Lagrange out to Pasture?

Midwest
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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courtesy Crain's

Crain’s reports that prominent Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange is throwing in the towel at the barely ripe age of 69. Not only his he closing up shop–at an as yet undisclosed date–he’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Retiring, (there would be) a lot of liabilities are on my back. I can’t just walk away,” Lagrange told Crain’s. “Chapter 11 gives you a chance to plan ahead, organize and close in a decent way.”

While the AIA may be forcasting a brighter 2011, Lagrange, best known for designing high end condos, doesn’t see the market bouncing back for another five years. While he might be in a gloomy mood now, my hunch is that Chapter 11 won’t be the final chapter in his career.

Ebert Gives Modernism Two Thumbs Down

Midwest
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
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Ebert admits to loving the original University of Chicago campus, though hating its modern additions, such as Saarinen's Law School. (Courtesy UChicago)

Ebert.

Everyone may be a critic, but none moreso than Roger Ebert. While film has long been the Chicagoan’s preferred medium, he has increasingly cast his eyes and pen elsewhere on his Sun-Times blog (begun after a bout of thyroid cancer). Yesterday, he fixed his attention—and mostly scorn—on modern architecture. It’s a highly opinionated piece, one in which Ebert openly admits his increasingly “reactionary” preferences:

It was not always so. My first girlfriend when I moved to Chicago was Tal Gilat, an architect from Israel. She was an admirer of Mies. Together we explored his campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. She showed me his four adjacent apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive and said they looked as new today as when they were built. It is now 40 years later, and they still look that new. Then I was impressed. Now I think of it as the problem. They will never grow old. They will never speak of history. No naive eye will look at them and think they represent the past. They seem helplessly captive of the present.

Read More

At Home With Jeanne Gang

Midwest
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
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(photos: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing)

The undulating balconies of Aqua have become one of the most recognized and talked about additions to the Chicago skyline. Less attention has been paid to the handsome townhouses, called “Parkhomes,” in the building’s base. Magellan, the developers, are trying to right that balance and drum up interest amid the still sluggish downtown condo market by enlisting Studio Gang to fit out the interior of one of the units. The six 3,200 square foot Parkhomes, have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a two car garage, a rarity for condos in the immediate vicinity of the central business district. Read More

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Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

Midwest
Thursday, July 1, 2010
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These pro-Pullman protesters got what they wanted. (Ira and Andrea/Flickr)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world’s largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times‘ incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us: Read More

Eavesdrop MW 03

Midwest
Thursday, June 17, 2010
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The Lady Di-inspired Great American Tower, Cincinati's fabbest new building. (Courtesy SkyscraperPage.com)

CROWNING PORKOPOLIS

What’s the cliché? You can dress up a pig but it’s still a pig? I can’t remember. Some terrible former governor, who will not be named, used the line a lot. Anyway! The Great American Tower, the newest addition to Cincinnati’s skyline, was recently topped off with a giant tiara inspired by Diana, Princess of Wales. The glitzy tower could be the ugliest building in the Midwest. It’s a toss-up as to whether the Royal Family will add this to its rather lengthy list of regal embarrassments—oh Fergie!—or delight in the ghastly tribute. After all, the tower will be the tallest in the city, surpassing the Carew Tower, which reigned supreme since 1930 with its beautiful art deco interiors. The tiara’s (and building’s) design cred go to Gyo Obata, the “O” of HOK. Eavesdrop wonders why Gyo did not look to local royalty, like former mayor Jerry Springer. A skyscraper inspired by guests throwing chairs at one another could be interesting! Read More

Eavesdrop MW 02

Midwest
Monday, May 24, 2010
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Who will be running the Art Institute's new-ish design galleries? (juneleaf/Twitter)

DANCING WITH STARCHITECTS
Eavesdrop got all flustered when the Chicago Dancing Festival, an annual event celebrating American dance, announced the theme for its August 27 event: “The Dancing Skyline.” Could this be like Dancing with the Stars or a Pilobolus-like pile of dancers recreating buildings from Chicago’s iconic skyline? Probably neither, as the festival’s website simply describes it as “a lecture and demonstration focused on themes of architecture and dance.” Still, we would have paid good money to see Jeanne Gang paired with the likes of Jay Franke of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company prancing off against Helmut Jahn and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet. A gossip columnist can dream! Read More

Eavesdrop Takes Artopolis (Eats Out of Garbage Can?)

