Posts tagged with "Illinois":

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Floodwaters Surround Mies Van Der Rohe's Farnsworth House

Just over four years ago, the Fox River spilled its banks, sending floodwaters into Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and causing significant damage. Built in 1951 and located outside Chicago, the river is again rising, now fully surrounding the stilted abode turned museum, and the house, operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has shared watery photos on its Farnsworth blog, stating: "The house is fully surrounded by river water, but neither the lower deck nor the upper deck has yet to be breached." Water is not expected to enter the house, but all precautions are being taken, including elevating interior furnishings on milk crates.When the site is not flooded, tours of the house are available to the public.
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Bertrand Goldberg's Chicago Prentice Hospital Denied Landmark Status, Again

Amid the latest in a series of temporary reprieves, Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Women’s Hospital was again denied landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism. “I have this suspicion that [owner] Northwestern [University] has put before us a false choice,” said Commissioner James Houlihan, who nonetheless voted along with all of his fellow commissioners to deny the 1975 building landmark status. The commission Thursday reprised, in a way, a vote taken in November, in which they recognized the litany of evidence qualifying Prentice as an architectural landmark, voted to grant the building landmark status, and subsequently revoked their own decision in a second, almost unanimous vote. (The sole holdout during that vote, Christopher Reed, resigned at the end of 2012.) Their reason for doing so, said commission Chairman Rafael Leon, was a provision in municipal code that called on them to allow testimony from the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. The jobs and tax dollars promised by new construction, they concluded, outweighed the building’s architectural significance—logic that preservationists took issue with on several levels. In December the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council claimed in court that the commission “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority,” when it denied the building landmark status by considering economic matters so prominently. Judge Neil Cohen dismissed that suit in January, but not without raising concerns over the commission’s transparency. “The commission maintains that it did not violate the landmarks ordinance or any other law,” Leon said when it came time to discuss Prentice. To show their methods were “beyond reproach,” he said, they would again hear public testimony. Jeff Case, a principal at Holabird & Root, was among the design professionals who opposed preservation, saying Prentice had “outlived its useful life.” “The building has moved on, and so should we,” he said. “333 East Superior will not be missed.” Carol Post of Thornton & Tomasetti concurred, citing structural problems in the building’s clover-shaped concrete shell. Still many more echoed the sentiments of an open letter signed in July by more than 65 architects, calling on the commission to reject the recommendation of the Department of Housing and Economic Development that previously swayed them to withhold landmark protection. “A Walmart will always generate more revenue than a water tower,” said Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine. Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago office, similarly rebuked the commissioners for appearing to sidestep their civic duty. “You have an obligation,” she said, “to protect Chicago’s cultural heritage.” Since the commission’s November decision, preservationists have also attempted to meet Northwestern’s arguments on their own terms. Architects submitted four proposals for reuse that also included new buildings to satisfy Northwestern’s stated development needs. They claimed saving the Goldberg structure would result in an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. Northwestern dismissed those proposals Thursday in a statement that called their economic assumptions “deeply flawed.” The four alternatives were “not viable,” said Northwestern’s Eugene Sunshine, because of structural challenges presented by Prentice and because some of them relied on developing nearby vacant land not owned by Northwestern University, but by Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. Commissioner Houlihan asked Sunshine if it was disingenuous to suggest the sister organizations could not get together and work out a solution to that problem. Sunshine said it was not. Dean Harrison, president of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, later testified that NMH had "long-standing plans" to build something else on the site, but did not provide a timeline for that development. Though Thursday’s decision could mark the end for preservationists in a long and heated fight, another court hearing is set for February 15.
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Downtown Chicago Eyed for Major Tech Hub

The University of Illinois and the state are pushing a plan to build on Chicago’s growing tech sector, calling for support from major institutions in the area to help support a tech lab in downtown Chicago. Details are hazy  now, but Crain's is reporting the $100 million-per-year operation would draw support from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and other regional engines of high-tech knowledge, as well as the corporate community, for a facility or campus in the heart of the city. Google and Motorola recently made high-profile decisions to expand operations in Chicago, and the Department of Energy named Argonne National Laboratory its national hub for battery research and technology development. What this means for the local design community is unclear just yet, but as downtown and West Loop construction picks up it is clear that some developers are banking on growing demand.
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Preservationists: Chicago Prentice Demolition More Costly Than Re-Use

