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Chicago Cultural Centre

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This massive building on Michigan Avenue across from Millennium Park was formerly the central public library. In 1991 it became the Cultural Center. Over recent visits I must have been past it many times – and noticed swarms of people entering and leaving – but for the first time this trip we went inside, not really prepared for what was there. And it was amazing. “The People’s Palace”

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Inside the south entrance the hall and staircase is covered in these mosaics

“Washington Street entrance, lobby, and grand staircase – Arched portal, bronze-framed doors, and a 3-story, vaulted lobby with walls of white Carrara marble and mosaics. The staircase is also of white Carrara marble, set with medallions of green marble from Connemara, Ireland, and intricate mosaics of Favrile glass, stone, and mother of pearl. ” (wiki)

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The center has a full program of music, films, lectures and visual arts: there are also tours of the building

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There is an old phone box which contains a sort of free electronic juke box

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Here is Jelly Roll Morton: Hesitation Blues and the 19263 Black Bottom Stomp (Morton recorded “Black Bottom Stomp” with his Red Hot Peppers in Chicago on September, 15, 1926) both on YouTube

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Passage SO-IL (New York City) consisting of a series of portals that envelop a ramp. The installation is made from standard steel studs usually hidden behind a layer of sheetrock and insulation.

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Grand Army of the Republic Memorial

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The central atrium is not accessible but contains an installation of ladders and swings called “Piranesi Circus” by Atelier Bow-Wow (Tokyo). “This void space recalls the allegory of G B Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons a series of 18th century etchings depicting foreboding architectural scenes.”

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The Preston Bradley Hall

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The world’s largest stained glass Tiffany Dome (38 foot diameter)

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Google translate fail – only gets two words out of four

ministered faithfully 

 

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I didn’t make a recording of this rehearsal – which was making the best of the acoustics under the dome.

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sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Cultural_Center

http://www.chicagoculturalcenter.org/

Written by Stephen Rees

October 28, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Posted in architecture, Culture

Chicago: River Cruise

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The Chicago Architecture Foundation Centre (now known as the Chicago Architecture Center) offers a guided tour by boat along the Chicago River. The guide was a retired architect – and a volunteer – who talked throughout the tour about 90 minutes. “More than 450 Chicagoans volunteer to be CAC docents, extensively trained guides who are certified to lead architecture tours.” There are other tours offered by other companies but the general consensus seems to be that these are the best on offer. Of course I wasn’t taking notes but I did keep the pamphlet from which most of the quotes in this post are taken. You can also take the tour by using Streetsview on Google Maps.

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

River Point (2017: 52 storeys) at the confluence

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

The second photo taken closer to the building to show the lower levels. “The building sits back from rail tracks concealed in a tunnel on top of which is a public park.”

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

The Merchandise Mart (1930) “designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, was originally conceived as a distribution center for Marshall Field & Company” Art Deco

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

600 West (1908) Warehouse for Montgomery Ward designed by Schmidt, Garden and Martin

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

The Civic Opera Building (designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White) turns its back to the river: when constructed in the 1920s the river was for transportation and not regarded as an amenity. This is now changing with a variety of treatments to the waterfront to improve pedestrian access.

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

Another Bertrand Holberg building – designer of Marina City – at the far end of the tour.

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

Willis Tower 1974 (formerly Sears Tower) Skidmore, Owens & Merrill for 24 years the world’s tallest building “Bundled tube” construction

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

This building did not get a mention on the tour: it is the Reid-Murdoch Building.

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

Marina City 1967 Bertrand Holberg – a multi-use complex with residential condos over parking, a marina, restaurant, theatre, shops and a hotel.

Chicago Architects' Boat Tour

Lake Point Tower 1968

Designed by Schipporeit and Heinrich. The City has now decreed that no more high towers will be permitted east of Lake Shore Drive.

The boat turned back here in front of the locks which are designed to prevent too much lake water being drained to the Mississippi.

