Posts tagged with "The Loop":

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Young design firms move into the Monadnock building

Among Chicago architects, the Monadnock Building is an icon. The tower is a product of the Chicago School, half designed by Burnham and Root and half by Holabird & Roche, built in two phases. Yet it is unlike any of its contemporaries. To start, its older southern Burnham & Root half is a masonry structure, the tallest in the world. And though the southern half, built three years later, is a more typical steel structure, the similarities to other 1890s Chicago buildings end there. Notably, rather than the ubiquitous center atrium of most Chicago School builds, the Monadnock has a thin interior pedestrian street, complete with old-timey shops. The upper floors of pint-sized offices are mostly filled with attorneys and the occasional private detective, yet a few small architecture firms have set up shop in this enigmatic structure.

Among the half dozen or so practices in the building, an even smaller contingent is in their first official office spaces. For them, the move from the dining room table to a downtown high-rise was an important step in establishing their practice in the city. An added benefit has been the growing community of critical practices under one roof. Norman Kelley and Design With Company share a small office on the 12th floor, with just enough room for each to have an intern or two at any given time. Three stories below, PORT Urbanism makes epic master plans in a 300-square-foot office. The highly experimental Weathers and MANA Design/Protostudio also call the building home.

“The space complements our life,” said Stewart Hicks of Design With Company. “Before, working out of our home, there was no separation of work and life. Not that we ever stop working, but now we can walk here, and we are a short distance from the University of Illinois at Chicago where we teach. It is also just easy to find someone in the building to talk to, and bounce ideas off of.”

Having an office in the 125-year-old Monadnock is not without its drawbacks, though. The depth of the offices is governed by the distance from the central hall to the building’s envelope, only around 15 feet. Though affordable, the often-tiny offices leave very little space for producing. MANA Design/Protostudio and Weathers find themselves limited by space, unable to produce the models and prototypes with which they often work. To deal with the lack of space, the offices rely on connections they have to universities, shared spaces, and a series of specialized fabricators. Design With Company often calls upon stage-scene fabricators to build installation pieces, as it has found scene builders to be more accustomed to the scale and precision the models demand. Some of the unique benefits of the building include operable wood-frame windows and classic hand-painted doors straight out of a film noir.

Each of these firms flies steadily under the radar in a city dominated by many of the largest corporate firms in the world. Only a few blocks away, the Motorola Building, formerly the Santa Fe and Railway Exchange Building, is occupied by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Stantec, and Goettsch Partners. Despite its lower profile, the Monadnock crew has recently seen a great deal of critical and popular success. Norman Kelley was responsible for one of the Chicago Biennial’s most popular submissions, Chicago, How Do You See?, an expansive vinyl window treatment on the front of the Chicago Cultural Center. Its new Aesop skin care storefront has also garnered international attention. Along with its own contribution to the biennial, Design With Company was responsible for a playful forum-like installation at Design Miami for Airbnb. PORT’s projects tap into a very real idea of “make no small plans.” Its submission to the biennial, The Big Shift, raised ire among mainstream media critics, but thrilled visitors. Both Sean Lally, the head of Weathers, and Norman Kelley were recipients of the coveted Rome Prize, joining the likes of Richard Meier, Charles Moore, Michael Graves, and Stanley Tigerman. The more established KOO, also in the building, was recently given the go-ahead from the city to move forward with a new hotel on Navy Pier.

The Monadnock represents the possibilities of Chicago architecture, from its original soaring masonry ambitions to some of today’s most experimental young practices. If there is an argument to be made about the power of space and adjacency, the Monadnock may just be the model to prove the point. Expect more exceptional things from this exceptional building.

