You don’t often hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel utter these words, so when Rahmbo admitted he “made a mistake” in proposing naming a Near North Side school after Obama, his former boss, we thought it worthwhile to get him on the record here. Earlier this year Emanuel threw $60 million in TIF funding to the planned selective enrollment school, offering up the name apparently without consulting local leaders, including the head of Chicago Public Schools. They didn’t like the idea, as it turns out, probably only a little more than Emanuel didn’t like every local reporter committing his rare self-effacement to print.
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Preservation and new development are often at odds, but sometimes Chicago has its cake and eats it, too. Case-in-point: the Harriet F. Rees House, a landmark on both local and national lists that happens to share an address with an arena and hotel complex planned for the South Loop. The Rees House is currently the only building on the 2100 block of S. Prairie Ave., but on Tuesday it begins its two day journey 600 feet north to 2017 S. Prairie Ave. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), a semi-public entity that oversees Navy Pier and the McCormick Place Convention Center, sued to gain control of the property earlier this year. Now McPier is paying $6 million to move the remarkably well-preserved 19th century townhouse to make room for a Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed arena for DePaul University that is expected by the end of 2016. They will also pay $1.9 million to acquire the land and $450,000 to compensate Rees house owner Sam Martorina for loss of use of the property during the moving process this summer, reported Crain's Chicago Business. This feat of engineering will clear land in the South Loop for a series of developments including a hotel, office space and an arena that the city has agreed to help finance with public tax benefits—not without controversy—because it is intended to boost economic activity associated with the massive convention center. Construction firm Bulley & Andrews is working with Wolfe House Building & Movers to roll the 762-ton house up the street, employing massive dollies and a steel exoskeleton to stabilize the historic structure during its journey. The wheeled dollies are semi-automated and will begin the move Tuesday morning. The Rees House is expected to arrive in its new location by Wednesday afternoon. A webcam will monitor the move here. Built in 1888, the three-story brick and limestone mansion won recognition from the national register of historic places in 2012. It was built for the widow of real estate pioneer and land surveyor James H. Rees, and remains a well-maintained example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Impressive though the move is, it's not the only time Chicago has heaved hefty buildings instead of opting for demolition. As Josh Mogerman wrote for Chicagoist earlier this year, Chicago's oldest house—the nearby Henry Clarke Mansion—was lifted and relocated twice. Much of Chicago itself was hoisted hydraulically as the booming city overwhelmed its swampy foundations. The Rees House will be registered once again as a national landmark at its new address—assuming it gets there in one piece.
A new downtown festival launching tomorrow celebrates the “grit, greatness and renewal” of Chicago by paying tribute its greatest tragedy. In a move reminiscent of Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain, The Chicago Fire Festival will float some theatrical pyrotechnics down the Chicago River on Saturday evening. Chicago's most infamous disaster has long been less a symbol of destruction than rebirth. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed hundreds of people and leveled several square miles of the still young city. That cleared the way for the birth of modern Chicago, a bittersweet legacy celebrated to this day by a star on the city's flag, as well as in the names of its major league soccer team and its downtown tech business incubator. The city tasked local Redmoon Theater with organizing the inaugural Chicago Fire Festival, corralling corporate sponsors and non-profit foundations to produce the event. “The Great Chicago Fire basically birthed our great cultural export: architecture,” Redmoon's director Jim Lasko told Chicago Magazine. The festival will be a culmination of Redmoon's previous effort, a three-month series of free events throughout dozens of Chicago neighborhoods that asked residents about challenges they've overcome and successes they celebrate. Many of their answers will be projected on floating barges in the river between State Street and Columbus Drive on Saturday night. If the festival is a success, organizers hope it will become an annual fixture of public art in Chicago. If not, it will burn away with the models of Victorian homes and period-specific Chicago architecture that Redmoon is offering up in the name of The Great Chicago Fire Festival.
