NEH Grant- Day 3/Tuesday July 14,2009
What a busy day….. after breakfast, I ran over to Dunkin Doughnuts to grab a coffee and used my coffee card. Since I had five punches on the card, the DD corporation owed me a coffee….maybe they do not use this card in the area of the world, as that the cashier examined it very closely, almost with a microscope…I am not sure what she was looking for. It was a strange encounter, though without my coffee, I could not guarantee anyone’s safety until that first sip! ha.
Today’s workshop theme was ‘unifying the design of the tall building’. How did technology in the late nineteenth century impact the look and functions of the modern skyscraper? What role did Louis Sullivan play in refining the skyscraper typology?
A short discussion warmed up the class. Democracy gave architects the freedom to express themselves, claimed Louis Sullivan. Design is never an architect’s whim as that someone else is paying the bill for the design of the building and thus the architect must accommodate the client’s needs. Sullivan published a series of articles “Kindergarten Chats’ as a monthly journal to an architect intern. It was his way of teaching others. What is style? “Listen to the brick, it will tell you what it wants to be,” claimed Sullivan. By this he meant that buildings will react to what they want to be (not enslaved to be, but inspired to be ).
So today, while walking, participants were challenged to examine the height of buildings. Do we hide or celebrate the height of our buildings?
We also discussed various stages of design. Beaux Arts style happened in the 1890s, at the time of the World’s Fair. The Chicago School of steel and terracotta skin followed. By the 1930s Art Deco design was being employed. In 1910s, architects were adding ornamentation, 1920s saw art deco style being used. Though by the 1950s, sleek and chrome, a modern style was being used. By then, ornamentation was seem as not being honest with the design of the object.Aesthetic change occurred during WWII and a need of a lack of decor and ornamentation happened due to a shifting public view. of course, the war caused a lack of money and supplies, which also might have driven this desire to seek out simplicity and modern technologies.
The day’s activities began with a 2 1/2 hour walking tour of the downtown Chicago Loop, examining various skyscrapers with a Chicago Architecture Foundation docent. These individuals are exhaustively trained over a one year period. Thus, their knowledge and ability to answer architecture questions is immeasurable. Our docent was no exception. Mr. Tom Carmicheal cannot be praised enough for his patience with participants lagging behind to take photos, for his knowledge in answering many questions and his good spirits. Of all the docents to be paired with, our group was a very fortunate group.
So much was learned during our walking tour of historic Chicago skyscrapers from 1885-1935.
We looked at a number of builindgs this morning. First up was the Chicago Art
Institute, which was built for the World’s Fair in 1893 by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in the Beaux Art Style. (It is only one of two buildings still standing from the World’ Fair, the Institute of Technology is the other example, which we did not visit.) This Beaux Arts style is evident in the mesh of Greek and Roman styles. The triangular Greek pediment, the rounded Roman Arches. (Greek Architecture tends to be angular in feel, while Roman tend to display rounded characteristics.) Both styles used the three colum designs : Doric, ionic, Corinthian . The Art Institute uses Corinthian, with the spray of protruding laurel leaves. Beaux Art styles gives the view a sense of hierarchy, the eye is directed to the entrance, to the center of the building. The Institutes walls are load bearing with a skeletal frame holding up the roof. The guarding lions were placed at the entrance in 1894. The lion to the right is named attitude of defiance, the right, on the prowl.
The second building on our tour houses a recommended restaurant , by Dr.Esparza. While I have yet to dine at Berghoff’s, I am sure that the food will be as wonderful as the architecture. 17 West Adam Street is the second oldest Chicago School of Architecture building in the city, built in 1872, it is constructed of sandstone. The current restaurant is housed in two neighbouring buildings, including what was once the Palmer Hotel, a lower rise that is 4 stories tall, with thick load bearing walls and parts of its covering are cast iron. This iron facade was not popular, as that much of the iron facades melted right off the building during the Great Fire, thus rending them structurally inhabitable. City codes after the fire changed the materials which could be used during reconstruction. In effect, the downtown loop is not a fireproof area, build with materials of the time which were seen as non flammable. By the by, the second oldest restaurant in the city is the Walnut room in Macy’s on State Street. At this stop, we further clarified the Chicago School of Architecture. These buildings have abase ( often 2 stories tall with street level retail), they have a shaft ( office space) and a capital ( an ornate terracotta top or cornices, which were removed as a liability and replaced with a glass fiber with reinforced concrete materials).
