel Baird’s model depicts the Station rebuilt to scale on Earth and left to decay. Back at the bar, Eavesdrop spotted Justin Cooper, who is included in the current show Production Site at the Museum of Contemporary Art and David Csicsko the artist and designer who created the mosaics installed at the recently renovated Belmont L station. Was it performance art or hipster desperation? But the unexpected highlight of the evening was the distribution of leftover Dominoes pizza outside of the Mart at the end of the party. Free booze, drunken art students, and garbage bag pizza nicely juxtaposed with the well-heeled climbing into their limos.
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Waffling on Walmart

The story surrounding plans for a new Walmart on Chicago's Far South Side keeps changing faster than the retailer's prices. Last week we noticed that its attempts to break into Brooklyn were eerily similar to those in the Windy City, though we failed to mention how the linchpin of the current argument, that no one would dare locate in Pullman, does not hold true in East New York, as the Gateway Center already has a Target and a few other big box stores. But according to the Chicago Reader, that may not be the case in Pullman either. The paper did the unthinkable and—gasp!—called up the other retailers who the local alderman said he contacted, including IKEA, Dominick's, and Jewel-Osco, to confirm that they had turned Alderman Anthony Beale down. None said that was the case, though a few said they could neither confirm nor deny. Walmart, however, remains undeterred, and the Sun-Times reports it has even gone to the unprecedented step of setting up a meeting with local labor leaders to try and broker a last minute deal that will save its plans for a South Side development from being scuttled yet again.
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Mies, Ahoy!

The Chicago Architecture Foundation's boat tours begin tomorrow, and they've added two evening "date night" cruises on Thursday and Friday evenings, beginning at 5:30. The hour and a half long tours highlights 53 architecturally significant sites. All Chicago Architecture Foundation cruises depart from the lower level and southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive. The 2010 Tour Schedule runs through November 21.  Tickets are $32 and are available at www.architecture.org or 1-800-982-2787.
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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.