Posts tagged with "hedrich blessing":

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Archive of historic architectural photos displayed on Chicago’s largest screen

The Chicago History Museum has opened up its extensive architectural photography archive for a new exhibition. Chicago 00: Spaces brings together thousands of images produced by Hedrich Blessing, the famed Chicago architectural photography firm, from 1929 through 1979. Displayed on the 89 LED blades that make up the 150-foot-long and 22-foot-high display at the 150 Media Stream in the 150 North Riverside Plaza, the exhibit is part of the larger Chicago 00 initiative. Chicago 00 is a collaboration between the museum and filmmaker Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, with the intent “to create new media experiences with the Museum’s extensive archive of historical imagery.” The exhibit merges the thousands of images together into thematic groupings, morphing them into an ever-changing composition using algorithmic image processing. Hedrich Blessing, a photography firm responsible for some of Modernism's most iconic images, entrusted its first 50 years of negatives to the History Museum for safekeeping and to support the museum’s research goals. The works of Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and SOM are often remembered through the work of Hedrick Blessing, with images such as those of Falling Water and the Farnsworth house becoming iconic in their own right. Hedrich Blessing closed its doors earlier this year after nearly 90 years of continuous practice. Chicago 00: Spaces will be open to the public through January 31, on Friday evenings from 6 to 8pm, and from 1 to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Other portions of the Chicago 00 initiative include free virtual tours of the SS Eastland Disaster along the Chicago River, the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, and the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.
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Legendary photographer Hedrich Blessing’s images feature prominently in new book on Chicago

If there’s any justice, history will recognize John Zukowsky for his singular place in documenting and disseminating Chicago’s architectural history. He’s produced several of the most significant visual records of the city, including the two-volume companion to the milestone surveys [Chicago Architecture 1872–1922 and 1923–1993] that he mounted at the Art Institute in the early 1990s; together the catalogues create an amazingly comprehensive chronicle of built Chicago. And, shortly before leaving the city in 2004, he published Masterpieces of Chicago Architecture, a visually breathtaking timeline of the city’s greatest buildings.

An assessment of Building Chicago, Zukowsky’s latest contribution to the canon, more or less demands the inquiry: Is it necessary? Given the increasing interest in the subject over the past couple of decades and the number of pictorial surveys of the city that others have published, do we really need another iteration of “Chicago’s Greatest Hits?” And hasn’t Mr. Zukowsky said it all already anyway?

The short answers are “yes” and “maybe, but so what?” Indeed, there is probably not much new to say on the subject that Zukowsky himself hasn’t already said. (Beyond the fact—and this is not insignificant—that a dozen years have elapsed since Zukowsky’s last compendium, and a lot has happened architecturally in the last dozen years.) But with architectural history, you can always find new ways to look at the material—not only conceptually, but visually. And in Building Chicago, Zukowsky has lucked into a whole new inventory of visual materials.The image collection of the Chicago History Museum (formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society) recently acquired rights to most of the spectacular archive of Hedrich Blessing, generally considered the world’s greatest architectural photography studio, dating back to the 1930s through to 1979—in addition to the museum’s already impressive collection of vintage photographs.

In his introduction, Zukowsky acknowledges he’s revisiting much of the territory he covered in the 2004 work (also for the publisher Rizzoli), which drew mostly from the Art Institute’s extensive collection of drawings, artifacts, and photos. Here, Zukowsky’s source for imagery, while almost exclusively photographic, is actually much broader than the Art Institute’s and really makes for a much more vivid picture.

Zukowsky is a fine scholar, but the writing in Building Chicago is generally dry and uninspiring, particularly if you’re well-versed in the subject matter. But you’re not reading this book for the text. Like any picture book—and, while it’s a serious historical work, Building Chicago is primarily a picture book—its success depends on the images. So it’s particularly fortunate that Zukowsky was able to indulge his “curator’s choice” and assemble a brilliant iconography of the most emblematic buildings in the city from the museum’s collection.

Zukowsky admits that he didn’t intend this as a comprehensive history of the city’s built environment: It is, quite frankly, a look at the city’s most important, influential and prominent structures. Aside from some high-profile apartment towers and one lakefront mansion, there’s little about residential design, almost nothing ecclesiastical, and very little outside the city’s core. The visual story Zukowsky is presenting here doesn’t pretend to reflect anything beyond the public realm or show us much about the neighborhoods in a city that is supposed to be all about neighborhoods. It’s about the architecture that has become a key element of the tourism industry and an economic engine on its own, celebrating the great, important buildings of Chicago that provide the city its one real claim to international distinction and are the source of boundless hometown pride.

Readers familiar with the cityscape will not be surprised here with the choice of buildings illustrated. But the book’s real distinction is the historical selection from Hedrich Blessing—both in its great period photos of grand buildings now demolished (the Michigan Square Building) or recklessly remodeled (the Prudential Building lobby) and of projects far less glamorous: A 1944 photo of the Monroe Street Red Line platform and another of the newly finished Lake Shore Drive pedestrian overpass at North Avenue are particularly edifying.

It’s hard to imagine a better compendium: Building Chicago is an important addition to any serious collection of books about the city.

Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks John Zukowsky, Rizzoli, $85.00

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Wrecking Keck & Keck? Chicago preservationists target North Shore landmark ordinance

One of the Chicago area's last remaining homes by brothers and modernist architects George Frederick and William Keck faces likely demolition later this year, despite a long-running preservation campaign to save it. The 1955 Blair House at 925 Sheridan Road in Lake Bluff, Illinois could earn designation as a local landmark, but that distinction may do little more than delay the inevitable, preservationists said, since the Chicago suburb's landmark ordinance lacks legal teeth. In 1957 Architectural Record named the Blair House "A Residence of Exceptional Distinction.” Landmarks Illinois named it one of their most endangered places in 2012, citing the home's forward-thinking design and pristinely preserved interiors. The Keck's custom-designed many of their homes down to the furniture, experimenting in the Blair House with sustainable technologies that are now commonplace, such as double-glazing, abundant natural light and radiant heat. A travertine fireplace and elegant stairway are among the home's celebrated features. Ed McCormick Blair, the original owner, died in 2010. He left the house to his estate, representatives of which plan to demolish the structure and sell the land for redevelopment. The value of the property, which is part of a 19th century farm on the shores of Lake Michigan, has been assessed at $4.9 million. For four years the estate has sought $9,995,000 for the five-bedroom house and 27 acres of land, a price which has not been met by the market. The property's realtor did not return requests for comment. Owner Ed Blair Jr. submitted an application to demolish the building in December. Under Lake Bluff's rules, that permit was subject to a 90-day review because the building is more than 50 years old. If the building receives landmark designation, Blair will have to submit an additional request, but he is not prohibited from knocking down the historic structure after a 120-day period that Lake Bluff officials say provides for public dialogue. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Blair said the proceeds of the house's sale will go to charity. "The land is worth more without the house than with it," he told Genevieve Bookwalter. "The purpose is not to honor my father by keeping the house; it's to honor my father by following his wishes." But preservationists say demolishing the home would mar the region's architectural legacy. “The concept of this jewel of a house being demolished has just got us beside ourselves,” said Jack Schuler, a neighbor whose property shares history with the Blairs'. Along with John H. Bryan, Schuler and Blair Sr. purchased portions of the 250-acre Crab Tree Farm in 1985. The farm, currently in conservancy, is among the last working farms bordering Lake Michigan. Brandon Stanick, Assistant to Village Administrator of Lake Bluff, said the village's requirement for public dialogue balances property rights with preservation. “There's a strong property rights feeling in the village," he said. "The advisory review process in place is meant to be a compromise between the two extremes.” Schuler said the controversy lays bare the problems with the landmark provisions of Lake Bluff. The Blair House is one of several historic homes in the leafy, upscale suburb. Preservationists worry more will be demolished if the landmark ordinance remains merely honorific. “If this was Lake Forest this house would be preserved,” said Schuler.
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Small Projects Awards honor big things in small packages

Big projects command the most media attention, but small works of art and architecture can still make a splash. That’s the ethos of AIA Chicago’s fourth annual Small Projects Awards, which last week named 13 honorees among 96 entries that included Chinatown’s new boathouse, a barn-like complement to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, and an un-built “Safe House” for tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri. The winners fell into one of five categories: 1,001-5,000 Square Feet, 500 Square Feet and Under, 501-1,000 Square Feet, Objects, Un-built Buildings. (Last year's winners.) Little You is a speech therapy center built with a modest budget of $154 per square foot. Made of black manganese modular brick and clear anodized aluminum, the modern building embraces the neighborhood’s 50s-era commercial building stock. Mies’ archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is sinking. While preservationists decide how to minimize damages from future floods, the Barnsworth Exhibition Center provides temporary exhibition space for Edith Farnsworth’s wardrobe. Recycled lumber scraps from the circular-plan barn went to create an end-grain floor. Not attempting to out-Mies Mies, the Barnsworth instead nods to the site’s agrarian setting. Safe House won the un-built buildings category for its mission to provide refuge from storms like the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Built with insulated concrete forms, from foundation to exterior walls to roof, the efficient construction method reduces energy bills by 50 percent, according to designers Wrap Architecture. The concrete roof is left exposed, pattern imprinted and sealed. Screens are rated to wind forces of 175 mph, so a safe room is included for the most severe storms. Read about all the entries here.