NEH grant-Day 4/Wednesday July 15, 2009
July 15 th is always a special day in the year. It is my anniversary. Not my wedding anniversary ( that’s November 8th, right Scottie?), but my work anniversary. It is a special day I always share with Paula Heap, who began work at Saint Stephen’s the same day as I, on July 15th, 2004. Happy anniversary Paula. I have left a message on your telephone, as I do every year. Silly, perhaps.
It had rained last night, so the walk to class at the Chicago Architecture Foundation was under a cloudy sky. The view of our skyscrapers was very mystical amidst the clouds.
Today’s workshop theme will discuss how and why were architects visually representing skyscrapers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries? How did these images inform and influence public opinion and the design of buildings to follow?
Dr. Katherine Solonson of the University of Minnesota delivered a discussion entitled The 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition. Dr. Solomonson explored the impact to the 1922 Chicago Tribune tower competition had on the architectural community as well as the citizens of Chicago.The Tribune’s editors, Robert McCormick and Joseph Patterson predicted a new for a new building to ‘sell class appeal to the masses, not just newspaper”. The acquisition of the site North of the Chicago River on North Michigan Avenue was possible with the adventure of a new bridge to promote traffic Northward. McCormick and Patterson had enlisted in the war efforts during WWI, were the witness some limited exposure to European architecture in Germany (Gothic) . Both men were great fans of the Gothic style. While this was an open design competition, there was some persuasive actions by the newspaper men. The newspaper ran photos of famous buildings from other countries as a means to drum up enthusiasm, Gothic style ran three separate times. A subtle hint. By 1919 the Tribune also saw this as a stimulus plan of sorts, to help restart a post war economy all the while restart the Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Chicago urban plan ( of which we are celebrating its centennial this year) to develop North of the River.
The goal of the competition was to inspire future development in the city as well as to secure the more beautiful office
building in the world. McCormick and Patterson’s broader aspirations were to position the Chicago Tribune as the greatest newspaper in the world ( as per their masthead), to position Chicago as the greatest city in the world, to position American as the greatest nation in the world and finally to erect a skyscraper that symbolized all of the above , within the city’s building codes. This competition was capitalising on the public’s ‘skyscraper mania”. Architects were challenged to create a skyscraper that was representative of the American identity, using new technology, aspiring new development and architecture style. The foot print of the North Michigan Ave site was 100 by 100 feet square, thus lending itself to a tall tower construction, only way to build was up. This building needed to have a set back, and that the top 40 floors had to be empty as per Chicago’s building codes of the time. Beauty, distinctiveness ( an icon in which to advertise) as well as being
practical and efficient were qualities the selection committee was looking for. We then looked at the submissions of Adolf Loos, Gropius and Meyer (Germany), Jules Van den Hende ( Dutch) and Ludwig Hilberseimer ( Germany). The impact of the competitions was a win win for America. The design by Howells and Hood was selected as that is heavy in Gothic design qualities and thus became a WWI commemoration. A number of cornerstones are stones found by Patterson and McCormick from the battle field in Belgium. Louis Sullivan was of mixed feeling of the design. On one hand, he adored the vertically and spiritual aspirations and not just materials qualities. It was a vertical integration in Daniel Burnham’s master city plan. On the other hand, Sullivan did not like the design as that it was heavily Gothic, a style borrowed from Germany, and not furthering a new independent uniquely American style. He viewed the Gothic design of the Chicago Tribune building as looking back on the past and not looking forward in an innovative fashion. Howell and Hood’s design garnered their design firm the 100, 000$ prize. ( it was hinted that Howells’ wife was on the Chicago Tribune’s Board of directors and this might have played in Howell’s favour.)
The second runner-up, who received 20, 000$, still impacted American architectural history. Eliel Saarien’s, a Finnish architect, designed a submission expressed height and structure, was a spiritual aspiration. Despite coming in second in the Chicago Tribune competition, he decided to move to Michigan and worked at Cranbook School. His son, then when on to become an architect and designed the TWA terminal as well as the St. Louis Arch. Thus, America and the national architectural identity benefited from the runner up.
Lunch was a quick sandwich outside in the Chicago Art Institute gardens across the street. By now, the sunshine had come out and the skies had cleared.
Our afternoon session was a fun one. We walked across the street to the Institute , and walked through the art research library to meet with the Archivist and look at several primary sources, blue prints for some of the city’s skyscrapers. We had a short period of time to look around the center hallway, at the display of pieces of former Chicago buildings, pediments, cornices, stained glass windows etc. Many of us, also had a chance to quickly see some of the Art Institute’s most famous paintings in the Impressionist collections. Dr. Julie Goldsmith, a Senior Program officer of the NEH, joined us at the Institute. She was attending to view the progress of this program, as that her bailiwick is the selection and dispersal of grant monies to fund these programs all across the country.
Joel Berman a local architect, demonstrated a best practise How to sketch like an architect. Mr. Berman discussed how illustrations influence the way we perceive buildings. he introduced the group to various drawing techniques for classroom use. We walked out side , across the street into Grant park (yes, where
President Obama accepted the nomination last November). Beside the famous Buckingham Fountain (of Married With Children television fame), we sketch snap shots of what is around us, looked at how to capture detail in an architectural sketch.
To summarize today’s topic, corporate buildings wanted to present a building to grace the city and image of the Chicgao Tribute building to act in the public interest, according to Daniel Burnham’s 1909 City plan. Architects and clients were interested in investing in beauty. New developments in architecture help to develop the American identity, in a post WWI era.
Supper was a fantastic ruben’s sandwich at Berghoff’s, on 17 W. Adams Street, as per Dr. Esparza’s suggestion. This restaurant, housed in a historical building from yesterday’s docent tour, is famous for the Germanic foods. The wood panelling, the ornate mosaic floor tiles give the interior an old world, turn of the century feel. After placing my order, I could imagine it being a place were women might not have been allowed at one time, such as a gentleman’s smoking club or such; an “old boys club”. And the ruben’s sandwich wasn’t half bad either. Saucy, but not too drippy. Yummie. Do they deliver to Florida, I wonder?
Then to Sugar Bliss, on State Street, in an homage to Mrs. Pullen. It is a little known fact that my Head of School is a fellow cupcake gourmand. Sadly, the shoppe was closing as I arrived. I left with a promise to return tomorrow.
The remainder of my evening was spend looking around the Macy’s across the street. While, yes, we do have a Macy’s in
Bradenton, and a better grade store in Sarasota, this location was the former Marshall Field’s building. The interior is decorated with Corinthian columns, a mosaics tile ceiling, nothing like our Sarasota store. Ironically, this Macy’s location houses a Sarah’s Pastries and Candies emporium,one of Martha Stewart’s favorite bakeries in Chicago.