The Marquette Building on Dearborne and West Adams was designed by Holabird and Roche in 1895. it is a Chicago School Style with a steel skeleton structural frame, tripartile.A metal frame holds the building up, as is expressed on the outside with the exaggerated piers. the walls, thus, are intended for protection. It is clear the inside of the structure is mimicked on the outside. Chicago windows are on display here. They are often a very large piece of glass, with two double hung windows on either side to allow for ventilation from the outside in. The Marquette building is E shaped, to maximize offices having exterior windows for ventilation as well as light. This building is currently owned by the McArthur Foundation ( commonly know for their funding of PBS programming). As a point of reference, this building faces onto the Federal Plaza, where a large red Alexander Caulder Sculpture resides. You might recognise this area from the movie The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keaveu Reeves several years ago. A Tiffany mosaic and bronze friezes decorate the area above the elevators.
Beaux Art decoration beings to appear on the Marquette Building…..parts of this decor have been mimicked on the Harold Washington library building.
Art deco came into being in the 30s. The Bank of America building ( as it is currently know by its current tenant) was completed in 1934 as the LaSalle bank building. Built by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, it was one of the last buildings to be constructed during the depression and then skyscraper construction did not pick up again until the 1950s, during to WWII, a lack of money and lack of materials. When looking at a Beaux Arts building, such as this example, one can see a two tone colour scheme created byt he limestone and granite. it gives a very vertical feeling. A staggering of floors, or setbacks, allow this building to be built taller without over powering those on the street. The tower is up to 40 floors and gives a taller impression with an additional 23 stories and rounded corners. In 1906, Marshall Field died (of the department store ), leaving in a trust of 106 million to his two sons. While they could not touch this money until their 55 birthday, trustees invested the money including in the construction of this building. many luxury details can be found in the marble lobby. the lobby lighting echoes a wedding cake shape, based on the style found on the Normandy luxury cruise liner in the 1920s. Clocks are in a Cartier style. This huge Art Deco style building occupies one city block. The whole lobby has a “Fred and Ginger’ feel , for lack of a better descriptive word.
Let’s be clear, Art Deco and Art Nouveau are two separate styles. Art Nouveau is often a decorative curly tendril foliage design which was very popular in Russian and France. It is definitely an organic form of ornamentation style. A rt Deco has roots in the Arts and Crafts movement. it tends to be more angular and influences home designed and domestic architecture.Let to prairie design.
Some of the other buildings we visited were the Rookery. An 1888 Burnham and Root design which demonstrates the development of skeleton framing. the interior atrium was renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Chicago Board of trade 1930 by Holabird and Root is another Art Deco style. Ceres is the statue on the top , a tribute to grain trading which helped build the city.
Monadnock building 1891 and 1893 by Burnham,and Root, Holabird and Roche as the tallest commercial building in the worked with masonry load bearing walls. North and South sections are different in skeletal framing.
Fisher Building was briefly visited, as building we have looked at yesterday.
Lunch was a quick sandwich from Au Bon Pain, back in time for the afternoon lecture.
Our afternoon lecture, The Early Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan, was delivered by Tim Wittman of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr Wittman discussed the impact of architectural and technological advances, ( steel, telephone, elevators, fire proofing) that made skyscrapers possible in the 1900s. He highlighted Louis Sullivan’s design principles and explored how architects struggled with guiding aesthetic design principles for the new building form. Sullivan was seeking an identify for the American architectural style. He turned to an organic form which celebrated nature. Frank Lloyd Wright was a successful draftsman in Sullivan’s firm, yet, Wright took the organic design one step further to geometrized the design.
Then our group discussed a few best practises. How to better guide building observations and place based architectural experience for students. We observed and wrote observations comparing the Manhattan Building and the Old Colony building.
To wrap up the day, our workshop group walked past the Carson Pirie building ( most of the decorative ornamentation is currently under scaffolding during a renovation process). Our final designation was over the Chicago river to the Chicago Tribute tower. While we did not discuss it too much, the visit was indented as a visual introduction to a building which we will be studying during the next day. The building ‘s design was a competition in the 20s. While other designs were rejected, the runner ups when on to do other influential things…more detail to follow tomorrow. What is very striking is the tongue in cheek concept of this building telling a story. Many stories to tell exist both within the building as a daily newspaper is produced, as well as the building itself telling stories. Portions of famous buildings from around the world are attached to the Tribune building .
Walked along N Michigan Ave, also known as teh Magnificent Mile, bought some lego for Eoin and came back to my room to work on my blog. I hope that I am being detailed enough to enlighten those who read this, though worry about bogging down with too much detail. I trust that some one will leave a comment expressing their concerns either way or any questions which might exist.