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.
We got an email earlier today from Leni Schwendinger, principal of Light Projects, informing us that she was also part of the team redesigning Times Square, a terrible omission from the original announcement given that this probably the most well-lit place on the planet. “As a location singularly (and controversially) known for lighting and light, the Times Square win is very important,” Schwendinger wrote. “It is Light Projects’ opportunity to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians.” (Graphic designers Pure and Applied and engineers Buro Happold are also on the Snohetta-led team.) This revelation led to a nice little discussion on the nature of Times Squares’ gigawhattage and some brainstorming on what might make a good design. Read More
When shoe retailer Crocs set its sights on Soho, the blogosphere didn’t hesitate grouching about the rubber clog emporium’s arrival at the corner of Spring and Wooster streets. What was feared as an assault of global branding, however, has become an unlikely symbol of a sea change for New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which pushed for a modern, glassy volume in the heart of the historic cast-iron district. Read More
The Build a Better Burb competition, sponsored by the Long Island Index, has announced its 23 finalists, selected from a pool of over two hundred submissions. The competition invited architects, designers, planners, and students to reimagine suburbia in light of Long Island’s lack of job opportunities and its high housing costs—and a landscape ripe for reinvention as a more socially and environmentally sustainable place. Read More
British architect John Pawson was in town recently, conferring with a client about their new apartment in one of Richard Meier’s Perry Street towers and supporting another whose film was premiering at the Museum of Modern Art. He took time out for a coffee to talk about the upcoming show of his work at the London Design Museum opening on September 22, as well as his new home for the museum—announced last month—within the repurposed Commonwealth Institute, aka the Parabola Building, a swoopy 1962 white elephant designed by RMJM in West London. (Also going on the site is a controversial Rem Koolhaas-designed apartment building.) Read More
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
The Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) last week hosted the 40th annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards. A local ten-person jury consisting of city officials, contractors and developers recognized 31 projects in 20 categories. The verdict: It appears the city’s design professionals value sustainability, re-tooling dilapidated or ill-used buildings, economic rejuvenation and buildings that spur community involvement. Perhaps the biggest winners were police stations, a major design priority in the city lately, producing open, airy facilities meant to interact with their communities and even become community hubs. Six stations won awards, with the grand prize of this year’s awards going to the LAPD Administration building and its amenities like a nearly one-acre public park, a 400-seat auditorium and a rooftop garden. Other winners included the Hollenbeck Station in Boyle Heights by AC Martin, and the Olympic Police Station by Gruen and Associates. Read More
Among the dozens of books that arrive in our office, I found myself quickly drawn into Alan K. Lathrop’s handsome new guide Minnesota Architects: A Biographical Dictionary. The volume includes nearly forgotten 19th century architects all the way up to leading contemporary practitioners like Vincent James, David Salmela, and Julie Snow. While the book might sound like a dry reference, Lathrop includes concise descriptions of the individuals and firms, including their educational and professional lineages. Black and white photographs, both contemporary and historial, illustrate the book, and most are larger than the postage stamp-sized images found in many guides. Lathrop also connects professional collaborations between individuals, so the book feels like a yearbook for the state’s architects.
It’s a form of refence book that should be copied. For now, Minnesota Architects is poised to become the new standard reference for anyone looking to learn more about the state’s rich built heritage and its well developed professional culture.