Archive for January, 2006


On last Sunday’s show Larry Booth said he was just back from that dynamic city, and that he was impressed with their design quality. Look at this list, which includes the new Agbar Tower there, the colorful gherkin in the photo above. (Like Foster’s gherkin in London, seen in the fine new Woody Allen flick Matchpoint.) Click on that gorgeous photo to see the blues, reds, greens, greys and forty other colors mixed in with whites. Reminds you of Gaudi, no? But done in 60,000 sheets of clear and frosted glass. What do you think? And how would something like that look here? Or is it a more Mediterranean-style building? Could look nice along the Chicago River? Certainly lighting is being taken to new highs, in Europe and Asia particularly, and Agbar is a good example.

Renzo Piano, who is designing the new wing of the Art Institute is represented too on this best-of list, with his museum addition in Atlanta.

And if you’re just joining us via the great GAPERS **** BLOCK, welcome!



Hardly a moment to blog. Perhaps lost a little momentum too, because after yesterday’s show I wrote a fine entry, only to have it devoured by computerland, never to be read by you. Such a shame. So now I offer this far more prosaic recap of our show yesterday with Linda Searl, Larry Booth and Ned Cramer; a show, remember this- on how to make Chicagoland the best, most vibrant and beautiful, and economically successful region it can be. I do believe that in the long run, good design=good business. And here, with our legacy of great buildings, we should capitalize on that and become known again throughout the world for the exciting spaces and rehabs and parks that we can realize here.

With that in mind, we talked on the show about the need to compete globally for tourist and convention dollars, which gives an added need to design those great public spaces and places. We talked about the lesson from Millennium Park – that good design can be good business. To what extent has the Mayor’s Office and the Pier Authority absorbed that lesson? We talked about balancing work by local talent with work by outsiders. And Larry Booth and Linda Searl had an on-air tete-a-tete-a-tete to see if the Chicago Architecture Foundation could sponsor a charette (design workshop) to explore ideas to make the revamped Navy Pier even better.

Then we all talked about how and where construction for Olympics facitilites should go, if Chicago bids for and wins the 2016 games. Gosh – you’ll be ten years older by the time they’d happen here! And we found art in the new structures going up (-will they? It’s hard to have faith in that site! Anyway, I liked it as a pia-z-z-a.) We’re talking Block 37. Oh, excuse me, 108 N. State.

We’ll revisit these topics, they’re good ones. In the meantime, if you missed the show, or you want to hear it again, you can listen to it here. Don’t miss Larry Booth proposing that the expressway entrance to the city on the very widened Congress Street, end at Wells, where Congress would be narrowed to the way it was.
Interesting idea. You know the stone arches you walk under and through between Michigan Avenue and the door of the Auditorium Theater? That’s supposed to be indoor space, it was made outdoor when Congress was widened and the sidewalk outside those arches was taken away. And in that space, (and let Larry Booth put it back), when it’s inside the Auditorium Building, is supposed to be- a great bar. I’d love to see it. And not just because I’m parched.


Photos of the outside of the Auditorium Building and of the bar (at top of post), from Architectural Record, 1891-92.


Nothing can prepare you for seeing the new cornice on Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott building.

Some good Louis Sullivan news, (after the destruction of the temple.)

Nothing can prepare you for seeing the cornice.


The way the building now makes the corner, the way the west and north planes unfold like a book, and especially the way the solid building now meets the gaseous sky with such joy!

(kôr’nis) n.
1. A horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building.
2. “Why I oughta crown you!” – the Three Stooges!

The building is now bracketed, top and bottom. Now that it’s getting its cornice back – the upward thrust is even stronger than before. Since it has weight on top, and counter-thrust. And because the cornice is a flat straight horizontal line, we feel more strongly than before the rhythm of the windows in between the sidewalk and the sky. And the mid-section of the building, in its rhythm and its beauty, mimics man’s role between earth and the heavens.

Without a cornice, looking at the building was like hearing a jazz quartet with one of the instruments missing; say, the drums. Now they’re all there. You can hear what the parts are trying to do, how they mesh together into a whole. They solo and they blend, and in the cornice riff, Mr. Sullivan sings the perfect resolution of building to sky.

Along the big curve of the building, at the corner of Madison and State (one of the greatest corners on any building in Chicago,) now, along the big curve, six cylinders rise up in rhythm. They culminate in capitals, like treetops, which were not there before. The corner is such a bold statement and has such import, that these capitals seem to hold up the sky.

Before, what Sullivan was trying to say, was cut off in mid-sentence. He had something to say to us, across the decades, even during the bad city decades of the sixties and seventies, but he was cut off. No one would listen. You know that feeling? When you’re trying to tell someone a story, and they cut you off before you can get your complete thought out or finish your story. That was the feeling of the ol’ CornicelessCarson’s. And because most people didn’t want to listen to the story that building had to tell, when those who did stopped to look at it, the top just stuttered. It couldn’t complete its thought. The final chapter up there was missing. But hallelu! now we can see and hear and feel Louis Sullivan’s integrity. So stop by State and Madison and look and listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Hey Macy’s, you wanna do something for the people of Chicago? Put the cornice back on the State Street Marshall Field’s!



When will the beacon on top of the Palmolive (Playboy) Building be turned on again?

It’s supposed to shine out over the Oak Street beach, to warn our ships at sea by night…..

Other than that, it’ll just be romantic.