Sarah Vowell on Chicago Architecture

I am very gung-ho on the history of Chicago architecture. It was a great joy to attend the School of the Art Institute as a graduate student, to get out of the El every morning next to Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott building. I can never get enough of the buildings of Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. And I loved being able to go to the Art Institute every day—how sort of grandmotherly it is, in a good way. It was always so endearing to watch the school children tramping through there like they owned the place. And I do miss the music as well. I’ve never been able to find a live band in New York as consistently thrilling and funny and fun as the Waco Brothers.

read more here

And in this New York Times video, Sarah Vowell tells why Sullivan inspires her, artistically and politically.

“It’s not just, you know, roccoco frippery.” – Sarah Vowell


Thanks to Lynn Becker of ArchitectureChicagoPlus for the video link.

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If Sullivans inspire so in Chicago, and your town had one, would you not cherish it?

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa stands

Louis Sullivan’s Peoples Savings Bank of 1911. It’s about a block from the river, and suffered greatly in last summer’s floods. Damage to the main floor and basement are reported.

So what do you do about this? Pauline Saliga of the Society of Architectural Historians writes,

Apparently the city fathers of Cedar Rapids are considering endorsing a plan to build levees in downtown which would require demolition of many historic structures, including City Hall, a county courthouse and the SULLIVAN BANK.

Below is an email from one of the people who is spearheading an effort to find alternate solutions. She has created a blog www.redefinecr.org where you can sign a petition protesting the potential demolition of their historic downtown. Please take a moment to express your outrage at the thought of demolishing Sullivan’s bank for a flood wall.”

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In happier Sullivan news, the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin has the story on a newly discovered Louis Sullivan building in downtown Chicago!

(I like that this post on Sullivan is tripartite – “base, shaft, attic.” Like his tall buildings. The blog, like the skyscraper, must be, “every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line.” And good that it all rests on that quote. I guess Sarah Vowell’s head would be the capital. Not bad.)

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photograph of the bank: Einar Einarsson Kvaran
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2 Responses to “Sarah Vowell on Chicago Architecture”

  1. Terry Pitts Says:

    Hi Ed, I’m writing from Cedar Rapids where I can say that there is solid community support to save the Louis Sullivan bank building. I know for a fact that this has been a topic of conversation among our city council and I don’t know of anyone who wants to see it razed as part of any eventual flood control measure. The building’s owners (Wells Fargo) and City Council seem of one mind on this – the building is too important to lose.

    Terry Pitts, Executive Director
    Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

  2. Terry Pitts Says:

    Hi Ed, I’m writing from Cedar Rapids where I can say that there is solid community support to save the Louis Sullivan bank building. I know for a fact that this has been a topic of conversation among our city council and I don’t know of anyone who wants to see it razed as part of any eventual flood control measure. The building’s owners (Wells Fargo) and City Council seem of one mind on this – the building is too important to lose.

    Terry Pitts, Executive Director
    Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

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