Archive for July, 2007


Thom Mayne = Alan Alda ?

…in this alternative paper’s article on the competition to design Michigan State University’s $30 million Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

“Thom Mayne of Santa Monica’s Morphosis took the floor, pacing, shrugging and second-guessing himself like Alan Alda playing an Alan Alda-like architect.”

Conceptual renderings of the five projects here.


Karolin Schmidbaur of Coop Himmelb(l)au as a dominatrix ?

And from the same article, this:

“Karolin Schmidbaur, partner, senior architect and head of the Los Angeles office of Vienna’s Coop Himmelb(l)au … With her white hair closely cropped, wearing sheer shoulder netting, she spoke in a soft dominatrix whisper as project architect Angus Schoenberger silently clicked the slides.

“We will now walk once more through the building,” she commanded.

Photo soon, if you’re good.


How do you think Mies’ 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments should look?

We’re stripping the paint to see the condition of the steel and aluminum underneath, and to determine how best to repaint.

Testing various stripping agents on the window frames and the black steel.

A few frames are being stripped to the base metal, to see how Mies originally had them. That hasn’t been seen since about 1960, when they were painted. Unpainted, they didn’t hold up well.

At ground level and just above we’ll strip all the paint and start over. That should look great.
Above what’s called “the storefront”, we’ll probably paint over the existing paint this time, on the black and the aluminum. Because in five to ten years we’ll need to replace our window seals, which means we’ll need to repaint again.

Even though the aluminum is not in bad shape, I’d think about manufacturing and installing new window frames. Crisp, galvanized aluminum window frames that would look more like the originals and contrast beautifully with the black steel; and most important, new frames could be designed to support glass that is far more efficient than the single pane glass we have now.

Hypothethically, we could go to high-efficiency and double paned glass with an air space between them. That would save energy, lower heating and cooling bills, make the place more comfortable, and lower wear and tear on the building – especially during summer sunrises when the east side heats up and the west side can be cool.

Of course from the outside the glass would have to have exactly the same appearance as the original glass. The same reflection and the same transparency.

But that may be possible. Glass technology has come a long way since our windows were designed and installed more than fifty years ago.



Will they drill holes in that gorgeous, sacred travertine to mount the TV screens?

Wait a second.
If they plan large flat-panel TV screens in the lobby of 330 North Wabash, the former IBM Building by Mies van der Rohe, a great landmark,

will they drill holes in that gorgeous, sacred travertine to mount the screens?

If that’s the plan it must be stopped.


Knees-knocking Mies mocking


Look for more novelties in the New! Improved! lobby of the
former IBM Building, now 330 North Wabash (changes first revealed here.) It’s a great and stately work by modern master Mies; but, according to a source involved in the project, you’ll soon see in the lobby:

Large flat-screen TV’s
“for general entertainment!”

A new reception desk which will be “clean, simple and geometric with a copper base!”

And large urn planters with contemporary plantings! and several smaller ones.

Here are more photos of what’s been put in there recently,
Barcelona chairs, completely bronzed, cushions and all!

bronzed Mies day beds,

three put together as one

As you see, the new items are large and bright – as are the new elevator signs.

Sheesh. Lynn Becker has a nice take on it here (and on another “upgraded” building.)
And Lee Bey (the new executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee) has a fabulous shot of “Donald vs. Mies” here. (Scroll down, all his photos are great.) But doesn’t his shot of Trump look Houston?

And is it that gaudy Trump bronziness that’s rubbing off on the designers of the lobby at 330 N. Wabash, the building formerly known as IBM?


More about this here.


Surprise at Super Luxury Trump Chicago!
Will the columns at the base be covered with bronze?

The first pieces of bronze cladding have just gone up at Trump Chicago.

In the renderings, didn’t the columns have a silvery finish? Chicagoans were relieved by that, since they were worried about getting something gaudy – a building on that prominent site screaming “Trump!”

As in New York,

Looks like Chicago might get Trump’s bronze branding too.

Wanna buy a Breuer?

You won’t see this in a trailer park.

The space, “weaves throughout the 1947 model 30 Spartan trailer and into the house, giving a sense of layered complexity.”


Maybe the Whitney Museum, also by Marcel Breuer, and trying so hard to add on,

should just put a nice Spartan trailer next door. Could make a nice American diner to go with all that American art.


