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Sunday, January 08, 2006

What's Going On?

Kazys wonders "Just what is going on in my hometown of Chicago?" after learning of the Berghoff closing and Marshall Field's transformation into a "Macy's outlet". Well, sometimes I wonder what's going on myself, and I still live here. From the rise of sidewalk studios to the Spire and the Tweezer, it appears that this city is grappling with its 21st century identity (for example, the sidewalk studios seem destined to bring a liveliness to the sidewalks of the Loop, all the while the city's Zoning Department requires insane amounts of parking to lure suburbanites back to the city). Granted that these various changes - proposed and happening - fall neatly into democratic ways and means, there doesn't seem to be anything cohesive holding all this together, even though we have a Mayor who's going to make his dad's term seem short by comparison. Sure, Daley has his masterplan that's pushing office space in the Loop westward to bring residences eastward towards his half a billion dollar park, but it's as if the only glue holding all the city's developments - public and private, Loop and neighborhood - together is trees, and recent news might affect that trend.

Here's some recent news that illuminates the good and bad of Chicago's current scene. (I'll let you decide what's what.)

The Chicago Journal reports that Preservation Chicago has obtained over 1,000 signatures to save a 100+ year old, three-story building at 1734 W. Wabansia, which is planned to be razed to make way for two single-family houses. The building is known for its ground floor tenant, the Artful Dodger, a neighborhood bar with a good selection of beer and a dance floor back room. Given that many locals feel strongly about the place (the article states most of the 1,024 signatures are from people that live in the area), it's surprising to hear the alderman state that he supports the demolition because it would "eliminate space for a corner tavern." Currently, the building is on a demolition hold list until February 18, after which its future is uncertain.

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1734 W. Wabansia

In other preservation news, the Sun-Times reports that the New York Life Building at 39 South LaSalle is in jeopardy. But this building doesn't face an all-out demolition like the West Town bar above; the 12-story Loop office building designed by William Le Baron Jenney would instead be melded with a 50-story tower designed by Lucien Lagrange Architects. The current plan preserves two facades but would eat up about half of the interior, including parts of its ornate, marble lobby. The conceptual design appears to be like many other proposed towers in and around the Loop: slender, tall, and glassy. It makes a requisite gesture to Jenney's early steel-frame building, but the question is to what extent can new buildings encroach upon landmarks? And is an old building value merely limited to its facade, or does it include its structure (in this case groundbreaking for its time) and other internal elements? Beyond these questions are others - spurred by suburban developer Hamilton Partners' Itasca roots - such as the reasons behind suburban developers interests in city property and the responsibility behind those developments. It's one thing to develop in your own community, but it's definitely another to develop in an area so far removed.

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New York Life Building

The Sun-Times also reports on a new office tower about one block from the New York Life Building: Jim DeStefano and Rick Keating's One South Dearborn. This design is notable for its crown, angled frosted-glass walls on the east and west elevations that are illuminated at night; its lobby, which features back-lit stone walls in a parallelogram-shaped space; and its plaza, which provides views of the north side of the Inland Steel Building, a Modernist icon, as well as another public space along Dearborn Avenue. Even though the setback is driven as much by parking as it is by the architect's reverence for its neighbor, a subtle spandrel articulation on the elevation up to the height of the Inland Steel forever weds One South Dearborn to its predecessor, even if were gone tomorrow.

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One South Dearborn

3 comments:

  1. I thought this kind of garbage only happenned in Dalllas...

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  2. Garbage? The One South building has garnered all sorts of architectural praise; see the linked article for one example. Dallas would do well to get something half as good.

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  3. The passing of Berghoff and Fields is sad, but such is life. New things come to the fore and others fade away.

    The LaGrange proposal is hideous. You would think the rendering would at least give a favorable impression.

    The new 7 S Dearborn is well done, but the skyscraper fan in me still would have liked seeing the SOM design built. It was a cool building that was interesting structurally also.

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