Midwest
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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A sculpture by Tony Tasset outside the Merchandise Mart. (All photos by Tripp Chamberlain)

Chicago may be better known for NeoCon–that’s the design show, not right-wing political philosophy–but the contemporary and modern art equivalent, Artropolis, appears to be holding ground with another solid run at the Merchandise Mart over the last weekend. Artropolis, the Midwest‘s answer to Art Basel, is comprised of three fairs: Art Chicago; NEXT, an invitational exhibition of emerging art; and the International Antiques Fair. AN’s Midwest Eavesdrop took a spin around the preview party to peep who turned out for the free booze and what was showing at the fairs.   Read More

Waffling on Walmart

Midwest
Monday, May 3, 2010
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Walmart has one store in Chicago, in Oak Park on the West Side. Can it pull off the same feat in Pullman? (Courtesy Google Maps)

The story surrounding plans for a new Walmart on Chicago’s Far South Side keeps changing faster than the retailer’s prices. Last week we noticed that its attempts to break into Brooklyn were eerily similar to those in the Windy City, though we failed to mention how the linchpin of the current argument, that no one would dare locate in Pullman, does not hold true in East New York, as the Gateway Center already has a Target and a few other big box stores. But according to the Chicago Reader, that may not be the case in Pullman either. The paper did the unthinkable and—gasp!—called up the other retailers who the local alderman said he contacted, including IKEA, Dominick’s, and Jewel-Osco, to confirm that they had turned Alderman Anthony Beale down. Read More

Mies, Ahoy!

Midwest
Friday, April 30, 2010
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(Courtesy Chicago Architecture Foundation)

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tours begin tomorrow, and they’ve added two evening “date night” cruises on Thursday and Friday evenings, beginning at 5:30. The hour and a half long tours highlights 53 architecturally significant sites. All Chicago Architecture Foundation cruises depart from the lower level and southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive. The 2010 Tour Schedule runs through November 21.  Tickets are $32 and are available at www.architecture.org or
1-800-982-2787.

Welcome to Chicago, Darling

Midwest
Friday, April 30, 2010
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(photo: courtesy MCA)

Today, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago announced the appointment of Michael Darling as the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. Darling is currently the modern and contemporary art curator at the Seattle Art Museum and was previously an associate curator at LA MOCA. “Michael Darling is the perfect creative leader to evolve the MCA as a preeminent contemporary art destination in terms of reputation, influence, relevance and visibility,” said Madeleine Grynstejn, the Prtizker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, in a statement.

Darling replaces Elizabeth Smith who stepped down last year. Under Smith, the MCA organized or hosted numerous architecture exhibitions and programs including Sustainable Architecture in Chicago, Garofalo Architects: Between the Museum and the City, as well as serving as the Chicago venue for Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe. Darling is well positioned to continue MCA’s architecture and design programming. While at MOCA he co-curated the exhibition The Architecture of R.M. Schindler.

Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

East Coast, National
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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The stores of Gateway Center 1. Might the second phase include a Walmart? (Courtesy Related)

In the last Midwest issue, we recounted Walmarts struggles to infiltrate urban centers, notably in Chicago. But the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest employer has also been eying New York for years, and the Daily News reports that it is making a new push in Brooklyn, which has already met resistance from locals and labor without even being officially announced. The weird thing, though, is how eerily similar there approach is in East New York as with the Pullman project on Chicago’s Far South Side. Both are meant to be the anchor tenant in a larger mixed-use development that involves affordable housing (the former is part of Gateway II, the latter Pullman Park) located in the fringes of their respective cities, places that have been historically economically depressed. This puts Walmart in a better position of arguing that the area is in need of jobs, any jobs, not to mention affordable housing, so how dare politicians and unions try to stop it. Whether it works in Brooklyn or the Far South Side, only time will tell, but if Kingsbridge is any indication, it probably won’t happen in the Five Boroughs any time soon. Pullman, however, might be an entirely different story, as Mayor Daley continues to agitate for the project’s approval.

Regional Rebound?

Midwest
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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For the forth month straight, billings for firms in the Midwest are showing the strongest uptick of the four regions tracked by the AIA. And for the first time since the recession, in March billings in the Midwest have moved into positive territory, breaking the 50 mark, making it the first region to do so since the recession began. (Anything below means billings for work are falling, above rising.) In the graph above, the Midwest region is represented in red, the East in blue, the West in green, and the South in orange. According to the numbers, the recovery has arrived. Read More

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