The top brass in the field of design have long supported preserving Chicago’s Old Prentice Women's Hospital. Now proposals to save the embattled Bertrand Goldberg building may have economics on their side, too, according to a new report commissioned by advocates who hope to convince owner Northwestern University not to demolish the four-pronged curvilinear tower. Jim Peters, former Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, led the Save Prentice coalition Thursday. Placing the building in the context of architectural landmarks as catalysts for economic development, the group revealed several “counter-proposals” for reuse and an economic impact study that found reusing Prentice and building elsewhere onsite or nearby would generate "significant upfront and ongoing economic benefits." They accepted the University’s economic stipulations as a baseline; Northwestern has stated its proposal to demolish Old Prentice Women’s Hospital and rebuild onsite would create 2,500 temporary construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs, and $390 million annually in net economic impact for the city. Those benchmarks were cited by the landmarks commission and community groups urging demolition. The proposals presented Thursday by Save Prentice promised to deliver those same economic benefits from new buildings constructed onsite and across the street on another vacant property owned by Northwestern. They also claimed rehabilitation of the Goldberg structure would generate an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. “Prentice is an additive element,” said Christina Morris of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “You only get more by including it.” The four proposals include a master-planning approach for Prentice and the surrounding area, a 36-story tower cantilevered partway over Superior Street to the North (which would require air rights from the city), and a curved tower that frames Prentice from the northwest corner of the site. Kujawa Architecture’s proposal provides “a distinct visual marker of the biomedical research corridor,” according to principal Casimir Kujawa. After a procedurally questionable snub from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in November, preservationists sued to obtain temporary landmark status for Prentice. Their victory surprised some observers, many of whom had written off preservationists’ chances when Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he supported Northwestern’s demolition plans. On the heels of the court’s decision, which called for more time for public consideration of preservation and reuse options, the Chicago Architectural Club, CAF, and AIA Chicago unveiled the winners of their competition imagining alternate uses for the mostly vacant building. The winning entry by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta was included in the counter-proposals released Thursday. “It’s not too late,” Peters said. “The building still exists.”
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High Speed Rail picks up speed between Chicago and St. Louis

Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed. The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year. Amtrak's Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.
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Rockford Valley College May Axe Booth Hansen / Jeanne Gang Project

A push to consolidate art classrooms and performance venues on the campus of a prominent Rockford, Illinois college seems to have hit the doldrums, as Rock Valley College (RVC) administrators shake up priorities and pull back the budget. The Rockford Register Star reported RVC’s new arts instructional center, which received plans from Booth Hansen and Jeanne Gang, may get the axe. RVC faculty originally envisioned a campus arts center 13 years ago, but things have changed. Most notably their finances and administrative leadership. The college has already spent $3 million on plans sketched by Booth Hansen and Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. But now they are considering abandoning the concept altogether, instead scattering art classrooms and performance facilities across campus and throughout renovated existing buildings. It is possible, however, future plans will still include the high-profile Chicago architects. The Rockford Register Star quotes two opposing voices on the situation:

“No one has proven to me that a name attached to the design brings enough cachet to justify the return on investment,” [RVC Board Chairman Michael Dunn, Jr.] said. “The culture argument is not about who designed the building. It’s about what’s in it.”

Director of the Rockford Area Arts Council Anne O’Keefe had a different take:

“Jeanne Gang is going to be the Frank Lloyd Wright of our generation,” O’Keefe said. “I’d just hate to lose this opportunity and look back in 20 years and say oh, we let that one get away.”