Chicagoisms Art Institute of Chicago 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ilinois Through January 4, 2015 Chicagoisms is an ongoing exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago that focuses on key historical principles—“Chicagoisms”—that went into creating and shaping the city that we know today. The exhibition was put together by architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda working with designer Matt Wizinsky. The show features interpretations of five Chicagoisms from nine different architects—Bureau Spectacular, DOGMA, MVDRV, Organization for Permanent Modernity, PORT, Sam Jacob, UrbanLab, Weathers, and WW. The architects paired architectural models with manifestos regarding their significance and present them in juxtaposition with historical black-and-white photographs. The result is a double vision showing both the contrast between the art and architecture of today’s Chicago and that of the past, as well as how historical factors continue to act as a catalyst for contemporary innovators.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday $1.9 million—most of which comes from the state’s portion of a federal settlement with banks over mortgage fraud—will go to rehab historic homes in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. Some $1.5 million of the money comes from a 2014 settlement with mortgage lenders including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America and Ally over fraudulent behavior they are alleged to have encouraged during the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Most of the money will go toward renovating homes in the Far South Side neighborhood, which was created as a company town for Pullman’s once-ubiquitous traincars. The city will kick in an additional $400,000 to help finance the purchase of rehabbed homes as part of an “affordable historic home revitalization initiative,” according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. That effort is part of a larger state program to battle blight in communities with lots of vacant and abandoned properties. Pullman has seen new development in recent years, including a contentious Walmart in 2010, and ongoing work from the Historic Pullman Foundation to preserve the neighborhood’s architectural heritage. Local preservationists are even hoping to win National Park status for the neighborhood—the National Park Service said late last year that the district “appears likely to meet the national significance and suitability criteria” for further study.
Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. "We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture," said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. "There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it." Peluso’s studio began with an internal competition. Because the spring semester course followed a class dedicated to the exploration of various composite materials, many of the students were already familiar with the pros and cons of carbon fiber. "Toward the end of the first semester we started working with carbon fiber, and it wasn’t the greatest result," said Peluso. "But we knew we had to keep working with it. That played a big part in the selection of the design for the second semester." The students judged the submissions on constructability as well as aesthetics, he explained. "It was interesting to see the students as the pavilions were being presented, see their minds turning on: ‘Okay, this one is feasible—this is one we can actually build.’ Sometimes the design was a little better, but the overall project seemed less possible within the time frame." The winning design is based on a bivalve shell structure. The student who came up with the idea used parametric design software to explore tessellations of the single shell form. "What I was pushing them to do in the first semester was large surfaces that weren’t repetitive," said Peluso. "In the second semester, it was like they intuitively knew there had to be repetition of the unit." As a group, the class further developed the design in Rhino and Grasshopper. But while the students used parametric software to generate the shell pattern, in general FIBERwave PAVILION was "less about designing in the computer," said Peluso. "Most of it was fabrication based." The studio was hands-on from the beginning, when students were asked to submit a small-scale carbon fiber with their competition entries. They went back to Rhino to make the molds. "We had to make six molds," explained Peluso. "Even though it was one identical shell unit we had to produce 86 of these shells. When you make a composite unit, if you have one mold you can only make one shell per day." In the end, the students fabricated a total of 90 shells (including several extra to make up for any defects) over the course of about four weeks. "The actual assembly was pretty quick, the pavilion itself went together in less than a day," said Peluso. Laterally, bolts through CNC-drilled holes connect the shells at two points on either side. The overlapping rows of shells are secured vertically through bolted pin connections. The installation remained on the IIT campus for one month, after which the students disassembled it in just 25 minutes. The Chicago Composite Initiative, which provided crucial technical guidance during the project, has since erected FIBERwave PAVILION in one of its classrooms. The fundraising component of the project was as important as its design and fabrication elements. Peluso initially hoped that the carbon fiber industry would donate materials, but "we didn’t have as much luck as we anticipated because we hadn’t done anything before that would warrant their interest," he said. "That’s one of the goals of the pavilion itself, to create an awareness in architecture that this could be a great material to use." Peluso’s course did have help from West System Epoxy, which provided the curing resin at a discount. To fill the funding gap, the students ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,937 from a $6,500 goal. They made incentives for the donors, including 3D-printed necklaces and earrings. "I don’t think we realized how much work was going to go into that," said Peluso. To raise additional funds, the class held bake sales on campus. For Peluso, the process of designing and building FIBERwave PAVILION proved as valuable as the finished product. "The way the students collaborated made the project a success," he said. "Sometimes in group projects you get a few drifters, and some really strong ones. But all twelve students really stepped up. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t all come together as a group."
Gallup pollsters recently asked Americans if they had the opportunity to move, “would you like to move to another state, or would you rather remain in your current state?” Well, Illinois and Connecticut earned the dubious distinction of having the nation’s most restless residents. About half of the surveyed residents in Illinois wanted to bounce, but don’t expect an influx of moving boxes. We’ll probably just ride it out and complain. Case in point: another Gallup poll found 25 percent of Illinoisans surveyed said their state is “the worst possible place to live in”—second only in self-loathing to Rhode Island.
Happy birthday, Millennium Park! Yes, the Chicago park named for the chronological milestone now 14 years in the rearview mirror is turning 10—it went famously over-schedule and over-budget but we love it nonetheless. Last year 4.75 million people visited Chicago’s front yard, taking in free concerts and events, and probably taking at least as many selfies with Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate and the flowing titanium locks of Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in the background. In honor of the anniversary, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is kicking off a series of shows and exhibitions that includes new work from Crown Fountain designer Jaume Plensa. Hey, Jaume! Email us if you need another face for your 40-foot LED projection! Here at AN, we're celebrating with ten of our favorite photographs of the park taken over the past decade and more. Take a look below.
