Louisvillians lament that new highways won’t solve the city's congestion problems, though the increased number of options to pass through the city are a bonus for anyone who doesn’t wish to make a pitstop on their way somewhere bigger and better. It’s a classic, tragic story that’s hurt many American cities suffering from mid-century highway build-outs. Some are making concerted efforts to replace aging infrastructure with beautiful boulevards and walkable, shared streets, but others aren't thinking as clearly about how to keep people in town, as opposed to letting them drive on by. Kentucky’s busiest bridge, the Sherman Minton, sits further outside downtown than its counterparts. As the city’s only toll-free link to Indiana, it sees 90,000 drivers per day. The 56-year-old structure is slated to begin a $90 million rehabilitation project in 2021. Time will tell whether or not its partial or full closure during construction will force people to start crossing the newer structures that spew out of the city’s core. The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet just ended a public input period to figure out next steps. A recommendation will be made next fall.
There are bad highways projects and then there’s this...I visited Louisville with @cnunextgen in 2014 & remember thinking this project couldn’t be real. $1.3 billion later... traffic volume has been cut in half, riverfront is cut-off & development has been hindered. https://t.co/5u8415JMEB — Nate Hood (@natehoodstp) November 28, 2018
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You might say that furniture designer Jonathan Nesci is doing things in reverse. Rather than starting his career in a small town and ending with his work selling at auction in the big city, he is making a go at high design in a small community. After working at the Wright design auction house in Chicago, Nesci made the seemingly unconventional move away from the furniture mecca to a small town in south-central Indiana. But that small town was none other than Columbus, Indiana, the modernist playground. Nesci sat down with AN Midwest Editor Matthew Messner to discuss.
The Architect’s Newspaper: Why the move from Chicago to Columbus, Indiana?
Jonathan Nesci: Primarily, my move was a family decision. During the financial mess of 2008–2009, my time at Wright had come to an end and I felt like we needed a fresh start. I felt like I could really work from anywhere, and the thought of my kids getting a chance to grow up in a place like Columbus was and continues to be very appealing. This is not meant to ignore my obvious connection to the architecture, but on a whole the appeal of Columbus is very broad.
Have you found living surrounded by many masterpieces of modernist architecture to be beneficial to your work?
It’s undeniable. It’s energizing to see the Henry Moore sculpture at different times of day, or catch a different view of an Eero Saarinen project that I hadn’t seen before. So much of my design work is informed by the past; I feel very fortunate to get to interact with these places on a regular basis. It’s also encouraging to see some great examples of the built environment really working for people. Architecture and design can make a difference and are doing so here. Not just for me but for an entire community. That’s really powerful.
You are often associated with the architecture community, especially through collaborations and exhibitions. What do you take from those formal or informal relationships?
I’m eternally grateful for the connections to my peers in the design and architecture community. These relationships inform and inspire me. Columbus is my creative island, but it’s important for me to travel and see other ways of working and learn from my contemporaries. I have so much respect for work that rises above the norm, and I admire those who are pioneers in this industry. I feel like my world is all about connections and dialogue.
Your work is directly tied to the manufacturing process. Could you talk about your relationship to the people who make it?
My hope is that the relationship between designer and producer makes both of us better at what we do. This collaboration pushes design and fabrication further, and it’s this fusion of ideas that excites me. I guess the most significant change since moving to Columbus is developing a great relationship with numerous local firms, specifically Noblitt Fabricating. It’s rewarding and beneficial to see multiple projects through with the same team.
Atop a tall sand dune overlooking the southern shore of Lake Michigan sits one of the last remnants of the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair. In severe need of restoration, the House of Tomorrow, designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck, is set to receive an update from a team of Chicago firms.
The announcement by Indiana Landmarks named bKL Architecture as the architecture and interior design lead. Bauer Latoza Studio will offer historic preservation services and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates will be the structural engineer. Willoughby Engineering will handle mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, and HJKessler Associates will act as the sustainability consultant.
In fall 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Indiana Landmarks launched a $2.5-million campaign to restore the house after the Trust named it a National Treasure. At the time of the fair, the house was often referred to by the media as “America’s First Glass House,” and it was a beacon of modern technology for the World’s Fair’s 39 million visitors. The glass curtain walls came nearly 20 years before both Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House, which sits only 90 miles directly to the west. Giving a view of an optimistic future, the home focused on how science and technology could improve everyday life.
The house’s innovations include an “iceless” refrigerator, the first-ever General Electric dishwasher, and copious amounts of glass for passive solar heating. Keck would later go on to design 300 other passive solar houses, mostly in the Chicago area, throughout his long career, but the House of Tomorrow remains a standout for its uncanny design.
The 12-sided home radiates from a central hub that contains mechanical equipment. Spoke-like steel girders cantilever from the center, supporting the second and third-floor concrete slabs. This unusual structural system allows for an open floor plan, which is also rare for its time. The plan for the restoration includes removing deteriorated surfaces and revealing this steel framework. The house’s iconic glass facade will be replaced with contemporary smart glass.
The story of the House of Tomorrow after the fair is almost as eccentric as the house itself. After the closing of the World’s Fair, a Chicago developer named Robert Bartlett commissioned a fleet of barges and trucks to move the house and four other houses from the exposition to their current resting place in Beverly Shores, Indiana. Bartlett’s plan was to develop a vacation hotspot for Chicago. While this may not have worked out for him, they have become a pilgrimage point for architects and beachgoers alike as part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Though listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in the 1980s, the houses had fallen into severe disrepair by the 1990s. In order to save them, Indiana Landmarks was able to lease the homes from the National Parks Service and sublease four of them to individuals. Those sub-lessees were obliged to restore them, at their own expense, in exchange for long-term residency. The cost of restoration for the four houses was in excess of one million each, and the House of Tomorrow’s atypical materials and construction meant Indiana Landmarks would have to do the work itself.
But, with the naming of the restoration team and fundraising, the future of the House of Tomorrow is bright.