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 26, 2018 at 10:51 am

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 4

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The last stop on our FLW pilgrimage was his groundbreaking Unity Temple. Wright came from a Unitarian family “which faith then had many beliefs in common with Universalism.”

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright used the corner lot to good advantage: the front of the building is on a busy street. The entrance is on a side street, to a lobby (or loggia) which separates the two functions of the building. The sanctuary, for worship, on the front and a meeting room with offices above at the back for social events.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

The high blank wall reduces the amount of noise that penetrates into the sanctuary. The building is mainly built of concrete poured on site, which was cheap. The moulds were used multiple times for repeating walls with similar dimensions.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright also designed all the fixtures and fittings, using the same theme.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Natural light comes from the ceiling and a clerestory.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

I am not going to just stick in more quotes from the wiki article – though I do recommend you read it.

My first impression of the building was, I confess, unfavourable. But having walked around it and listened to the recorded guide I think I understand it better. The “compression and release” concept is on display here. You can’t just walk in the front door, you are sent around to the side and then fed through a lower level before you emerge into the sanctuary for your “wow” moment. Very cleverly, the congregation can leave through swing doors (that are not apparent in the loggia) either for a speedy exit or for some socializing in the smaller space behind. I liked the democratic layout of the seating: no-one is more than 40 feet from the pulpit. There are several levels of seating but all have an equal prominence. It is very quiet inside the sanctuary, despite all the tourists. By the way the cost of three self guided tours for us came to CAN $37.28. If we had waited for an actual guide it would have been more, but I think this might be a better way to do it.

It is also fair to say that cheap construction meant that the congregation has had to find funds for some considerable renovations to the structure – walls and roof. I don’t know much about Unitarian Universalism and I am not really fussed about finding out. But it is worth noting that the congregation really liked what Wright achieved here.

OK here is the kicker quote from wiki

Unity Temple is considered to be one of Wright’s most important structures dating from the first decade of the twentieth century. Because of its consolidation of aesthetic intent and structure through use of a single material, reinforced concrete, Unity Temple is considered by many architects to be the first modern building in the world.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 22, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 3

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We now turn to the studio that Wright constructed in front of his house in Oak Park. The original house dates to 1889: the studio and connecting corridor were built in 1898.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

 

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

“Most of the sculptures on the exterior of the Home and studio were designed by Wright’s friend and collaborator, Richard Bock. These include the two boulder figures flanking the entrance of the studio, which features a man crouching and breaking free from the ground beneath him. Bock also designed the stork capitals on the exterior loggia of the studio. The capitals signifies the tree of life, the book of knowledge, an architectural scroll, and two storks full of wisdom and fertility.” (wikipedia)

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

 

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The studio has lots of natural light thanks to the skylight with its characteristic pattern of coloured glass. The gift shop has, of course, lots of things with patterns like this on them.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

I was a bit surprised that the drawings were all laid out on flat tables – which could be adjusted for height. Most of the popular images for architects drawing boards show them tilted at an angle.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The guide did a bit of audience involvement here. He got four people to hold hands as they stood around him, and then move back until their arms were extended: then he told them to lean out further. The roof of the octagonal studio is supported by the metal frame and chains, and the four people could all testify to how that works.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright

Robie House model: arch Frank Lloyd Wright

Model of the Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

I imagine that the secretary who had to sit in this chair as she did Wright’s typing has some thoughts about his lack of understanding of human anatomy and ergonomics.

The next post in this series will deal with Wright’s first commission for a public building.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

October 21, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 2

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So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I can’t believe your song is gone so soon
I barely learned the tune
So soon, so soon

I’ll remember Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we’d harmonize ’till dawn
I never laughed so long
So long, so long

Architects may come and architects may go
And never change your point of view
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you

Paul Simon’s lyrics

In order to get a picture of the house and studio I would have had to cross the road and find a way to frame a shot, which would be dominated by a giant ginko tree he planted. So this is not my picture but one taken from Google Streetsview

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The rest of the images are of the interior as we took the guided tour – the only way that visitors are allowed to see the house. The guide was brilliant: I strongly recommend you take the tour if you get the chance. (At the time of writing $18 for an adult, $15 for a senior. US dollars of course.)

