The aging Chicago Historic Resources Survey, or CHRS, is Chicago’s benchmark document for determining what the city considers historic. However, without contemporary updates, it fails to protect modern (and postmodern) architectural heritage and leaves vernacular structures regularly at risk for demolition. Chicago embarked on its very first survey of historic buildings in 1983 with the objective to identify new landmarks. The CHRS was a complex undertaking, combining research in archives and libraries with detailed field assessments and photography. A half-million properties were surveyed, with the work completed in 1994. Dividing up the city into Chicago’s system of 77 community areas and 50 wards, the survey work began with teams driving through each ward and color coding each property according to three criteria adopted by the CHRS: age, degree of physical integrity, and level of possible significance. Buildings given a red rating were determined to be significant on a national scale, the “best of the best” of historic resources. Orange properties possessed similar features but were significant locally. Yellow properties were identified as relatively significant and within a greater concentration of similar buildings. Yellow-green buildings were identified as being within a concentration of significant buildings but reflected alterations. Green buildings were identified in previous state surveys, and purple buildings reflected significant alterations. Lastly, the survey team included a category for buildings constructed after 1940 that were considered too new to be properly evaluated, blue, except in cases where significance was already established. Data forms and photographs were produced for each property in the second phase of fieldwork, as well as follow-up research including zoning and building permits. In total, 22 people worked on the CHRS over the course of the 13-year, $1.2 million-dollar project. A summary of the survey was published in 1996 and widely distributed at Chicago public libraries, but it only represented a selection of significant buildings. After the orange-rated 1927 Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building was demolished without oversight, the City Council approved a proposal sponsored by Mayor Richard M. Daley that would grant a measure of protection to significant buildings. Adopted in 2003, the Demolition Delay Ordinance requires a 90-day hold on the issuance of a demolition permit for a building rated red or orange in the CHRS. The CHRS online database is widely used to determine if a building is an “eligible” historic resource. Unfortunately, neither the online database nor the published summary fully represents the estimated 500,000 buildings that were included in the field assessment. Each only includes a selection of buildings that fell under subjective eligibility criteria, with the city GIS website only representing data on red- and orange-rated buildings. Demolition delay has become the most significant function of the CHRS, yet it was never the intention of the survey to have the data determine whether a building is demolished without a review of significance. The survey organizers felt strongly that the survey would have to be periodically updated to ensure accuracy. The “modern” cutoff date of 1940 was selected to provide a 50-year waiting period for eligible buildings based on the anticipated 1990 completion of the fieldwork. This determination mirrored the National Register of Historic Places requirement for a building to be at least 50 years old before its eligibility may be determined. It was felt that this choice would allow surveyors to be more objective, but there has been no public attempt to survey or evaluate midcentury modern resources. As only red- and orange-rated resources are subject to the Demolition Delay ordinance, most modern and postmodern buildings could be at risk. Buildings that were new at the time of the survey are rapidly aging to eligibility and could be threatened with demolition without a municipal matrix to protect them. Postmodern architecture is only represented in the CHRS if it is included but not contributing to a local landmark district. This leaves most of Chicago's postmodern architectural heritage absent, including all of the work of Stanley Tigerman and Harry Weese, as well as the James R. Thompson Center. In the survey, there are inconsistencies across neighborhoods and styles of architecture as well as works by individual architects. For example, a similar grouping of structures may be identified with a “warm” color rating in one neighborhood and have no information and no color rating in another. Vernacular buildings—the structures that make up Chicago’s neighborhoods—are disproportionately represented throughout the survey. Choices that include what modern buildings to include and how surveyors color rated them lack a degree of impartiality, as not enough time had passed between their construction and evaluation to make a fair, non-aesthetic judgment. Furthermore, while the original survey team included historic resources that are individually listed on the National Register, are National Historic Landmarks, and contribute to historic districts, the surveyors did not evaluate buildings that were already designated as City of Chicago Landmarks. While Chicago Landmarks are well known, the omission of established landmarks within the CHRS data makes the overall results less comprehensive. This also renders it difficult for researchers to review Chicago Landmark and CHRS data concurrently. While work has been done to informally update the data of the CHRS, no update or reinterpretation of the CHRS data or attempt to resurvey the portions of Chicago that are missing from the data would have the same effect as a comprehensive effort by a city-managed municipal survey. The Chicago Landmarks Ordinance states that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks must “encourage the continuation of surveys and studies of Chicago’s historical and architectural resources and the maintenance and updating of a register of areas, districts, places, buildings, structures, works of art, and other objects which may be worthy of landmark designations.” History is not static, and old buildings are continually taking on the mantle of significance, some by aging into it, some due to changing mindsets, and others by losing enough of their stylistic comrades to become rare when once they were common. The data that we rely on to determine what buildings are saved and what buildings are demolished in Chicago is at best 24 years old, and at worst 35. An updated CHRS, one that evaluates modern and postmodern architectural heritage and takes a fresh look at vernacular architecture, is the only way that Chicago can continue to protect its architectural heritage. Many thanks to Susannah Ribstein, Tim Whittman, and Charlie Pipal for assisting with this article.
