While a number of new rental towers have been announced in recent months, Crain’s has an informative article about a number of Chicago condominium developers who are beginning to build again, albeit at a very small scale and in tightly phased sequences. Even for projects as small as 14 units, banks are demanding projects be split into two phases, six units first, followed by eight in a second building. Some developers are also willing to accept lower offers from buyers for higher down payments up front. The thinking reflects new stricter lending standards and continuing economic uncertainty. But with Chicago’s condo market still over-saturated and the foreclosure crisis just beginning to wane, it also reflects a much needed correction from previous patterns of over building and over lending. And, pardon me Mr. Burnham, but isn’t incremental city-making and infill development often the best approach?
Jürgen Mayer H.: Wirrwarr
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Through January 22, 2012
While the Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer H. is known for his highly sculptural, honeycomb-like buildings, such as the Metropol Parasol in Seville or the the Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium (above), one of his quirky obsessions is not as widely known: a fascination with secret codes and numbers encrypted into patterns. Used by institutions such as banks to ensure that sensitive information such as PINs and passwords are only visible to the recipient, these intricately patterned data sheets are largely unexamined. To Jürgen Mayer H., however, this visual expression of our fear of exposure and desire for protection is fascinating and relevant to architecture.
The new Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign uses the latest in sustainable technology and building practices in hopes of reaching not only LEED Platinum, but even zero net energy usuage. Designed by SmithGroup, the 230,000 square foot building is also meant to serve as a prototype for sustainable building across the campus. The ECE department is working toward a net zero building that will supply one hundred percent of its energy demands by incorporating renewable energy systems. The architects and engineers from KJWW have integrated a range of system, including an array of photovoltaic cells panels, displacement and demand control ventilation, heat recovery chillers with net metering, and a chilled beam system for cooling and heating the classroom tower. The building also features solar shading and a multi-hued terra cotta rainscreen over an R30 building envelope. Construction is expected to begin at the end of this year, with an estimated completion date of fall 2014.
Still riding the wave of publicity following her recent MacArthur genius grant win, Jeanne Gang gets the full star treatment from Chicago’s public TV station WTTW. This documentary, “Jeanne Gang: The Sky’s the Limit,” is all praise. Blair Kamin and Stanley Tigerman figure as her head cheerleaders. It would have been nice to have someone puncture the bubble a bit, possibly interrogating Gang about architect’s limits, rather than merely presenting the discipline (and Gang as one of its leading lights) as a environmental and societal savior. The documentary does show some engaging glimpses of Studio Gang’s working methods and office style, so there’s plenty to enjoy, even for the (mild) skeptics.
Yesterday Queen City voters nixed a ballot measure that would have banned all rail funding, which would effectively have killed the Cincinnati’s planned streetcar. In defeating Issue 48, voters cleared the way for construction to begin on the downtown to the Over-the-Rhine light rail line early next year. The margin was tight, only a percent and a half, but it was large enough to avoid a recount. According to UrbanCity.com, the election also solidified support for the line on the city council, with three new pro-streetcar council members elected, for a seven to two majority.
Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $2 congestion tax on downtown parking is facing stiff opposition from, you guessed it, the parking lobby. According to the Tribune, the Parking Industry Labor Management Committee is posting placards in member facilities and handing out flyers opposing the tax. The committee argues the tax will not improve traffic flow and could encourage businesses to relocate to the suburbs. Emanuel believes the tax will foster greater transit ridership and raise an estimated $28 million annually for CTA improvements. The $2 tax on parking at garages and lots in the Loop and River North will be added to the existing $3 tax that goes to the city’s general fund.
Detroit’s most famous ruin, Michigan Central Depot, may soon see new life. Workers for the billionaire Maroun family have been clearing debris out of the 18-story building and a feasibility study for reusing the building is underway. Ann Arbor-based Quinn Evans Architects are among those working on the study. “Structurally, the building is very sound. What’s different now from (previous attempts) is the momentum—the group of people behind this effort as well as the outreach to a wide group,” principal Elisabeth Kibble, told the Detroit News. Local politicians, foundation leaders, and officials from the Detroit Institute of the Arts were recently given a tour of the space. New York-based developer Scott Griffin is working with the Marouns to find possible new uses for the building.
On October 28, over 800 architects, designers, contractors, and their clients gathered together at Navy Pier in Chicago to celebrate the architecture firms recognized with 2011 Design Excellence Awards. Firms were honored for achievements in the following four categories: Distinguished Building, Interior Architecture, Regional & Urban Design, and Unbuilt Design. Out of 357 entries, there were 42 awards total– 10 Honor Awards (the highest distinction), 24 Citation of Merits, and 8 Special Recognitions. Half of these awards were for designs in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, while the remaining awards were for designs in other cities, states, and countries. Read More
Studio Gang has long partnered with nonprofits and community groups to realize their unconventional designs. For her recent Harvard GSD studio, principal Jeanne Gang partnered with one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to tackle an issue with repercussions across the northern Midwest: separating the South Branch of Chicago River to prevent invasive Asian carp from decimating the Great Lakes.
When Jeanne Gang was brought on board in April to help reimagine a stalled tower in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, the entire community’s spirits were uplifted by the bold collaboration proposed by the Chicago-based architect and MacArthur genius. Studio Gang’s design replaced an uninspired high-rise block that destroyed an entire city block before running out of steam, but developer Dudley Webb announced Thursday that Gang will no longer be involved with the mixed-use project.
Yesterday, Chicago’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) began a new pedestrian safety initiative, in hopes of taming the aggressive driving habits of city residents. Following in the footsteps of the grassroots Ghost Bikes campaigns–where cycling advocates place anonymous white painted bikes at the sites where cyclists have been killed–the program includes 32 white mannequins placed along Wacker Drive. The mannequins refer to the 32 pedestriand deaths in the city last year. Read More