Decades before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Frank Lloyd Wright designed an accessible home for a World War II veteran. Now Wright’s only home designed for a person with a disability will open to the public. Wright’s Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois opens for tours on June 6, two days before what would have been its architect’s 147th birthday. When Phyllis Laurent in 1948 urged her husband, who used a wheelchair, to contact Wright about designing a home for him, the architect reportedly responded, “Dear Laurent: We are interested but don’t guarantee costs. Who knows what they are today - ?” The brick and cypress structure’s design is a celebrated example of Wright’s “Usonian” single-story homes. It features an overhang sheltering a carport and a “solar hemicycle” shape typical of the style. The State of Illinois bought the house in 2012 and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. Wright himself referred to it as a “little gem.” Several other Wright buildings have opened to the public lately, including the Emil Bach House in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, the SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, and the architect's home studio in Oak Park, Illinois.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is drowning. The banks of the Fox River served as an idyllic setting for the building’s white steel and glass when it landed in Plano, Illinois. But lately the Fox has gone rabid, spilling over its banks three times in the past 18 years. So what to do? Preservationists are looking at installing hydraulic jacks to lift the house during floods, to the tune of about $3 million. Call it the Three Million Dollar Modernist. Ironically Mies put the house on stilts to prevent such flooding; I guess you can’t outwit a wily Fox.
Piles of dusty, black waste from coal and petroleum processing have been piling up on Chicago’s southeast side, angering residents and prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to weigh in on the contentious environmental issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Emanuel will introduce an ordinance at next month’s City Council meeting banning new storage facilities for so-called petcoke—a byproduct of the oil refinery process that can be sold overseas. It’s a step back from an outright ban proposed in December by Alderman Edward Burke, whose constituents were outraged by black dust clouds wafting from uncovered piles of petcoke along the Calumet River. Southeast side communities like Calumet, South Chicago, and South Deering are no strangers to industrial zoning. The Illinois-Indiana border has long been a pastiche of brownfields, residential communities, natural areas, and heavy industry. But the swirling black dust incited a class-action lawsuit filed against three storage sites last year. Chicago’s Department of Public Health shares area residents’ concerns. “We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Bechara Choucair told the Sun-Times. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems…We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.” The anticipated zoning ordinance would prevent new petcoke storage facilities from entering the city, and would keep current outfits from expanding. KCBX, the largest such facility in the area, says the ordinance is unjustified, a sentiment shared by some business groups:
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association called the ordinance “a solution in search of a problem.” … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is also questioning the ordinance, calling it an “overreaction.” “We don’t understand what the mayor is trying to accomplish here. Petcoke and coal have been handled and stored in Chicago for decades with few issues. This seems like an overreaction to one incident – good policy rarely comes from overreacting,” Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO said.KCBX is an affiliate of Koch Industries, the business empire of brothers Charles and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Carbon, came under fire last year for storing the same material along the Detroit River.
Chicago’s stalled supertall Spire could rise again, according to the Irish developer who went into foreclosure in 2010 after a protracted legal battle over the project. Garrett Kelleher’s lawyers on Thursday filed papers in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking court approval to move ahead with the Chicago Spire, which remains a hole in the ground at 400 North Lake Shore Drive. Kelleher said a $135 million investment from Atlas Apartment Holdings would allow him to settle bankruptcy claims in full but, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, the court filings don’t say how much more money would be needed to fund the construction of the 2,000-foot-tall condo skyscraper. The twisting tower would have been the largest in the western hemisphere, but the project fell apart in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Skyward-looking Chicagoans, however, never went long without some speculation of the Spire’s resurrection. In June last year, Related Cos. of New York signed on to buy the project's debt. But an affiliate of Related later sued Kelleher for more than $95 million in guarantees involved with the project. According to the plan proposed Thursday, Kelleher’s firm Shelbourne North Water Street would put forward a reorganization plan by August 31 to bring the project out of bankruptcy, potentially transferring the property to Atlas. "We have been working with Garrett Kelleher over the past several months and now share his belief and vision in the Chicago Spire," said Steven Ivankovich, CEO of Northbrook-based Atlas, in a statement. Kelleher seemed optimistic as ever about the project’s sky-high ambitions. "Given the ongoing recovery in the Chicago property market, the timing is better now than when this project commenced," Kelleher said in a statement. "I am delighted to have found a partner who believes in the project as passionately as I do."