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.
Posts tagged with "Chicago":
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
We've been following Chicago's Olympic bid rather closely of late, and not only because we're on the way to inaugurating a Midwest edition of the paper. First, there was SOM's intriguing proposal to create "sustainable," "low-impact" Olympics that would have few legacy costs by using temporary facilities, an approach the IOC apparently favored. Then there was the impact of that plan, which still called for the demolition of some buildings—as well as hundreds of trees in Washington Park—most notably at the Walter Gropius-designed Michael Reese hospital campus. Outcry from preservationists led the city to delay demolition, which made time for the preservationists to develop alternative plans. Olympic opponents may be catching another break now, as, ironically enough, the very things the IOC purportedly liked about Chicago's bid-lite may also be its undoing. The IOC released its evaluation report today, which outlines the strengths and weaknesses of of each city's bid a month in advance of the final selection. In addition to Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Madrid are vying for the games. Reports indicate the South American city could be the favorite, while Chicago's proposal was called "ambitious," which sounds like damning praise, with the Tribune doing a good job of highlighting the curious position the IOC has laid out:
A risk highlighted for Chicago's bid, the planned use of many temporary venues, reflects an IOC desire to have its cake and eat it, too. Based on the 2003 report of a Games study commission, the IOC espouses the idea of not wanting host cities to build expensive, permanent venues that will become underused, costly-to-maintain white elephants. Yet it also is thrilled when a city like Beijing goes overboard to do just that. In its detailed evaluation of the Chicago bid's response to the 17 themes assessed, the report praises the city's concept for being ``in line with the IOC Games Study Commission recommendation to `build a new venue only if there is a legacy need...''' In the same sentence, the report says that means a greater burden on the Olympic organizing committee (OCOG) to pay for and deliver that part of the project, as opposed to cities that build permanent structures and do not assign their cost and development to the Games operations (OCOG) budget. In its summary of the Chicago bid, the report says there is increased risk in Chicago due to an ``emphasis on major temporary or scaled-down venues.'' That includes the Olympic Stadium, which would be a temporary, 80,000-seat structure. Chicago bid officials have insisted their venue plan not only is financially responsible but could be a model for future Olympic host cities.Clearly, cost is a concern, especially in these economically challenging times. Still, the ambivalence the IOC has for what exactly it wants is amusing, if not downright frustrating. That is, of course, unless you're a preservationist wanting nothing to do with the current Olympic bid. Oh, and guess what else is a concern? The weather, of course. Or, as only the FT could put it, "meteorological shortcomings." (h/t ArchNewsNow)