Metal and glass accentuate Chicago high-rise's iconic form.Given the odds stacked against it, Godfrey Hotel's 2014 opening in Chicago counts as a major victory—even if it took more than a decade to get there. Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA) signed on to the project in 2003, after being approached by a developer affiliated with a mid-market hospitality chain. Four years later, following a delay in financing, construction was finally underway. Then the recession hit, the original developer went under, and the building remained half-finished. The case languished in bankruptcy court until 2012, when Oxford Capital Group purchased the property. Fortunately, boutique hotel operator Oxford Hotels and Resorts hired VDTA to complete the project—with few changes to the original plans. "It's interesting that through the course of the almost four years that this sat wrapped in tarps, it remained desirable," said VDTA's David Jennerjahn. "For the hotel operator, it was a really distinguishing architectural design." Together with its cantilevered form, Godfrey hotel's slick metal panel and glass facade combines function and aesthetics in an iconic package. The hotel appears as a series of three offset rectangular boxes, stacked vertically. "The building has a very symbolic form—what I would call a very muscular form—and none of that is arbitrary," said VDTA's Joe Valerio. The offsets serve two purposes. First, they express the building's structure, which follows the staggered truss system developed in the 1960s by William LeMessurier, a noted structural engineer. As the name suggests, LeMessurier's method involves staggering story-high steel trusses on alternating column lines, thus creating large clear span interiors. Though the staggered truss system is usually deployed to create buildings that "look like a cereal box," said Valerio, VDTA approached their structural engineer with an alternative proposal. "We nonchalantly said, 'There's a lot of redundant strength there. [The volumes] should be able to cantilever out,'" he recalled. The structural engineer gave them the go-ahead, and Godfrey Hotel's unique form was born. As an additional benefit, the stacked configuration allowed the architects to carve the interior spaces into a variety of room types and sizes, an idea they prized from the project's beginning—and which Oxford Hotels and Resorts, in particular, embraced. Like the offsets, said Jennerjahn, the building's skin performs a specific set of functions even as it "works toward the goal of creating a distinctive boutique hotel image." On the north and south facades, an insulated metal panel system from Metl-Span attaches directly to the stud work, doing triple duty as weather barrier, vapor barrier, and insulation. Integrated punched windows nod to the River North neighborhood's masonry fabric, while the panels' taut surface avoids detracting attention from the building's unique shape. Finally, said Jennerjahn, "using a metal skin on a metal frame building was another tie to an honest expression [of the structure]." The east and west facades are almost entirely transparent. "In 2003, no one had heard of LEED," said Valerio. Noting the potential for solar gain, he explained, "If we were designing the building today, we wouldn't have all-glass walls on the east and west elevations. We put them there because we wanted to take advantage of the views." The glass also reveals the staggered truss system. Because the trusses run north-south, opening the building to the east and west was the only way to show them off. "That created other opportunities we did not even think of," said Valerio. In some cases, he said, "the trusses really become a part of the room," operating as built-in furniture. Despite the change in ownership and an eleven-year gap between conception and execution, Godfrey Hotel's architectural design remained almost entirely unaltered. "There were some changes internally, but the exterior of the building and the expression of the building were very consistent," observed Jennerjahn. Valerio agrees—and is humble enough to acknowledge the unusual serendipity of the situation. "Oxford fundamentally built the hotel exactly as we had designed it," he said. "It was really just an amazing kind of dumb luck."
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Developers tap Perkins + Will principal to help redevelop site adjacent to Bertrand Goldberg's River City
Plans for 2,700 new homes along the Chicago River have some neighbors and realtors calling a long-vacant lot near the Willis Tower by a new name. “River South” refers to a few sites, among them: a 7.3-acre riverside parcel between Harrison Street and the River City condo complex designed by Bertrand Goldberg. As Crain's Chicago Business reports, that's where developers CMK and Lend Lease are planning five towers with nearly 2,700 residential units, anchored by a 47-story building with 626 units. The developers tapped Perkins + Will principal Ralph Johnson to draft a master plan for the area. Whether or not the River South moniker sticks, the area has generated renewed interest from real estate watchers. Two other Chicago developers, D2 Realty and Phoenix Development Partners, have previously hinted at a large, mixed-use development on a 1.6 acre-parcel nearby. According to Crain's, developer Related Midwest is in talks to develop another 62-acre property at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River.
You can credit Chicago's recent boom in boutique hotels with revving up an historic 16-story building once home to the Chicago Motor Club, which rolled back onto the market in May as a Hampton Inn. As AN wrote at the project's inception, the design draws heavily on 68 East Wacker Place's history. Perhaps most notably, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture retained a 29-foot mural by Chicago artist John Warner Norton that suggests cross-country driving routes from 1927. Mural restoration expert Dmitri Rybchenkov, of the Chicago firm Restoration Division, led those efforts. In addition to the mural, other details recall the building's original identity as a motorist's mecca. To wit, an original 1928 Ford Model A overlooks the lobby. Interior designers with Gettys One also worked to restore many of the art deco details originally included by architects Holabird & Root. Vacant for over a decade, the building was destined for demolition before developer John T. Murphy, president of Murphy Asset Management, cobbled together historic preservation tax credits and financing from the Hampton Inn hotel chain to revive the short yet handsome structure.