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Bloomingdale Trail Plans Come Into Focus With New Renderings

Last night, updated plans for Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail were presented at a public meeting—the public session's last chance to comment on the design before final plans are presented this December. The trail is an elevated linear park designed by a team including Collins Engineers, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and Frances Whitehead on a former rail viaduct running through Chicago. AN contributor and sustainable transit enthusiast Steven Vance attended the meeting at the Humboldt Park Field House, recapping the event on the GRID Chicago blog. Among the details confirmed at the meeting, construction is set to begin summer 2013. While the trail will open for bikers and pedestrians in Fall 2014, landscaping and art installations will continue into 2015. Plans put the elevated linear park into sharper focus, revealing exactly how pedestrians and cyclists can enter the trail at various points accentuated with parks, plazas, and public art. The viaduct will be recontoured to connect with the street and provide a dynamic experience throughout the park. You can download a PDF of the full presentation here, which includes some nearly finalized designs and plans for the long-anticipated rails-to-trails park system. Click on a thumbnail below to launch the slideshow.
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Even More Protected Bike Lanes to Serve Downtown Chicago

In a city where bicyclists may share a lane with Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, last year’s promise by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of 100 miles of protected bike paths was cause for celebration. Chicago's latest project, announced Sunday, will be a protected lane along Dearborn Street in the Loop that will run in both directions from Polk to Kinzie. The new route connects the near north side with the south loop and is designed to appeal to young, tech-savvy commuters who work downtown. “It will help us recruit the type of people that have been leaving for the coast,” Emanuel said. “They will now come to the city of Chicago.” The Active Transportation Alliance circulated a petition to hold the Mayor’s administration to its word. Others, like the Sun-Times’ Mark Konkol, have called protected lanes a waste of money and decried a faulty “cyclist culture” that makes streets more dangerous for pedestrians and bikers alike. Chicago will add 22 miles of protected bike lanes by the end of the year, bringing the city's total to 33 miles.
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IIT Names Wiel Arets New Architecture Dean

The Illinois Institute of Technology named Dutch designer Wiel Arets as the new dean of its architecture school Tuesday. Currently a professor at the Berlin University for the Arts, Arets will replace Donna Robertson. Arets is an acclaimed architect whose firm, WAA, has studios in Amsterdam, Berlin, Maastricht, and Zürich. His current projects include Amsterdam Central Station’s IJhal, Allianz Headquarters in Zürich, and the A’ House in Tokyo. Mies van der Rohe chaired IIT’s architecture school for 20 years starting in 1938 and designed its main campus on Chicago’s South Side.
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Illinois To Test High-Speed Rail South of Joliet

Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak have sought permission from federal regulators to conduct the first test of high-speed rail in Illinois. A 20-mile track between the cities of Dwight and Pontiac could be a proving ground for the 110 mph passenger train starting October 1. They would be testing a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates — one that uses radio signals to raise gates 80 seconds before a crossing in order to give the faster trains more time to slow down or stop if necessary. The current system uses track circuits to communicate, and allows the normal 79-mph trains 30 to 35 seconds of clearance before a crossing. The Illinois Department of Transportation will conduct a survey to determine whether motorists will tolerate the longer wait times. Funding for high-speed rail was narrowly approved in California earlier this month, as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and others continued to build on growing excitement for high-speed rail in the heartland.

Eavesdrop: Bueller? Bueller!

Part of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) renown as a classic truancy film and Chicago landmark travelogue is the über-modernist glass and steel house with the disaster-inviting garage from which Ferris launches the priceless 1961 Ferrari belonging to friend Cameron's father. The house (and garage), of course, is a metaphor for Cameron's sad and lonely home life. As Ferris, the budding architectural critic, explains to his vaguely suicidal foil, "The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything."   Attention melancholy home buyers in search of beautiful and cold! This 1953 Miesian knockoff of cinematic fame, located in Chicago's tony Highland Park suburb, is now for sale for $2.3 million. Designed by "Less is More" disciples A. James Speyer (1913-1986) and David Haid (1928-1993), the 5,300-square-foot house is being sold "as is" (two of the most anxiety-producing words in real estate). Selling point: Because the house is sited over a maintenance-free ravine instead of a lawn, the new owner can route those savings right to the perpetually depleted HVAC fund.