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Unifying the design of the tall building

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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.

neh-day3 052Today’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.

Mr. Carmicheal our CAF docent

Mr. Carmicheal our CAF docent

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

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

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.neh-day3 002Esparza.  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).

neh-day3 006The 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 neh chicago-day 1 041reference, 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… 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 isneh-day3 008 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.

neh-day3 023neh-day3 026Some 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.

Chicago Tribune Building

Chicago Tribune 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 .neh-day3 066neh-day3 068neh-day3 070neh-day3 076neh-day3 079neh-day3 071

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.


Author: spotwin

While I am a librarian , I am a reading cheerleader. The purpose of this library blog is to better promote reading and information literacy to community. I love books, reading to my son,properly placed apostrophes,canoeing, locating the nearest Starbucks, cheering the Montreal Canadians, and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

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