Posts tagged with "midwest":
While architectural academic institutions in the Midwest boast incredible professors from various parts of the design industry, students don’t often have the chance to peek behind-the-scenes of an international practice since many larger firms keep their offices in New York or Los Angeles. Luckily for students, many major architects give back to the field by teaching on the side. For as long as architecture has been an educational pursuit, students have benefited from these unique opportunities to learn from an architect in action. University lectures aren’t just for students, though. Whether they are two years or twenty years out of school, every architect can enjoy these events. That’s why ahead of the upcoming school year, we’ve rounded up a list of impressive talks—all free and open to the public—happening this fall at various universities from St. Louis to Chicago. Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design Lawrence Scarpa, cofounder of Brooks + Scarpa Architects Monday, October 1 Michelle Delk, ASLA, partner and discipline director at Snøhetta Monday, November 5 University of Michigan Taubman College Florian Idenburg, cofounder of SO–IL “Open Structure - Open Form” Tuesday, September 25 Ann Forsyth, professor of urban planning at Harvard GSD “Planning for Longevity: A Gender Perspective” Monday, October 8 Washington University Sam Fox School Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, founders of TWBTA Cannon Design Lecture for Excellence in Architecture and Engineering Wednesday, October 24 Barry Bergdoll, MoMA curator of architecture and design “Activating the Museum: Reflections on Architecture in the Gallery” Friday, October 26 Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Takaharu Tezuka, cofounder of Tezuka Architects Friday, October 19 Kenneth Frampton Le Corbusier Symposium Keynote Address Thursday, November 8 Iowa State University College of Design Kevin Schorn, associate at Renzo Piano Building Workshop 2018 Herbert Lecture in Architecture Friday, September 7 University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture Dan Pitera, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center Friday, October 5 Amie Shao, principal of MASS Design Group Friday, October 26 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning Katherine Faulkner, founding principal of NADAAA “Organized Layers” Friday, September 14 Alexandra Lange, architecture critic at Curbed, author “A Modern Education: Learning from Froebel, Frank Lloyd Wright, Anne Tyng and Isamu Noguchi” Thursday, October 11 Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang “Expanded Practice” Friday, October 19
A street-level work of postmodern art has been quietly removed from the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in Chicago. Communication X9 is a 43-foot-tall sculpture by Yaacov Agam designed to be in harmony with the architecture of 150 North Michigan. Designed by A. Epstein and Sons International in 1984, the building currently known by its address has historically been known as the Smurfit-Stone Building, and it caught a substantial amount of notoriety in the late 1980s for its prominence in a climactic scene from the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting. A. Epstein and Sons International was an early pioneer of design-build, and their services included site-specific outdoor art. According to Crain’s Chicago, the Agam statue was removed by the building’s current management, CBRE Midwest, and was placed in storage in advance of an update to the lobby and gathering spaces. CBRE Midwest has not stated whether it will sell or donate the sculpture, but it does not intend to return the work to the site. The prismatic obelisk was removed in 2005 and reinstalled three years later after undergoing restoration. Agam flew to Chicago to see the results and found the colors of the restored sculpture to be off from the original. The removal of Communication X9 comes on the tails of the City of Chicago’s 2017 Year of Public Art celebration. While the initiative gave Chicagoans new murals by Kerry James Marshall on the alley side of the Chicago Cultural Center, and a twelve-foot-tall fiberglass deer by Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset on the Chicago River along with a spiraling Calatrava sculpture, other significant works of embedded art have been removed, including Alexander Calder’s Universe, a longtime fixture of the Willis Tower lobby. Many neighborhood murals have also disappeared this year at the hands of Chicago’s Graffiti Blasters, including a historic mural in Humboldt Park near the 606 trail depicting the Puerto Rican diaspora in Chicago, and Flyboy, an early work in Wicker Park by Chicago street artist Hebru Brantley.