The house is the first that followed the “open plan” layout that has now become common. Previously houses had many rooms all accessed by hallways. Wright made his home feel more spacious by eliminating or minimising circulation space.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The inglenook in the reception room: note the carved inscriptions over the fireplace. He thought that drawing the curtains would create a nice warm, cosy place to sit. Over the years more advanced heating and cooling systems have replaced the role of the fireplace. This one is central to the house rather than in one of the outside walls. The chimney had to be cranked to get around the “window” to the dining room.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The style of the dining room chairs seems to me reminiscent of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright deplored the convention of filling a room with furniture: his built-in seats in the window alcoves were one of his many innovations.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Skylight: the repeating geometric patterns are formed by natural shapes such as leaves.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The window has a characteristic pattern incorporating coloured glass based on the prairie grasses that would have been visible when the house was built, when it was still in open country.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright also designed the light fittings

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

In order to reduce the intrusion into the large loft room, the grand piano is suspended over the staircase by a hook. Only the keyboard is visible in the room itself. He also bought a pianola-roll player, to play it for him.

You will note how small the stairway is: that is also reflected in hall which leads into the large upper room. “Compression and release” is a favourite theme of Wright’s layouts.

The next post will be of the studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 1

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I took a lot of pictures on my recent trip to Chicago. You will be able to see more of them on flickr. I am going to try and assemble some of them into Blog Posts,  starting on our first full day in the region.

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Oak Park is a suburb of Chicago just north of the City Limits. It is where Frank Lloyd Wright built his home and studio, a number of large houses and a strikingly original church. We had booked a tour of the house and studio. Arriving early we were able to walk around the block where his house was built – and recognised his style in many of the houses.

Moore-Dugal Residence Oak Park

Completed in 1895, this was Wright’s first commission after he left Adler and Sullivan’s firm. The third and fourth floors were destroyed by fire in 1922. Wright immediately returned, redesigned and rebuilt the home.

Oak Park

Oak Park

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Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park

“The Edward R. Hills House, also known as the Hills–DeCaro House, is a residence located at 313 Forest Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. It is most notable for a 1906 remodel by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his signature Prairie style. The Hills–DeCaro House represents the melding of two distinct phases in Wright’s career; it contains many elements of both the Prairie style and the designs with which Wright experimented throughout the 1890s. The house is listed as a contributing property to a federal historic district on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a local Oak Park Landmark.”

It is pretty easy I think to pick out the Wright houses in the selection above.

The next post will deal with Wright’s home and studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 19, 2018 at 10:53 am

Posted in architecture

Tagged with , ,

Vancouver Public Library: New Roof Garden

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We went downtown today to see the recently opened extension to the main public library. There is a new top floor with an large public space, currently hosting an exhibit about the changing city and above that a rooftop area that is mostly paved but with some planting (shown above).

I have also uploaded a set of photos to my flickr stream which I am linking to below

Vancouver Public Library

This poster is displayed in the main lobby. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Vancouver Public Library

As you can see it is not that hard to find your way around the new 9th floor.

There are two open patios on the 8th floor, also accessible from new exterior stairs as well as the internal escalators, elevators and stairs.

Vancouver Public Library

There is also a planted area that is not open to the public on the 9th floor as is the green roof above it.

Vancouver Public Library

The whole thing is all very nicely presented but I have to confess a feeling of being underwhelmed. The new space did get quite a lot of notice in the media, so I suppose I was expecting something more.

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Movable tables and chairs are a very good idea. Maybe as the plantings grow and more people start to use the space, things will look better. No doubt sunshine will help but frankly the view is unimpressive. Not much of our glorious setting is visible from here – just the towers and the roof of the stadium

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm