The University of Chicago’s ongoing development is a balancing act of preserving its collegiate gothic badge of architectural honor and making bold contemporary bounds ahead. One project that maintains that equilibrium with grace is Ann Beha Architect’s conversion of the University’s old Theological Seminary into a new economics building.
The area surrounding the site at 58th and University is on the preservation watch list, so the new steel-and-glass research pavilion along Woodlawn Avenue is likely to ruffle a few feathers. But most of the work treads lightly on the site. Glass infill will create a new entryway between the seminary building’s two main wings.
While historic facades remain throughout much of the building, designers hope a new staircase will improve vertical circulation. And a 90-seat classroom anchors an expansion below grade that improves access to existing space, drawing in light from openings to a new loggia above. Placed atop a terra cotta base, the modern addition jives tastefully with the former seminary.
One of the “Chicago Seven” architects who broke with the city’s modernist aesthetic during the 1970s and 80s, Thomas H. Beeby, will receive the 2013 Richard H. Driehaus Prize. Considered the traditionalist’s Pritzker Prize, the Driehaus comes with a $200,000 purse and denotes a lifetime of contributions to classicism in contemporary built work.
The end of the year is nigh, and the season of awards and lists is at hand. In addition to the AIA Chicago awards to be presented tonight, the Chicago Architecture Foundation this week announced their Patron of the Year Awards.
“Good buildings only happen with good clients,” read a statement presented by Williams + Tsien at the ceremony. Great buildings, however, only happen when clients are “unreasonable” in their commitment to good design, the David & Reva Logan Center for the Arts architects said.
Cities matter. In the Midwest recent headlines have read like an urban planning syllabus: post-industrial rebirth attracts a new generation of urbanites downtown, the roll-out of high-speed rail begins to pick up pace, and while innovative solutions to the region’s well-documented problems abound, a lingering fiscal crisis and unfunded pension liabilities threaten to squash even the most attainable aspirations.
Those topics and more made the agenda at University of Illinois Chicago’s annual Urban Forum held Thursday, whose lineup included the mayors of Columbus and Pittsburgh, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil” was the topic at hand.
AIA Chicago announced their 2012 awards, to be officially presented tomorrow at the chapter’s annual meeting.
Firm of the year goes to Farr Associates, whose sustainable design credentials include seven LEED Platinum projects, two net-zero-energy buildings and three LEED-Neighborhood Developments. Farr was the first firm in the world to rack up three LEED Platinum projects. The New York Times’ Keith Schneider once called them “The most prominent of the city’s growing cadre of ecologically sensitive architects.” Eco-urbanists are in good company these days, and it seems a timely choice by AIA to highlight a firm so actively involved in the hard work of implementing smart growth and sustainable design.
Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed.
The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year.
Amtrak’s Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.
A push to consolidate art classrooms and performance venues on the campus of a prominent Rockford, Illinois college seems to have hit the doldrums, as Rock Valley College (RVC) administrators shake up priorities and pull back the budget. The Rockford Register Star reported RVC’s new arts instructional center, which received plans from Booth Hansen and Jeanne Gang, may get the axe.
On the heels of a surprising, if tenuous, victory in court, preservationists gathered Thursday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation to celebrate the opening of Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations About Prentice Women’s Hospital, an exhibition that showcases re-use proposals for Bertrand Goldberg’s threatened icon.
Some of the 71 ideas presented addressed Northwestern University’s stipulations for high-density wet-lab research space on the site, while some imagined other uses for the cloverleaf tower and its blocky podium.
Bicyclists, add Columbus to the list: the capital of Ohio approved a $2.3 million contract with Alta Bicycle Share on Monday. Starting in May, users will be able to pay $5 per day via credit card to roam the greater downtown area on a three-speed bicycle. Yearly memberships will be about $65, which will include unlimited 30-minute rides for the year, but they will have to pay more for longer rides.
Columbus is the first city in Ohio with such a program, but there has been talk in Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Two students in Milwaukee have grand plans for their own version of the High Line, or Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, albeit at ground level. The 2.4-mile trail would connect racially segregated neighborhoods and turn an abandoned railroad line into an outdoor artwalk.
Keith Hayes and Rob Zdanowski crafted a profile of the geo-textile called “matireal” that they hope will comprise Milwaukee’s “Artery” — an 18-inch-by-4-foot reduction of car tires set in a polycarbonate case. Some of the materials come directly from the trail itself, including the tires’ rubber and the gravel that fills the cells in between.
A bizarre parliamentary maneuver two weeks ago granted and subsequently revoked landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, leading some to speculate about legal recourse for a coalition of preservationists who have fought owner Northwestern University’s plans to demolish the building. Today members of that coalition took their battle to court, alleging the Commission on Chicago Landmarks “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority.”