Via Kenny Kim Photography, take a look inside the renovated Chicago Motor Club building:
Take a tour of Chicago's newest Green Line stop, Cermak-McCormick Place, designed by Ross Barney Architects
Chicago commuters transiting through the South Loop and Chinatown have had a new stop since early this year, when the Chicago Transit Authority opened its newest train stop: Cermak-McCormick Place. Designed by Ross Barney Architects (the team behind West Loop's lauded Morgan stop for the Pink and Green Lines), the new station employs brawny steel trusses and sleek, curved surfaces. Via the architects, here's a gallery of images from the new station, shot by Kate Joyce Studios:
The Chicago Park District starts work today on a new project by Yoko Ono. Her first permanent public art installation in the Americas will be a meditation on world peace, harmony with nature, and Japanese-American relations dubbed SKY LANDING, which is slated for a parcel of Jackson Park once home to the historic Phoenix Pavilion. Instead of a groundbreaking, construction began Friday with a “ground healing” ceremony on Wooded Island. Ono's installation, set to open in June 2016, will include a sculpture and landscape design meant to evoke a sense of harmony with nature. The details of the project are still largely undefined. “I recall being immediately connected to the powerful site and feeling the tension between the sky and the ground,” Ono said in a press statement. “I wanted the Sky to land here, to cool it, and make it well again.” Following the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the Japan Construction Company shipped several prefabricated, traditional Japanese structures to Chicago's South Side, establishing the Ho-o-den (Phoenix Pavilion). It remained on Wooded Island until fire destroyed the Phoenix Pavilion in 1946. Now home to Osaka Garden, the site is part of a public-private overhaul of Jackson and Washington Parks under the nonprofit banner Project 120 Chicago. Led by the Chicago Park District and businesspeople including Robert Karr, Jr., a lawyer and the executive vice president of the Japan America Society of Chicago, Project 120 Chicago was convened to “revitalize” Frederick Law Olmsted's South Side parks, which have suffered from years of deferred maintenance. In 2012 the group's efforts began with an initiative to plant hundreds of cherry blossom trees. They then hired architect Kulapat Yantrasast and his firm wHY to look into building a new Phoenix Pavilion. Preservation landscape architect and planner Patricia O’Donnell and her firm Heritage Landscapes were hired to lead larger preservation efforts in the parks.
Chicago's long-awaited bikeway and elevated park, The 606, opened last weekend (on 6/6, no less) to a rush of pedestrians and cyclists who were eager to test out the new 2.7-mile trail after years of planning, design and construction. The public park remains extremely popular in the sunny week following its debut. https://vimeo.com/130217662 Formerly called the Bloomingdale Trail, the former railroad has been likened to New York City's High Line, but it is quite different—the 606 is as much a highway for bikes as anything else, due in part to its having been largely funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) improvement program. For those who haven't had a chance to visit the trail, Steven Vance of Streetsblog snapped this time-lapse video of a recent bike ride that covers the length of the trail, which runs through the West Side neighborhoods of Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park, and West Town. (Vance is also a contributor to AN.) https://instagram.com/p/3tlNEuERTh/ Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates led the design of the trail, which slopes slightly at various points throughout its length to slow bike traffic and suggest spaces for community events. Several access points connect the elevated trail to parks and city streets below. Meanwhile with The 606 up and running, affordable housing advocates are worried the popular park could help swell the tide of gentrification sweeping out longtime neighborhood residents. https://instagram.com/p/3t4zaOCP0J/
The area around Chicago’s former Cabrini-Green public housing project has been a contentious site for a long time, basically in flux since the city first started demolishing it in 1995. Despite Chicago Housing Authority moving decidedly without alacrity to redevelop much of the site, the neighborhood is changing. The latest cue? Developers plan to demolish the long-vacant St. Dominic’s Church on the corner of Locust and Sedgwick. It’s a lovely looking Romanesque church, dating back to 1905, but its history can’t stop the tide of development: a 6-story, 45-unit condo building, designed by Sullivan Goulette & Wilson Architects, is slated to rise in its place. The church has been closed for more than 25 years, so Eaves isn’t surprised that it’s on its way out, but here’s to hoping the new neighborhood finds its soul during the glacial redevelopment of Cabrini-Green into a mixed-use, mixed-income community.