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has elected two new leaders for its School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP). Lingqian (Ivy) Hu will serve as chair of the Urban Planning department, with Mo Zell taking over as chair of the architecture department. Zell is currently the associate dean and will be the first woman to chair the department. Hu has served as associate professor at UW-Milwaukee since 2010. Lingqian (Ivy) Hu has written extensively on spatial mismatch both in the United States and China. With a research focus on how transportation policy and planning affects the lives of people in vulnerable communities, Hu’s tenure as chair comes as UW-Milwaukee’s Master of Urban Planning degree program receives accreditation for another seven years. UW-Milwaukee has been offering urban planning courses since 1974, will full accreditation given by the American Planning Association (APA) in 1977. Mo Zell is a member of the leadership team of Woman in Design Milwaukee and a partner at bauenstudio, designers of the Veterans Memorial at Northeastern University and finalists of the 2011 Burnham Prize and the Washington Monument Grounds Ideas Competition. Zell founded the Mobile Design Box for SARUP, connecting community entrepreneurs with UWM designers in a formerly vacant space in Milwaukee’s Concordia neighborhood. The recipient of a $30,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creativity Connects program grant, Zell will assist in connecting a pool of architects, artists and designers in creating commissioned art, with projects constructed in venues across Milwaukee that discuss the city’s socioeconomic diversity and material culture. Zell has authored books on traditional architectural drawing. According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), four out of ten architecture graduates in 2017 were women. The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) reports that women make up 39% of graduate program faculties in urban planning schools.
According to New York-based real estate developer RKF, 401 North Wabash Avenue in River North offers unparalleled retail and restaurant opportunities. Located just steps from Michigan Avenue, 401 North Wabash Avenue is “the perfect entertaining and dining destination,” provides “spectacular views of the Chicago River” and proximity to Nordstrom, Dylan’s Candy Bar and the Apple flagship store. A glossy marketing flyer on the RKF website fleshes out the appeal of the 66,000 square feet for lease in the 98-story building. For a potential retail tenant, there is little not to love, except for the five 20-foot tall letters spelling out the owner’s name: T-R-U-M-P. With only 1,000 square feet of the Trump International Hotel and Tower being leased out, RKF is trying a new tactic to sell the nearly three floors of empty space in the building. With the sole tenants being the Anthony Cristiano Salon and a gift shop selling Trump shot glasses and playing cards, RKF is selling Trump Tower’s positive points without using the Trump name, and even omitting the Trump sign in photographs of the building. Marketing materials for the space only note the Trump name once, on a map of neighboring businesses, in small text. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and completed in 2008, the terrace and riverwalk spaces inside Trump Tower were never fully occupied. RKF was hired in 2014 to lease the retail space, coming on board just in time for the controversial sign to be erected, sparking a Twitter war between Donald Trump and Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin. First floor retail space was converted to meeting and event rooms in 2015 in an attempt to make the space more marketable. Residential tenants have attempted to distance themselves from the Trump brand, and SOM refers to the building as “401 North Wabash Avenue" on its website.
