Forecast: Sunny

Blair Kamin's piece in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, "Chicago's Bold Rebirth" (registration req'd), talks positively about the current state of architecture in Chicago, while bringing up a few good points:

Chicago still lacks a first-rate design journal that can disseminate the city's ideas to architects nationwide. It needs to work out better archetypal solutions for the building blocks of today's city -- the high-rise condo and the three-flat condo. And for all of Daley's efforts to push environmentally friendly "green architecture," the city's developers have yet to build any major examples of it.

Furthermore, he says,

From the late 1880s, when the first skyscrapers popped up in the Loop, to 1969, when Mies died, Chicago was the design equivalent of the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. It worked out the prototypes for new kinds of structures and urban spaces, built them in the Loop, merchandised them with ringing aphorisms such as "form ever follows function," then shipped them to Des Moines, Kansas City and other dots on the hinterland map.

It sounds like Kamin wants to find a way for Chicago to return to this high state of influence, though I think the city has a lot to do before focusing on consciously exporting its ideas or archetypes. A journal for Chicago architects that simultaneously educated and informed them on local and international architectural developments would go a long way in helping the local architectural community, especially regarding Kamin's concern of local clients going beyond Chicago to find architects for commissions that should have gone to local architects.

The residential high-rise and three-flat condo are tricky matters, driven more by economics and a conservative taste favored by developers, marketers and buyers. Remedying this can only happen one by one, as individual structures break free from the mold and receive exposure to those three segments through publication and other means.

And in two days, the winner of the Ford Calumet Environmental Center competition will be announced (and featured on this page). Finalists include local architects Ross-Barney + Jankowski and Studio Gang, in what promises to be a boost to local efforts towards sustainability.