Archive for April, 2006


Bernard Tschumi lectures! May 9th. At the Art Institute. Sponsored by the Architecture and Design Society. Open to the public. Got me to thinking about

Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette in Paris.

It’s a precursor to Chicago’s Millennium Park.
The two urban parks do share a certain – object or form. At Parc de la Villette it looks like this:

” La Geode ” in the Paris park doubles as an IMAX Theater.

It shines and reflects and curves space in much the same way as a certain shiny object in a certain Chicago park that we have certainly written about – ” Cloud Gate ” – because that one is a shiny work of genius and we can’t get enough of it.
This, not purely round but in intriguing shapes, is a far superior work of art than the Geode in Paris. Theirs reflects space a la Newton, but ours bends space and light a la Einstein.

But go see the architect of the French park lecture on May 9th.
If it’s archi-babble, so Tschumi. (smile)



When did these sprout on our streets?

I walked home from Millennium Park last night, after the Modern Ball, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Architecture & Design Society. And I noticed, sprouting on the Avenue,
along with the yellow tulips and daffodils in the planters,

sidewalk signs that say “City Information.”

They’re in the style of the Robert Stern-designed bus shelters that started sprouting in Chicago a few years back. Those were controversial for putting brightly lit ads on our city streets. These new intrusions on our streets are a single panel, of advertisements on one side and on the other,

well, like they are faux design, their faux raison d’etre on one side is what purports to be “City Information.” This one has some vague message about art in the loop. I’d probably rather see a streaming blog from the Mayor.

If we’re going to put more stuff on our streets, make them the modern design that Chicagoans are so good at, not a faux imported older style.

Robert Stern, the New-York architect and Dean of the Yale School of Architecture designed Chicago’s bus shelters. He told that his inspiration for them

“came from Otto Wagner, the Austrian architect of Vienna’s art nouveau metro, and Joze Plecnik, a Slovenian who worked in Vienna and Prague.

At the time JCDecaux came to us in the late ’90s, I’d been traveling in those places and seeing wonderful structures that fit well both in traditional settings and quite modern environments at the same time. Chicago is a bit like that, a mix of late 19th and early 20th century and contemporary architecture. That complementarity was on my mind.”

Hop on the bus, Robert.

PS – Talk about homogenization, the French company that provides these panels and the bus stops puts their products in about fifteen thousand cities around the world! 15,000!
And they’ve been investigated in more than one of those cities of bribery and corruption of public officials.


Big John Hancock

Many of you have written in to ask if the John Hancock, is really our stadtkrone, our city crown, as I said it was a couple of days ago. Some asked, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for a church to be our crowning glory?

As in for example this photo that just happened to be in this week’s New York Times.

Churches certainly help people prepare for heaven, and have for ages;

but these days life insurance companies such as John Hancock do that too. (Sure seems lucrative!)

So chez nous,

Big John towers over even our churches and palaces. Here, St. James Cathedral and the newly-cleaned Nickerson Mansion.

Now, since I first posted on the flat white line atop the Hancock, I’ve become, shall we say, obsessed with it.

A la Robert Delaunay and the Eiffel Tower.

Here’s a couple of shots I took tonight – all with my camera phone! –

of the white line
high above us,
that demarcates
earth and heaven.

But back at Erie and Wabash, this door opens on a real estate office trying to sell you and me this:

If it goes up, would you consider the Calatrava our neuvo stadtkrone?

-Don Edwardo

What’s a “Dear John” letter? Click here.


Chicago Ergo Sum

😉 -Edward


Our City’s Crowning Glory
our Stadtkrone!

Beautiful reflection the other night.
I kept walking, the sun of course went down,
and you know what happens next,

the light atop the Hancock comes on.

And I started thinking, for the first time, how that horizontal white stripe atop the Hancock is like the prairie. It’s flat and horizontal.

So, for example, if we were in the Rocky Mountains would the/should the building have a jagged white line on top, in the shape of an “M” ? What would that be like?

I like what we have. It always seemed to me like a stylized snow cap on top of a mountain. Now I also like the prairie horizontality to it. And of course, it’s Modernism’s preference for flat tops!

I started wondering if it’s the only “city crown” that’s flat.

It is our stadtkrone, isn’t it? Our city – crown.

Many cities have them. Look at this one, though I can’t tell you where it’s from.

Hm. Only thing missing is the white light on top!

Bye-bye, gotta go.

xxx, Edwardo

(“xxx?” Think Hancock!)


Tranquility Within Reach

Popped into Design Within Reach at Ohio and State, to check out their 10% sale. But I ended up checking out the view out their window.

You know, I’m talking about the store in the old Tree Studios, just behind the Bloomie’s in the old Medinah Temple. *

I loved all this before restoration, the courtyard hidden away in the middle, with the fountain, and just a few artists milling about, was as close to Brassai’s Paris as you could get in Chicago. We were all worried what would happen to this place when big money came in to “restore” it.

Well, first of all, from Ontario Street you look up at the great room inside the old Tree Studios and you see that the bank that went in there did a lovely job of restoration. They hung just the right number of small, colorful, squared-off Arts and Crafts lamps from the ceiling, so that at night, it brings the place alive in an 1893 kind of way.

As I walked around inside the Design Within Reach (not at all my first time in there), they too did a great job of restoration, look at this warm beauty:

But the best was, today the door to the courtyard was open. I had not been able to see how the courtyard faired in the renovation until now. And so, I went through the door, and into the courtyard, and I had this pleasant little surprise:

I say “little” in the best of all possible ways. This is the sort of a little place, built before people zoomed through cities in SUV’s, that cities need. A place to meet somebody. The kind of storybook setting in which Bob Dylan could place interesting characters:

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark,
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones.
‘Twas then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright.
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate.

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade.
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate.

This is still a Chicago jewel. One of the best little squares in town. It’s protected, it’s tranquil, it’s long and narrow so you’re forced into an intimate contact with the buildings on the left, which are human scale in a way I wish they still built ’em! The buildings on the left give the eye a marvelous push-pull interplay, the awnings slope down towards us, the doorways reced and invite us in, the bay windows come out to get us, and there’s very little solid, it’s mostly all glass.

Contrast this with the later building on the east side (the one that chopped this courtyard in half!) – see how flat it is, how much less alive it is, and how much less it enlivens the space around it and therefore the life of anybody (You!) interacting with it, looking at it, walking past the energy and emotion that every building gives off (as music does when we’re around it.) The building on the east side has balconies, but even they’re flat! Not real balconies that you can step onto. And who would want to anyplace more than here! Whereas on condos that back up to expressways, we do put balconies people can go out on! Who would want to there?

So the next time you’re at Bloomie’s, or Design Within Reach, or if it’s warm out, go into any one of the stores in the old Tree Studios. Look for an open back door. Go through it, and into this wonderland.

10% sales come and go. A tranquil urban setting is forever.
Or is it the other way around?


*Intended as a home for artists at the turn of the century, the Tree Studios was constructed by philanthropists Judge and Mrs. Lambert Tree with fine craftsmanship and details of the period. The original 1894 building facing State Street was designed in a Queen Anne style and is lined with retail storefronts that provided rental income that subsidized the rents for the artists’ studios. The 1912 and 1913 annexes built on Ohio and Ontario Streets were designed in the English Arts & Crafts style. The building’s large windows, picturesque details, and distinctive interior courtyard instantly made it a unique cultural oasis and home to many artists. Tree Studios is the nation’s oldest-known artists’ residence building.

Dylan lyrics copyright © 1974 Ram’s Horn Music