With declining public interest in an outdated 1970s exposed concrete library in Lawrence, Kansas, Gould Evans worked closely with residents, downtown neighborhood groups, and the library to establish primary goals for a renovation that sought to cover a broad base of community interests. Out of this extensive dialogue, the project team identified a design concept that promoted better contextual awareness between the library and the city through a new main entryway, a more functional threshold between the library and the surrounding community, and improved energy performance. After an extensive energy modeling and analysis on the existing structure by Syska Hennessy Group, it was discovered that the building lost significant energy and lacked adequate levels of daylight due to the arrangement of exposed concrete fins that acted like a giant radiator during hot days. In response, the architects addressed performative issues and community desires with a “re-skinning” strategy that wrapped a continuous reading room around the original structure. The facade, clad with a continuous insulation barrier and a terra-cotta rainscreen system, was envisioned as a highly contextual element interfacing directly with the city. The new addition opens up to a park on the north side, while providing a new community plaza along the south elevation. Along the west facade, access to an aquatic center across the street allows the library to be easily accessed by children before and after swim meets. The main entrance is located along the east of the building, which fronts a pedestrian-oriented urban context. Formal bends, folds, and apertures of the facade assembly facilitate the structure. Terra-cotta was employed as the predominant exterior finish material by the project team to provide a modern update to adjacent historic red brick facades of Lawrence dating back to the late 1800s. The one-by-five-foot terra-cotta rainscreen panels are hung off an aluminum clip system in front of a continuous insulation barrier and trimmed cleanly at the perimeter with one-fourth-inch aluminum plate. Contrary to the imperfections of brick modules, terra-cotta is engineered with a high tolerance through controlled machining processes. Gould Evans showcases this precision through its facade design, which specifies panels in two textures: smooth and grooved. A sense of variation and depth is produced from shadow lines generated by the textured panel, which appears slightly darker than the smooth panel despite their precisely similar coloration. Windows fit compositionally into the panelization of the facade, and include terra-cotta baguettes that perform as solar louvers. Particularly notable is how the new addition interfaces with the existing structure. Utilizing the mass of the concrete building, the new addition literally hangs off of the old library along the west facade where a new column-free book deposit drive through window is located. A primary steel framework sits above the existing roof plane, creating a continuous row of clerestory windows opposite the primary exterior facade. Opening up opposing walls to natural daylight minimizes glare—essential to the reading function of the space—by creating an even distribution of light. The original facade, a series of concrete fins now along the interior of the building, is codified with a cladding of a tongue and groove ash wood. Where the public interfaces with library services, such as account assistance, stacks, children's cubbies, private meeting spaces, and the central sorting machine, the ash is selectively removed to expose an underlying concrete structure. The project is currently undergoing LEED certification. After expanding the library by 50 percent, the design team reduced energy loads on the building by nearly half. This achievement is all the more impressive when considering the original systems of the building were left in place to reduce the embodied energy of a full replacement. The building has recently been recognized with a Landmark Libraries Award by Library Journal, as well as the Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture by AIA Kansas.
The ongoing efforts of artists and designers to reignite the spark of downtown development in aging industrial cities face no simple task. But as architects and developers begin to put pencil to paper, the best public art projects draw on the spiritual side of that renewal. Flint, Michigan’s inaugural Free City Festival, held May 3-5, did just that when it revived a mile-long stretch of now-razed Chevrolet plants with public art, transformational lighting displays and a reverberating gospel choir. “There was a such a sense of heaviness about this space. It was a place where so many people worked,” said Stephen Zacks, executive director of the Flint Public Art Project. “It’s a kind of cleansing experience, for it to no longer be a blank space.” They installed more than 75 projects, including work by NAO, Srjdan Jovanovic Weiss's firm, Boston-based architect Jae K. Kim, Flint’s Freeman Greer, Ann Arbor-based architect Catie Newell of Alibi Studio, New York-based architects Matthias Neumann and Natalia Roumeliotian, and an inflatable shelter by Michael Flynn modeled after Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Chicago (above). The festival was produced with funding from ArtPlace, a consortium of national foundations in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The organizers are looking for sponsors to help repeat their success next year. It isn’t the only public art plot to rejuvenate the one-time home of General Motors. Recently London-based Two Islands took first place in the inaugural Flat Lot Competition, floating plans to erect a mirror-clad foreclosure icon that would douse a downtown public square with cool mists on hot summer days. “There are things people think they know about Flint, but aren’t really reflective of the city today,” Zacks said. “If we can create great spaces, we can start to consolidate a new image and identity of the place.”