The Mies van der Rohe Tower

How about the new management (and by extension, all of us) honor Mies and the heritage of his IBM building?
Since it’s being “re-branded” and re-named, rather than adopting the generic, ‘330 North Wabash,’ call it

The Mies van der Rohe Tower.

That’d be good for Chicago.


(I know there was some talk of this, but the idea was dropped.)


A fine modern lobby.

The IBM story reminded me of this 1958 story in Time Magazine when the Inland Steel building opened.

“… Inside, Inland’s new building makes widespread use of art—both paintings (the industrial scene by modern artists) and sculpture (stressing the use of steel under tension). “Of course, the most important thing is the sale of steel,” said Art Collector Block. “But on the other hand, we believe that painting and sculpture belong in a modern office building to enhance its beauty.”

To enhance the lobby, Inland commissioned Richard Lippold to design a 15-ft.-tall construction of stainless steel rods, which is suspended in a delicate network of wires of gold, stainless steel and fire-red enamel. It is set against a block of polished black Belgian marble, and rests in a reflecting pool of water. …

There are more than 30 paintings, including a green, red, and white abstraction by Stuart Davis, a whirling Willem de Kooning, a locomotive wheel by Hedda Sterne and a towering Georgia O’Keeffe cityscape on the building’s walls. A Calder mobile floats above a table in Vice President Block’s office.

Among the first tenants in the new building will be Chicago’s civically proud Association of Commerce and Industry. Its decision to move there added point to Leigh Block’s assertion: ‘In a city of dark buildings, our new building offers a ray of hope and cleanness and, I think, drama.'”


A Starck-designed hotel to go into Mies’ (former) IBM Building in Chicago?

Phillipe Starck’s firm in Paris confirms they are doing work at 330 North Wabash in Chicago. The former IBM building. A great work, with a great lobby, one of the last by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The design work for the New! Improved! lobby was started by S+arck Network, and then continued by Niedermaier of Chicago. DeStefano + Partners is also involved.

Yes, there is talk of a Starck-designed hotel to go in the building.

Through a glass, Starckly

I wasn’t (yet) allowed (by building security) to photograph the pieces. But here’s what it looks like through the glass.

The gentleman caller is sitting on three Mies daybeds, made into one, and bronzed; the cushions are hard, and gaudy. They’ve also bronzed some Barcelona chairs – the steel and the cushions, all bronzed!

The over-sized, overly bright and the wrong color light, elevator signs. So over-sized that they’re easy to photograph through the lobby glass. And gaudy.

I could not yet get close enough with my camera to photograph the inappropriate caulking in the corners of the travertine walls. Here’s one of many brightly-colored pyramid-shaped post-modern floral arrangements in the lobby

Nice photo, huh? Collage-like. Mies’ glass still creates works of art.

But is this style, “The New Gaudiness”contagious? Remember, Trump Tower Chicago is across the street. That green cylinder in the photo above is Trump’s parking ramp. We also find “The New Gaudiness” across from Mies’ Federal Center in the lobby of the tower called Dearborn Center by Ricardo Bofill and, once again, DeStefano + Partners. In that lobby you’ll find a gilded Winged Victory!

A gilded Winged Victory! A bronzed Mies daybed and by the elevators, bronzed Barcelona chairs! Are these supposed to make us feel successful? To me they say ‘nouveau riche.’

The IBM lobby was so classy, so dignified; and the IBM Corporation took such good care of it. Walking past it every day on the way to work at NPR-Chicago, which was nearby, across the river in the great Carbide-Carbon Building, (now a Hard Rock Hotel!) is how I came to love Mies. That lobby worked its magic on me. Different every day, at all times of day. Filled with light and air. Sumptuous materials divinely proportioned. That’s enough for me.

Later I’d have lunch with other architecture writers in the IBM cafeteria on the fourth or fifth floor. I called it the “poor man’s Four Seasons.”

A smart friend of mine, with impeccable design sense, who works in 330 North Wabash, swears he’s going to put a blindfold on the bust of Mies in the lobby, so the ol’ guy doesn’t have to look at what they’re doing to his Meisterwerk.


I posted more on this building here. More photos too.


blue and white, ‘rippling in the wind’ as the clouds sail by
on these beautiful days

calls to mind an abstract