There’s a certain dorky pleasure in the reading lists of teams vying for design competitions. The big names paired with the dependable locals. The firms with very busy dance cards that everyone seems to want. The odd random people with no discernible reason to be involved. The 52 teams that responded to the Navy Pier RFQ have all those in spades. Zaha! Foster + Partners, BIG, OMA! Every prominent Chicago architect! Hoerr Schaupt Landscape Architects on no less than four teams! We’ll be watching to see who makes the next round. Amusement aside, it’s great to see so many prominent local and international designers vying to improve the iconic pier.
A passerby might mistake the Art Museum at DePaul University as an enduring Lincoln Park fixture, even though the brand new building just opened. Bucking the trend for cutting-edge art museum architecture in favor of a contextual approach was a deliberate decision by the university and its longtime architect, Antunovich Associates.
Process and Artistry in the Soviet Vanguard
Smart Museum of Art
5550 South Greenwood Avenue
Through December 11
In Process and Artistry in the Soviet Vanguard the Smart Museum examines Soviet propaganda of the 1920s and 1930s, including a number of art pieces that set the creative precedent for mass-produced works. The show features artists Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina, from their informal drawings, collages, and visual studies to completed designs, posters, and printed material. Concerned with the “politicization of art making,” the works of Klutsis and Kulagina begin to tell a story about artistic expression, political institutions, and mass production. The show presents both experimental modes of representation and what became the iconic graphics associated with propaganda, such as Klutsis’ Glory to the Red Army of workers and peasants – loyal guard of Soviet borders!, 1935, pictured above.
Today Mayor Emanuel’s office announced plans to streamline the process for submitting and reviewing plans for building permits. The so-called “E-Plan” will eliminate paper drawings, and allow architects and engineers to submit projects to the Department of Buildings electronically. Architects and building owners will also be able to check the status of their permits instantly. “We are taking much-needed steps to increase efficiency and decrease the time it takes developers to obtain a building permit in the City of Chicago,” said the mayor, in a statement. According to an interview with NBC Chicago, Emanuel believes the new permitting measures will shave an average of 10 days off the process.
Safer at night. Two design students at Carnegie Mellon University created a functional and graceful lighting system for bikers that enhances side visibility at night. The LED lights that line the wheel rims, are powered by pedaling and change colors depending on speed. Bloggers at Greater Greater Washington have posted a video of the lights in action.
Convenient Cities. What makes a city “convenient”? According to a study published by The Street, factors include walkability, public transportation, and amenity proximity. Their city ranking, using data from Walk Score, Zillow and APTA, put Boston, New York, Denver, Portland, and Chicago at the top.
Olympic Pollution. A documentary by filmmaker Faisal Abdu’Allah, Double Pendulum, examines the harmful effects of pollution on East London residents and athletes, The Guardian says. Abdu’Allah cautions that poor air quality in East London may threaten athletes’ performances in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Designer Chocolates. PSFK reports that researchers in a joint program between the University of Exeter, the University of Brunel, and Delam, a software developer, have created a printer that turns 3D CAD designs into ready-made chocolates. An upcoming retail site will allow the public to upload original designs.
Bikes First. To protect its cycling tradition and its bikers’ safety, Copenhagen continues to enhance its metropolitan bicycle system. StreetsBlog reports that 37 percent of the city’s urban population bikes to and from work and school on the city’s extensive network of bicycle-only lanes, park paths, and renovated railway tracks. The public transportation system also supports bicycle-travel, while the city has slowly reduced the number of car lanes on streets and auto-routes.
Pedestrians, Too. Chicago moves forward this week on its highly anticipated Pedestrian Plan – an attempt to remedy high levels of hit-and-run fatalities and create a safer walking environment. After the tragic death of Martha Gonzalez at the South Halsted Street intersection, the municipal government realized that further safety measures must be taken. According to the Tribune, the city will host eight public meetings throughout the summer to gather constituent input, the foundation of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s action plan.
Construction Sand-Box. While excavating the foundation of his new home in Colorado, Ed Mumm was inspired to develop the Dig This project–a construction equipment playground for adolescents and adults. PSFK reveals that Munn’s second Dig This location recently launched in Las Vegas, where guests can operate a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator after attending a 30-minute safety briefing.
River Craft. BldgBlog brings news that the Dutch art group Observatorium finished Waiting for the River, a 125-foot-long habitable bridge, in 2010. The project is installed on the Emscher River wetlands, a sewer canal contained by dikes that will flood completely within 10 years. Observatorium invites people to wait for the river in the reclaimed-timber cabins; furnished with beds and plumbing.
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Molded gypsum shapes a Chicago Merchandise Mart space.
The Steelcase Worklife Center is one of the Chicago Merchandise Mart’s largest showrooms, spanning 45,000 square feet and encompassing four areas displaying the furniture manufacturers’ various brands. The company hired Los Angeles-based architect Joey Shimoda, who also designed the Steelcase center in Santa Monica, to create interiors that would unify the showroom with the common corridor bisecting it. After reading about a project by molded gypsum, concrete, and fiberglass fabricator Formglas in a magazine, he called the company and was on a plane to its Toronto headquarters the next day to discuss a series of geometric architectural elements he envisioned for the space.
Yesterday that National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital had made its annual 11 Most Endangered List, bringing national attention to the fight to save the quatrefoil-plan, concrete building. Also yesterday, the local group Save Prentice staged a rally outside the building featuring speakers including Zurich Esposito of the Chicago AIA and Jim Peters from Landmarks Illinois.
Progressive transportation commissioners have become heroes in planning circles. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of Gabe Klein as DOT commissioner. Poached from Washington D.C., where Emanuel saw his work first-hand, Klein has extensive experience instituting new transportation ideas, including the nation’s largest bike sharing program and a new streetcar system. Read More
Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
June 11 through October 9, 2011
Soon after the turn of the last century, artists and designers from Central and Eastern Europe began producing radically innovative images and objects that remain remarkably fresh today. For the first time, the Art Institute has gathered over 300 objects from across departments to present a comprehensive view of works from the period. Bold graphics, such as John Heartfield’s cover and illustrations for Kurt Tucholsky, Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles from 1929 (above), and pared back design objects show some of the ways in which these artists sought to transform daily living, an experiment that historical events would quickly bring to an end.