The annual Cleveland Design Competition, organized by architects Micahel Christoff and Bradley Fink, called on designers to imagine a revitalized Detroit-Superior Bridge spanning the Cuyahoga River. The jury unanimously awarded first prize to two submissions that highlighted the bridge as a catalyst for urban reinvigoration. “Transforming The Bridge” asked competitors to redesign the abandoned lower deck of the bridge, also known as Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown Cleveland with its industrial Flats neighborhood and west side. “Bridgewalk” from New York’s Archilier Architecture (represented by Kai Sheng, Donghwan Moon, Changoso Park and Tinxing Tao) divided the bridge, which they called “vital connective tissue,” into three strata—skywalk, bridgewalk, and riverwalk—and five zones linked to the planned Cuyahoga Towpath Trail. From the project description:
“A continuous pedestrian pathway, beginning at the river’s edge, climbs through the bridge structure emerging at the crest of the arch to enjoy spectacular views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Superior [sic].”Austin’s Ashley Craig, Edna Ledesma and Jessica Zarowitz celebrated the public space another way. “SuperiorPoint-scape” would reinvent the bridge as a destination for education and physical activity. Their interventions are intentionally minimal, according to the submission description, but emphasize water systems from the Cuyahoga River below to added elements along the bridge’s lower deck itself.
In its ongoing march to reclaim downtown neighborhoods marred by blight and suburban exodus, Cincinnati this week added Pendleton to the Neighborhood Enhancement Program. The district is known for its art center, and was a natural choice for the program now in 14 areas of the city. Like its neighbor to the west, Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton has struggled with crime. The “90-day blitz of city services” offered by NEP is designed to begin the process of long-term revitalization for the neighborhood by addressing that issue. Kennedy Heights saw a 16 percent drop in crime after it embarked on NEP earlier this year. The program will be reevaluated every 90 days, and again six months after completion. Cincinnati hopes the neighborhood’s defining characteristics will be its long-term salvation: its art and its artists. The city will add historic arts district signage along a new “boulevard of art,” drawing at first on $10,000 in seed money from a bevy of corporate and community sponsors. If the atmosphere at Wednesday’s announcement was a prologue for what’s to come, the future looks bright—Pendleton Neighborhood Council President David White’s speech was delayed slightly for a dance party to Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Streets."
After nine years of fundraising, a transformed park in downtown Cleveland seems to personify the spirit of reinvention that has recently overtaken the city. Perk Park, originally built in 1972, was first conceived by I.M. Pei as a small piece of the 200-acre Urban Renewal District. It was once called Chester Commons (for its location at East 12th Street and Chester Avenue), but was renamed in 1996 for 1970s Mayor Ralph Perk. A gunman shot two young men in the park in February 2009, killing one and wounding the other. That incident spurred action from Mayor Frank Jackson and the City Council, who delivered the remaining $1.6 million for the renovation. New York’s Thomas Balsley and the Cleveland firm of McKnight & Associates are the landscape architects behind the redesign. Their plan opens up an enclosed area at the park’s center by removing interlocking walls of concrete, where the 2009 murder took place. They added trees and rows of light wands along the park’s edges. The design smartly borrows from the modernist principles that spawned the surrounding skyscrapers, cultivating a hospitable vibe that has so far received high marks from Clevelanders. The trees provide shade and a slight respite from the urban heat island effect. And, it seems, from increasingly outdated perceptions of blight and dullness in downtown Cleveland.