Why Johnny doesn’t know the art of architecture.

A building designed by Adler and Sullivan burns.

And the Chicago Sun-Times, to appeal to whom(?) captions its photo of the building burning:
“The former George Diamond Steakhouse on Wabash Ave. burns Tuesday.”

Not, “Another Louis Sullivan landmark burns!”

Or even, “We fail to protect another Louis Sullivan landmark, another part of the great legacy of this city, and it burns.” Okay, I guess that’d be a little too long for a headline. (smile.)

And I suppose the Sun-Times headline does get right to what’s most important – the all important “News You Can Use” headline: “Fire stops service on Green, Orange lines”

The story, written “from STNG (Sun-Times News Group) wire reports” never mentions that Sullivan dude!

After at least five paragraphs on how public transit will be affected (for fewer than 24 hours,) the second to the last line of the story says: “The structure, built in 1887, is the Dexter Building, designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1996, according to the Web site for the City Department of Planning and Development, Landmarks Division.”


But apparently the name “Louis Sullivan” (is that his name? 🙂 ) on that webpage didn’t mean enough to the writer and/or editor to include it in the story.

(The Chicago Tribune story has it in their lede: “For the second time in nine months, flames have gutted a historic Chicago structure designed by Louis Sullivan, the celebrated father of modern architecture. … Earlier this year, which marks the 150th anniversary of Sullivan’s birth, Pilgrim Baptist Church, considered one of Sullivan’s masterpieces, lost all but a few walls to fire.”)

That’s better. Sorry for my tone but I get upset when we lose these beauties. And it brings back the wanton destruction of Sullivan masterpieces carried out in this city in former times.

By the way, the Sun-Times page does link to an NBC5.com video labelled ‘Landmark burns.’
It starts with an ad, for some old Egyptian guy named King Tut – ever hear of him? After the ad, the audio wouldn’t play. Maybe NBC5 tells you the building was by one of the greatest architects ever, maybe they don’t.

Does it matter anymore? Let’s make it our little secret. Just between you and me, and Vince.

Vince Michael saw the smoke from the fire today too:

What makes it all so terrible is how much Sullivan was torn down in the 1950s and 1960s – the Garrick and the Stock Exchange being the most significant, both replaced by guileless dreck. Beyond were all the great little neighborhood buildings – a dozen on the south side, others north and west. Sullivan was Chicago’s great innovator, a romantic and a master who made buildings into the kind of material poetry that it will take our digital friends another generation to even approximate. He fathered Frank Lloyd Wright and in a sense, the entire 20th century, not just in America but across the world. Gropius, Aalto and Saarinen and even the painter Le Corbusier are not possible without him.


UPDATE: Why the separation? This morning’s Sun-Times updates the story. Their architecture critic evens utters the name, Louis Sullivan. With a short sidebar story of six paragraphs (one for each story of the Dexter Building!) In it we learn that,

The cast-iron and masonry structure was one of the few remaining local buildings by the legendary Chicago firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, whose legacy was damaged earlier this year by a fire at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Simplicity made it important
Built in 1887 and designated a city landmark in 1996, the six-story Dexter building was also an important forerunner of the Adler & Sullivan skyscrapers that followed.

“Although it’s very simple, and people don’t notice it, the building’s simplicity is what makes it important,” said Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. “Its directness, its use of materials, and the way its grid carries the masonry are very important in the chronology of Adler & Sullivan, leading to their skyscraper designs of the 1890s.”

However – still in today’s Sun-Times, in the lead news story on the fire, why does the writer tell us that “A piece of Chicago’s architectural history went up in flames” but never tell us that Adler and Sullivan designed the cursed thing? Why is “art” relegated to the “arts writer” rather than incorporated into the lives of the citizenry and therefore of their newspaper? The Sun-Times has added to its story from last night, by telling us a good bit on how the fire may reroute some automobile traffic this morning. I’m sure people will be upset by that. But an Adler and Sullivan burning, in Chicago – where this is our legacy – doesn’t mean much? The names don’t mean enough to appear in a newspaper’s main story on what happened?

Helps you understand how they could tear down beautiful Sullivan structures not long ago. More on that soon.

Haven’t they even read “The Devil in the White City?” Lol. But many people did learn of Louis Sullivan there.

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