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.
Posts tagged with "Landmarks":
Chicago’s Wrigley Field turns 100 years old this year. To many neighbors and architectural historians, however, the ballpark’s centennial celebrations are an afterthought to the real action: the years-long debate over how to update the landmark park without corrupting its beloved 1914 character. At a community meeting Monday, Lakeview residents expressed concern over proposals including five new outfield signs and two video scoreboards. The plan goes to the Landmarks Commission on Thursday, but local Alderman Tom Tunney said he will not support it. In 2013 Chicago’s Landmarks Commission laid out guidelines for Wrigley upgrades, which its owners and operators maintain are necessary to help pay off structural renovations and modernize the country’s second-oldest ballpark. But opposition has been strong from wary neighbors and the owners of adjacent rooftops, who say new signage will kill their business renting out their ersatz outfield seats. The plan debuted this week differs from the blueprint approved by Landmarks last year. Repeated delays and neighborhood opposition have scuttled plans from owner Tom Ricketts to add a Starwood hotel, 40,000-square-foot gym and open-air plaza in the areas surrounding Wrigley Field. Residents of Wrigleyville now face a dilemma: call Ricketts’ bluff over moving the team to suburban Rosemont, risking the loss of an economic engine, or cave on design guidelines they say are necessary to preserve the character and livelihood of their prosperous North Side community. Unsuccessful bids for development around Wrigley Field go back years. In 2010 developers proposed a mixed-use complex wrapping around the southeast corner of Clark and Addison Streets that never happened. Last year AN contributor Edward Lifson hosted a discussion at Moe's Cantina in Chicago with Elva Rubio, Bill Savage, Dan Meis, and Jonathan Eig “to discover why design matters (even if it might not help the Cubs win the World Series).”
Classically trained sculptors breath new life into four 20-foot angels with the help of Rhino.When Old Structures Engineering engaged Boston Valley Terra Cotta in the restoration of the 1896 vintage Beaux-Arts building at 150 Nassau Street in New York—one of the city’s original steel frame structures—the four decorative angelic figures, or seraphs, that adorned the corners of the uppermost story were in serious decay. “Up close, they were in an appalling state,” said Andrew Evans, engineering project manager. “The biggest issue we had with the angels was understanding what happened with the originals.” The seraphs were carved from stone by Spanish immigrant Ferdinand Miranda in 1895 and had suffered years of exposure and improper maintenance. By the time the facade was up for rehabilitation, the angels were haphazardly strapped to the building with steel bands and supported with bricks. Their state was such that repairs would not suffice and Boston Valley’s artisans began the task of recreating the 20-foot-tall Amazonian figures. It was the company’s first foray into parametric modeling. Like Dorothy stepping from sepia tone into Technicolor, the sculptors at Boston Valley Terra Cotta proclaimed, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” when they fabricated the 20-foot angels using parametric modeling and lasers. “I have a history in classical sculpture, so when this came in front of me, it was sink or swim,” said Mike Fritz, master sculptor at the Buffalo, New York–based ceramics company. “We went to Oz and everything changed after that.” Henceforth, the newly constructed terra cotta angels came to be known as “Dorothy.” The most decrepit angel was photographed onsite and then disassembled for shipment to Buffalo. In Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s ceramics studio, the images were converted with photogrammetry software and transferred to Rhino to build a digital model. The model was divided into sections, such as an arm, a face, several feathers of a wing, etc. Then a laser cutter was used to cut plywood profiles that matched each section. “Those [plywood] profiles of her face or her arms were packed with clay to realize the full forms,” said Mitchell Bring, the project manager for Boston Valley Terra Cotta. Each of Dorothy’s parts were hand-finished by Boston Valley’s staff of 30 sculptors. Once the clay had set, negative molds were made of each section to form the parts for Dorothy’s identical sisters. The finished sections, each of which weighs upward of 500 pounds, were shipped back to 150 Nassau Street in pieces and assembled onsite with mortared joints. Since completing the project, the digitally enhanced sculpture methods have been refined and wholly embraced by Boston Valley’s team of artisans. “Through this work flow, we’re able to get a little closer to our material earlier in the process,” Fritz said. “If we went without the new tools, it would have been six weeks of work in total. But even with our substantial learning curve the modeling and the build on the shop floor only took two-and-a-half weeks total.”
Five firehouses, built over a century ago, were granted landmark status yesterday. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously approved each of these five buildings for what Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney characterized as “a clear expression of civic spirit and pride of purpose that existed at the time they were built and continue to this day in our City’s municipal architecture.”
These historic firehouses are located in Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace sections of Brooklyn; Bathgate and Longwood in the Bronx; and the Rockaway Park area of Queens. The buildings represent a range of architectural styles from Romanesque Revival and Neo Classical to Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival—and were designed by several noteworthy architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including, Frank J. Helmle, Peter J. Lauritzen, and the firm Napoleon LeBrun & Sons. With these recent additions, a total of 37 firehouses have been designated as landmarks throughout the city, of which 32 are still in operation, according to LPC.
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.
The ongoing saga of Bertrand Goldberg’s Old Prentice Women’s Hospital continues, with members of the Save Prentice coalition delivering a petition with more than 3,500 signatures Monday to the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Brendan Reilly, and the Landmarks Commission. They include Pritzker-winning architects as well as preservationists and ordinary citizens from Chicago and beyond. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks said earlier this month it would take up the issue before the end of their fall session, possibly as early as October 4. Emanuel, Reilly, and the Commission could grant landmark status to the iconic 1975 structure but have so far remained neutral on the issue.