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Chicago Loop Alliance to Coat Sidewalks, Streets, & Buildings with Color

From May 29th through June 4th, sheets of vinyl will be layered over the intersection of State and Adams streets in Chicago’s Loop in a site specific installation entitled Color Jam. The public installation, commissioned by Chicago Loop Alliance through their Art Loop public art program, is the work of multimedia artist Jessica Stockholder. The exhibit will be an ongoing piece of public art, covering sidewalks, buildings. and the intersection itself with contextually abstract shapes and colors. The work will be on display from its “official” completion on June 5th through September 30th of this year. Reminiscent of Archigram’s colorful photo-montages, the single published rendering of Stockholder’s installation layers her distinctive use of bright and contrasting colors over a grayscale image of the street. The distinction between neon green, orange, pink, and blue along with bright red and green are distinctive, characteristic of much of Stockholder’s work. Color Jam is the third annual outdoor installation of Art Loop, following Tony Tasset's 30 foot sculpture of his own eye in Pritzker Park in 2010 and Kay Rosen’s “Go Do Good” movement in 2011. As a coalition of local businesses and organizations, the group acts as a Business Improvement District for the loop, installing art as a means to “serve the public, promote creative expression, and create value for Loop businesses and institutions.” Because Art Loop installs independent art rather than projects specific to any one building or architectural design, the work elaborates on the privately owned public space theme to "privately owned public art" (POPA). In this incarnation, POPA comes with a brand image, hyped video, and blurbs about football fields of vinyl.
Logo developed for Color Jam and Chicago Loop Alliance.
While Chicago Loop Alliance brags about what it claims to be the “largest public artwork in Chicago history” with 76,000 square feet of vinyl, or according to the Chicago Loop Alliance, about 2,100 ink cartridges worth of color from a home printer. Looking closer at the image, and a bit beyond the hype, not much is shown about how the art will actually look or how it will fit into the cityscape. How will shadows crossing over colors alter the vibrant hues angling over facades? What will cars look like driving across patches of neon blue that lack painted crosswalks? How will vinyl be placed on the gothic detailing of the building at the South-West corner of the intersection?  These questions only heighten the anticipation for Stockholder’s work, certainly more so than Chicago Loop Alliance’s flashy yet empty promo video: Stockholder, well known for her mixed media work, describes herself on her website as “interested in and concerned about the nature of the objects.” Taking the site as an object of interest, her approach in Color Jam contrasts with the regularity of Chicago’s streetscape and quiet palette of greys and browns more typical to an urban context. Still, geometries respond to the lines of streets and buildings, relationships which correspond to Stockholder’s personal understanding of space:
The surfaces of walls and objects are full of pictorial potential. The surface of an object purports to let us know something about its mass. This something is sometimes accurate, or informative about the nature of the thing we are apprehending, and sometimes the surface tells another story entirely—sometimes the surface generates a kind of fiction. It is this possibility, inherent in materiality, to generate fiction that I am enamored with.
If you can't wait to see the Stockholder's installation, you can watch the construction process stream live online.
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Quick Clicks> Anti-Mies, Timber, Thunder, Head Start

  Mies Bashing. For all the glory of Modernist Chicago, there are still those who mourn the loss of the White City's Beaux Arts influence. Historian David Garrard tells WBEZ of the "sterile" Daley Center's ruinous effect on The Loop. One has to wonder what he'd make of Time Out Chicago's "Fifteen Fanciful Ways to Fix Navy Pier." Tiiiimmmmbeeeeerrrrr! Meanwhile, at another Navy locale...Chuck Schumer is hopping mad about contorting being done by the U.S. Army to get out of repairing the 158-year-old Timber Shed at Brooklyn's Navy Yard. The Brooklyn Paper reports that the senator is pressing army brass, which still has control over the building, to fix it or get out of the way and let the city do it. For Sale: Beach front property, water views, lively neighborhood. WSJ reports that the land where Coney Island's famed Thunderbolt roller coaster scared the bejesus out of generations of New Yorkers can now be had for $75 million to $95 million. Way Head Start. NYC Department of Buildings launched their Junior Architects and Engineers Program this week at PS31, reports NY1. (The news clip, starring fifth grade Frank Lloyd Wright fan Thomas Patras, is just too cute to pass up.)