The water is so clear right now in Lake Michigan, you can see sunken ships beneath the crystal waves
Winter ice is melting around the Great Lakes, revealing cerulean waters below—and, in northern Lake Michigan, an open graveyard of shipwrecks. Lake Michigan's Manitou Passage is a popular diving destination for shipwreck-seekers, but this year the Spring weather has conspired to produce an unusually plain view of the sunken ships. The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station of Traverse City, Michigan said last week in a Facebook post that an air crew first glimpsed the exposed wrecks during a routine patrol of the northern Michigan coastline. Though still a chilly 38.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the water will soon warm, welcoming recreational swimmers, divers, boaters and an influx of nutrient runoff from towns and farms in the watershed. That will usher in algal blooms and again obscure the wrecks currently visible through the crystal clear water.
The Associated Press has reported that Barack Obama's presidential library will be in his adopted hometown of Chicago. After months of speculation that the 44th President of the United States might site his legacy project in New York City—where he attended Columbia University—or his birth city of Honolulu, Hawaii, multiple unnamed sources cited by the AP and other publications say Obama and his nonprofit foundation have settled on Chicago, where he forged his political career. The University of Chicago, where Obama taught law, will host the library and museum. No architect has yet been named. The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, likely spurring more development on Chicago's South Side. As the city from which Obama was first elected to public office and in 2008 first addressed the nation as its first African-American president-elect, Chicago was seen by many as an obvious choice. But in the long lead-up to the decision—made longer by the protracted race for Chicago mayor, which saw former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel spend millions of dollars to fend off an unexpected political challenger from the left—sources close to the president's foundation had raised concerns about the proposals from several universities around the city. The University of Chicago's winning bid benefitted from having friends in high places. Emanuel led the charge in Chicago City Council to cede public park land to the private library project, successfully lobbying for the same assurance from the state legislature. That move remains controversial, however, and the design team selected to realize the president's legacy of public service will have to contend with opposition from open space advocates in Obama's own backyard.
Iowa City this week picked engineer-turned-artist Cecil Balmond to anchor an overhaul of the city's downtown pedestrian plaza. His sculpture will be the focal point of Iowa City's Black Hawk Mini Park Art Project, the first phase of an $11 million streetscape redevelopment project that officials hope to start next year. Balmond's work aims to enliven public spaces with forceful, architectural installations. His studio has strung shafts of light in Anchorage, Alaska, explored the Solid Void of sculpture with a forest of metal filigree in Chicago's Graham Foundation, and woven steel like rope to bridge a Philadelphia railway. The Chicago Transit Authority recently tapped Cecil Balmond Studio to contribute art for an overhaul of the 91-year-old Wilson Red Line station. An artist review panel consisting of Genus Landscape Architects Brett Douglas and Angie Coyer, and Iowa City staff Geoff Fruin and Marcia Bollinger selected U.K.–born Balmond over artists Vito Acconci and Hans Breder. Construction on the project is expected to begin next year.
Chicago's historic Pullman neighborhood will become a national monument, perhaps putting it into the National Park Service's portfolio—the first Chicago property to receive such a designation. President Barack Obama is expected to name the Far South Side area a national monument during a visit to his adopted hometown next week, invoking his presidential authority under the Antiquities Act for the 14th time. White House officials said it is part of Obama's efforts to diversify the nation's collection of historic places. An analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress found fewer than one-fourth of 461 national parks and monuments had a focus on diverse groups. The home of Pullman Palace Car Co., which made sleeper cars for rail passengers, the Pullman area retains a collection of Queen Anne–style architecture left over from Pullman's worker housing and administration buildings. That collection is considered one of the country's first “company towns.” Once prairie land, Pullman became part of Chicago in 1907. An 1894 strike cemented its place in labor history, when U.S. marshals killed several workers participating in the country's first industrywide walkout. That strike led to the creation of the nation's first African American union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Illinois lawmakers said in a letter to the President that Pullman “helped build the black middle class and laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century." The boundaries of the district will be 103rd Street on the north, 115th Street on the south, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west and the Norfolk & Western rail line on the east.
Open offices have gone from unavoidable interior design trend to the target of some serious backlash. I moderated a panel last week for DisruptCRE's annual conference that tried to suss out what's driving office space design and culture today. I was joined by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, Gensler global design leader and design principal Carlos M. Martínez, IdeaPaint president John Stephans and SpaceTrak CEO Kristine O’Hollearn. We met on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower. As the Chicago Tribune's Meg Graham put it:
Offices are no longer as simple as a couple of cubicles and a water cooler. But taking down walls and throwing in a ping pong table doesn’t automatically inspire innovation, panelists said Thursday at DisruptCRE. … The panelists discussed a growing hesitation toward the open-office trend. “We think that ‘open’ is over, that we’re going backward to more contained spaces, more identity, more sound control,” Tullman said. “We’re discovering that there’s a myth about multitasking — which is actually that you’re doing a lot of things poorly.”You can watch a video of the entire panel on Vimeo, and embedded here, in which we discussed how to encourage collaboration without embracing chaos.