Archive for the ‘urbanism’ Category


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.

The Oath for Architects



I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won gains of those great architects in whose steps I walk.
I will apply, for the benefit of all, all measures which are required, avoiding the traps of overbuilding and blocking too much sunlight and fresh air.

I will remember that there is art to architecture and cities, as well as profit,
and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh an extra story or two in a project.

I will insist on using quality materials and seek quality craftmanship, I build for the ages.

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of tall buildings, for these have great effect and are seen by all; and in civic buildings, for these are for all the people.

I will not be ashamed to say “I don’t think we should build there,” or “I don’t think we should tear that down,” or, “wouldn’t that be better as a public square or a park?,” nor will I fail to call my colleagues on the carpet when they accept a commission that shows disrespect to tradition or to the citizenry.

I will not fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a project.

If I’ve not clear ideas or strong talents, let me not obfuscate truth with “archi-speak.” Those who do should only teach, and never build.

If it is given me to build a private residence for a wealthy person, all thanks, may I resist the urge to soak ’em. May I also resist the urge to involve my friends in the profits.

It may also be within my power to help the less fortunate. I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of pure mind and body as well as those with political connections.

Above all, I must not do like many in my profession – you’ve seen the Modernists? the Brutalists? Do not play at god!

May I resist temptation to design or put my name on, tea-kettles, bird houses, and pasta spoons.

I will remember that I do not build a single building, but that the landscape and the lighting and the space around the building, indeed the polis as a whole – is connected. My responsibility includes all related issues, such as transportation, and sustainability, if I am to care adequately for the population.

I will preserve and ennoble nature whenever I can, for I think that I shall never see a steel and glass skyscraper lovely as a tree.

May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of those in my buildings, even when they can’t find parking nearby, or the elevators break, the plumbing leaks, property taxes or heating costs go up, or an esteemed colleague builds something next door and blocks their beautiful view.

May I have the right to not have to live in one of my own buildings.

Were I given good fortune to live to 98 years, may I know when to stop designing.

If I do not violate this oath, may I be respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I design my own tomb (if no one else will.)

Until then, may I enjoy life, art, dry martinis, designer eyeglasses and Italian shoes.


All rights reserved. Copyright 2006 Edward Lifson


The piazzas of Chicago. Deep dish? lol

I often long for the public square. A place to stop, to have a coffee, to look at people, to soak up the sun, to collect my thoughts and in my respite, come up with new ones. Aren’t many places to do that in Chicago. Usually what we call a plaza has cars running on three sides of it and does not lend itself to contemplation. Millennium Park is nice because it’s raised up from the traffic. The plaza at the John Hancock is nice because it’s sunken down away from the traffic. It also has a raging water fountain to drown out the car sounds. I’ve liked it so much on a sunny day I affectionately call it, in Italian, “Piazza Giovanni” (Giovanni, as in John, as in Hancock.) When I tell my friends, “I’ll meet you at Piazza Giovanni,” by now they know where I mean.

I thought about the people-friendly places that cities need last night at the Joffrey Ballet, during “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare (who knew what of) rolls out his love story in a public square, in Verona, Italy. People dance in the streets and on bridges. Jesters toss colorful garlands, and swordfights occur in the square, with gardens behind and arches alongside. How charming! How nice to truly live one’s life in a community. Here’s the real Verona piazza

We need public squares in Chicago. Where we can safely dance in the streets!

They’re breaks in the bustle of the city, like these strategically-placed photos are breaks in the density of this text.

The other day I went to Taylor Street to see the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. And there, on a gorgeous Global Warming February Day, I stumbled across a real square to sit in.

And I don’t even have to give it a nickname. It’s called “Piazza DiMaggio.”



When will the beacon on top of the Palmolive (Playboy) Building be turned on again?

It’s supposed to shine out over the Oak Street beach, to warn our ships at sea by night…..

Other than that, it’ll just be romantic.