Archive for the ‘860-880’ Category

Mies’ Lake Shore Drive Apartments not looking good these days


Remember I told you we were going to restore the darn things, and the plaza?

It’s happening! Can you tell?

Inside and out.

That had been original travertine on the inside. Something will be lost, but much will be gained. Water had been seeping through and corroding the steel.

And this “plasticized glass,” not original but from an earlier intervention, will be replaced with an acid-washed glass which is far more elegant.

Architects Krueck and Sexton, who restored Crown Hall recently and magnificently, are doing this work. Rico Cedro is their man on the job. Gunny Harboe, known for quality and important restorations is also working on this. It’ll go on for months. I can’t wait to see it when it’s complete.

AIA Architect wrote about the project, noting,

“So when Krueck & Sexton Architects of Chicago were given the opportunity to renovate the two buildings, their goals were to protect Mies’ timeless vision and to transform its cultural vitality into a bulwark against the creeping comodification of architecture.”

Huh? I’d like to hear more on that.

Mies redone, x 3


The Chicago Tribune, which has enough problems of its own, goes messing with Mies van der Rohe’s 860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartments.

The Trib Magazine’s Lisa Skolnik asked three firms how they would redo a 3 bedroom interior.

Lucien Lagrange: “There are now elegant transitions between all the traditional, now-enclosed rooms…”

Nathan Kipnis: “Mies was a great designer, but he was not green,” cracks Kipnis , who specializes in sustainable architecture. His plan was prompted by building resident’s claims about leaky windows and inefficient heating and cooling systems, hard points to address because the building has landmark status so its facade can’t be altered. “But the windows should be low-e to increase thermal efficiency. They could be tinted, or replaced with double glazed glass,” he suggests.

Rachel Crowl and Julie Fisher go with wood partitions installed on recessed tracks, gliding into place.


Mies’ window frames

Coming soon, the scoop on what we’ll do to these window frames.


Back to Black
at Mies van der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments

The first photo of a newly repainted portion of 880 Lake Shore Drive. Looking good. Now you see why I was so enthused about painting it.
We now see how very grey and faded the buildings are.

Below is the other sample, a more matte black, on the bottom left. To the left of the glossy black.

The original black paint went on glossy, but quickly faded. So if the center sample here faded quickly it might be allright. Or something in between. But the restoration architects are leaning towards the sample on the left.

Imagine how gorgeous it will be when the entire tower is painted.

As is Crown Hall after its recent renovation. We’re lucky to be living in modern times.



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.



Finally! The solution to the travertine travails
at Mies’ 860-880 Lake Shore Drive!

Since travertine doesn’t do well in Chicago’s climate – witness the state of the stone at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive –

I have done some research and found the solution. It’s “greaseproof, easy-to-clean, and need not be waxed.”

Vinyl travertine!

But of course.
Who would have thunk it?
Discovered on the back of a 1963 Architectural Forum.

Aren’t you glad the ’60’s are over?


It’s not King Tut’s tomb, or Al Capone’s vault, but…

The first stone is removed at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, for plaza restoration.

Many more will come up.

Why are we doing this?

You see the sad state of the many years old travertine.

And we’ll repair the corrosion underneath that is causing lobby glass to crack

After years in the sun and Chicago winters,

-they could use a little painting.

Here’s to a great restoration. Can’t wait to see it.
Remember, these photos focus on what needs to be fixed. What’s interesting is that even with this normal wear and tear of the decades, these buildings still look great.

Is that clear? (smile) Looks like it.



Restoration begins at Mies van der Rohe’s
860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments

Looking for cracks in the travertine in the lobby to see which stones will need to be replaced is Douglas Gilbert, AIA of Harboe Architects, restoration specialists.

Most of the interior travertine is original, with a nice decades-old patina on it. We’ll powerwash it all and replace what needs to be replaced. This must be done, but it’s sad to see the evidence of time passed washed away, (I remember Chartres before and after a restoration; it had more character before.) And we’ll have to remove many stones that Mies himself selected. Here’s the grid for the travertine in the lobby.

In a building like this, in which the senses are heightened, each stone is different.

And of course, most important is the tone of the ensemble.

It’s the same story you read on the facade. Individual units, each slightly different, all with much in common, and connected into an artistic whole.



That great ‘Japanese’ architect, Mies van der Rohe.

At Crown Hall, especially since the restoration, the translucent glass looks like Japanese screens. The shadows of twigs dancing on them from behind are living calligraphy.

One of the joys of living in a Mies building is its zen-like simplicity, derived from a sensitivity to space and materials, and pared down seemingly over many lifetimes.

(I spoke about all of this once on Japanese television. But of our long conversation I think the part the producers liked best was about how Mies loved martinis!)

A favorite book on my shelf is West Meets East / Mies van der Rohe

in which the great photographer of modernism, Werner Blaser, posts a photo of a work by Mies and on the facing page, a photo of a piece of architecture in Japan. They are enchantingly similar.

I’m pleased to report that beginning June 16th, the Mies van der Rohe Society and IIT will put on an exhibition of Blaser’s work,

West is East is West / Mies van der Rohe
IIT exhibits photography studying Mies’ concepts
and Eastern philosophy

The Mies van der Rohe Society presents an exhibition created by Swiss architect and author Werner Blaser opening June 16. Ten pairs of large-scale black and white photos by Blaser compare the work of pioneering Western architect Mies van der Rohe and the building traditions of the East. Blaser has published 101 books, 15 about Mies or his buildings. He is a former student and colleague of Mies’.

West is East is West / Mies van der Rohe runs through July 29 at the Mies masterpiece, S.R. Crown Hall, 3360 S. State St., Chicago. Hours are 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. daily. Admission is $5.00, or free for those taking the tour of campus.

Lucky us, the exhibition will be right there- in the temple – Crown Hall.

-Edward Lifusanu

(as they called my father and mother, when they lived in Japan after the Korean War. They brought some prints, sculptures, fans and other artwork home, so I grew up with that aesthetic. And I heard wonderful tales of the beauty there, and the Japanese love of, and respect for beauty. Maybe that’s partly why in Chicago I live in a Mies?)


Of course, 860 is still a magic space in spring, with crabapple blossoms.

Walking through, you pass a living, changing Japanese print. Like cherry blossoms.