Even after several Pritzker-winning architects signed onto the preservation campaign last week, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks again omitted from its meeting agenda the embattled Old Prentice Women’s Hospital. Then, noting the recent flurry of media coverage, commission Chariman Rafael Leon announced at the top of Thursday's meeting that the commission would address the issue before the end of its fall season. The decision follows what the Chicago Tribune called “a public relations blitz” by the building’s owner, Northwestern University, who is seeking demolition. In addition to full page ads in the Tribune, Northwestern has touted the results of a survey it conducted that showed evidence for public support of the building’s demolition. The Save Prentice coalition questioned the validity of those results, however, calling on Northwestern to release the full text of its survey. “We don’t know, for example, whether respondents were told of Northwestern’s extensive real estate holdings, including a massive vacant lot across the street from historic Prentice that is owned by Northwestern’s teaching hospital,” coalition representatives wrote in a press release Monday.
Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital has become the cause célèbre for architectural preservationists from across Chicago and beyond, now garnering five more Pritzker-toting allies amid mounting pressure for demolition. Robert Venturi, Tadao Ando, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Eduardo Souto de Moura added their names to a letter sent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month from more than 60 architects, including Frank Gehry. Dan Coffey and Jack Hartray of Chicago, George Miller of New York City, Denise Scott Brown of Philadelphia, and Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen also joined the chorus of designers calling on Chicago city officials to grant the iconic cloverleaf structure landmark status. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently completed a landmark recommendation report, but Chicago’s Commission on Landmarks, the City Council, and the mayor will ultimately determine whether its owner can proceed with its plans to demolish. AIA Chicago and Landmarks Illinois have long supported landmark designation for the building, which Northwestern University wants to demolish so it can construct a medical research tower. Preservationists counter Northwestern owns vacant land nearby that should be considered for new construction. Reuse options for Prentice, vacant since 2007, abound—a reuse study by Landmarks Illinois found rehabilitation as a lab, office or residential tower would take less time and cost less than new construction on the site. Goldberg designed the hospital to actualize his vision for community-building through architecture. The four bays in the building’s unique quatrefoil floorplan were meant to preserve sightlines and encourage interaction between and among patients and staff. Its concrete shell, designed uncharacteristically for the time with the aid of computers, is a unique feat of engineering permitting column-free floors. It was hailed as a structural engineering milestone upon its completion in 1975. “The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable,” the letter reads. “Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.” There is a Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting this Thursday, and Prentice supporters are trying to put the issue on the agenda, but the Commission has not responded. They have not weighed in on the issue in more than a year, even ruling a coalition representative who tried to broach the topic out of order during the last meeting. UPDATE: The Commission's agenda does not include Prentice.
Transit Surprise. The Atlantic has the 10 best and worst cities for public transportation based on a report on transit and access to jobs from the Brookings Institution. The think tank ranked cities by the area served and the share of city jobs accessible by public transit. The results might surprise you: none of the cities with the best public transit are on the East Coast. HUD in Hot Water. The Washington Post alleged that "HUD has lost hundreds of millions on delayed or defunct construction deals nationwide" in its new investigative series "Million-Dollar Wasteland." The paper explores, among deals in other cities, a failed project in D.C. where speculators profited at the cost of millions for the city government. Graceland Saved. The flooding along the Mississippi River has spared Memphis' key historic landmarks. According to NPR, Graceland, Sun Studio (where Elvis Presley recorded), and Stax Records (which launched Otis Redding's career) were unharmed. But some of Louisiana's most valuable farmland is expected to be inundated by rising waters. Interior Award. Bar Agricole in San Francisco won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Interior, reported Fast Company. The restaurant, which serves French-inspired food sourced from local farms, features billowing glass sculptures, walls lined with strips of oak from whiskey barrels, recycled oak seating, and concrete banquettes. Restauranteur Thad Vogler collaborated with Aidlin Darling Design, which received co-ownership for its work.
The latest Upper East Side landmark isn't another of its signature rowhouses, but rather what's atop one of those brownstones. Yesterday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved landmark status for mid-century architect Paul Rudolph's less-than-context-sensitive home at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph moved into the 4-story on which the addition sits in 1961 and added his three-story design in 1977, modifying the house throughout his life. Located between East 50th and 51st Street, 23 Beekman Place has been moving through the landmark process for over a year, and its approval marks an emerging phase in historic preservation. Now that many examples of modern architecture are getting older, they are becoming fair game for landmark protection, a notion the New York Observer says can sometimes be full of contradiction:
And yet there remains a certain alienness to a building like 23 Beekman. In a way, it is an oxymoron, a cancer atop a truly "historic building." The very idea of a modern landmark is itself a contradiction in terms because modernism sought to wipe away history. Consider Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, even Rudolph, all trying to eradicate history, to defeat nature, end poverty and blight, addressing all of the world's ills through their work. Where better to recognize this tension than a building with such a clearly split personality? And yet all of that Utopian zeal failed as much as it succeeded, so much so that many of the buildings it left behind are now unloved, even hated. This makes modernist preservation all the more essential and immediate. Not only have these buildings-beyond-time themselves aged (some quite severely), but they have become examples of architectural idealism, experimentation, and failure. Thus they are something to be saved, even as they sought to wipe out their forebears.
After a great summer spent in Maine and Canada we are back at the newspaper ready to soldier through the New York media wars. This week we were inspired by our fair city all over again. In case you missed the VMA awards and all the brewhaha about Kanye West, check out Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind! Jay-Z and Alicia Keys rocked the house. I suggest this as New York's new City song. It could play on the jumbotron in Times Square and at Yankees stadium. The black and white NYC fly-over images at the back of the stage were incredible. The designer, photographer, videographer should win awards for this. Check it out.