Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicago architectural walking tour

What an amazing city to explore architecture, both old and new.  We wanted to take the architecture boat cruise but this time of year the schedules are a bit dodgy.

More photos will be up here shortly.

In the middle of a city known for its towers of glass and steel stands a tower made of stone that looks out of place. The Old Water Tower looks like an oversized set decoration from some Elizabethan play. But this isn't knights slaying dragons, this is the city slaking its thirst. Before electric water pumps were invented, the city's drinkig water came ashore from Lake Michigan thanks to inventions known as Corliss engines. These trapped water several miles offshore and moved the water into the city via an undersea tunnel. The system worked, but was not without its flaws. There were vast fluctuations in water pressure, and this immense tower was designed to regulate that. Behind the neo-gothic facade is a 138-foot-tall standpipe that helped control the city's water pressure. Electric water pumps have long since made the Corliss engines redundant, so now the tower regulates the city's flow of tourists. Since the 1970's it has served as a tourist information office.

Wrigley Building, Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
Built 1919-1925

When ground was broken for the Wrigley Building in 1920, there were no major office buildings north of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge, which spans the river just south of the building was still under construction. The land was selected by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. to headquarter his gum company. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White using the shape of the Giralda tower of Seville's Cathedral combined with French Renaissance details. The 425-foot (130 m) south tower was completed in April 1921 and the north tower in May 1924. Walkways between the towers were added at the ground level and the third floor. In 1931, another walkway was added at the fourteenth floor to connect to offices of a bank in accordance with a Chicago statute concerning bank branch offices. The two towers, not including the levels below Michigan Avenue, have a combined area of 453,433 square feet (42,125.3 m2).

The two towers are of differing heights, with the south tower rising to 30 stories and the north tower to 21 stories. On the south tower is a clock with faces pointing in all directions. Each face is 19 feet 7 inches (5.97 m) in diameter. The building is clad in glazed terra-cotta, which provides its gleaming white façade. On occasion, the entire building is hand washed to preserve the terra cotta. At night, the building is brightly lit with floodlights.
The Wrigley Building was Chicago’s first air-conditioned office building. If one walks through the center doors, they will find themselves in a secluded park area overlooking the Chicago River.

Lake Point Tower, Schipporeit-Heinrich Associates
Built 1965-1968

The architects for Lake Point Tower were John Heinrich and George Schipporeit, working under the firm name of Schipporeit and Heinrich; the two were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the best known architects of the Bauhaus movement and International Style school, who taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Lake Point Tower was completed in 1968, is approximately 645 feet (197 m) tall, and was the tallest apartment building in the world at that time. The project developer was William F. Hartnett, Jr., chairman and founder of Hartnett-Shaw Development Company, which was responsible for more than 260 residential and commercial real estate developments in the United States from 1961-1983.

On June 10, 1922, the Chicago Tribune hosted an international design competition for its new headquarters, and offered $100,000 in prize money with a $50,000 1st prize for "the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world". The competition worked brilliantly for months as a publicity stunt, and the resulting entries still reveal a unique turning point in American architectural history. More than 260 entries were received.
The winner was a neo-Gothic design by New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, with buttresses near the top.

4th Presbyterian Church
A beautiful church.  

After nearly 40 years at that location, in 1912, the congregation decided to build a new building on Pine Street (now upper Michigan Avenue), which was then a fairly undeveloped part of the city.[1] The congregation employed architect Ralph Adams Cram to build them a Gothic Revival building. Cram, who also designed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, was at work on both churches at the same time during 1912. Only Fourth Presbyterian was completed, however, and was dedicated in 1914.[1] In contrast, St. John the Divine is still officially unfinished and is considered a work in progress.
Cram designed and built the church for Fourth Presbyterian's congregation, but the parish house, cloister, manse, and garth were designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw.[2] The church building is the oldest structure on Michigan Avenue, with the exception of the Chicago Water Tower, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Marina City, Bertrand Goldberg Associates
Built 1959-1964

Marina City is a mixed-use residential/commercial building complex occupying an entire city block on State Street in Chicago, Illinois. It lies on the north bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, directly across from the Loop district. The complex consists of two high rise corncob-shaped 65-story towers (including five-story elevator and physical plant penthouse), at 587-foot (179 m) tall. It also includes a saddle-shaped auditorium building, and a mid-rise hotel building, all contained on a raised platform adjacent to the river. Beneath the raised platform at river level is a small marina for pleasure craft, giving the structures their name. 

The Marina City complex was designed in 1959 by architect Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964 at a cost of $36 million financed to a large extent by the union of building janitors and elevator operators, who sought to reverse the pattern of white flight from the city's downtown area. When finished, the two towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world. The complex was billed as a city within a city, featuring numerous on-site facilities including a theatre, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, several stores and restaurants, and of course, a marina.
Marina City was built by general contractor James McHugh Construction Co. which subsequently built Water Tower Place in 1976 and Trump Tower in 2009, both also tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world at the time.

Carbide and Carbon Building
Burnham Brothers, Built 1928-1929

The Carbide & Carbon Building is a Chicago landmark located at 230 N. Michigan Avenue. The building, which was built in 1929, is an example of Art Deco architecture designed by Daniel and Hubert Burnham, sons of architect Daniel Burnham, and was designated a Chicago Landmark on May 9, 1996. Originally built as a high-rise office tower, the Carbide & Carbon Building was converted in 2004 to the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago. The building has 37 floors and is 503 feet (153 m) tall.
The exterior of the building is covered in polished black granite, and the tower is dark green terra cotta with gold leaf accents. According to popular legend, architects Daniel and Hubert Burnham designed the building to resemble a dark green champagne bottle with gold foil.[citation needed] Beginning on November 16, 2007, the gold-leaf tower was permanently illuminated at night.[1] The design of the building has been compared to the American Radiator Building in New York City.[2]
The ground floor was originally designed to display products of the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation's subsidiaries whose offices were in the building. The lobby features art deco bronzework and black Belgian Marble.
The top of the building was the filming location for an opening shooting scene in the 2008 film Wanted starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie

330 N. Wabash - Mies Van Der Rohe, 1971

330 North Wabash (formerly IBM Plaza also known as IBM Building and to be renamed AMA Plaza) is a skyscraper in downtown Chicago, Illinois, United States, at 330 N. Wabash Avenue, designed by famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (who died in 1969 before construction began). A small bust of the architect by sculptor Marino Marini is displayed in the lobby. The 52-story building is situated on a plaza overlooking the Chicago River. At 695 feet (211,8 meters), 330 North Wabash is the second-tallest building by Mies van der Rohe, the tallest being the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower at Toronto-Dominion Centre. It was his last American building.[2]
The building's corporate namesake no longer owns nor has offices in the building. IBM sold Plaza IBM to the Blackstone Group in 1996. IBM all but completed its move out of IBM Plaza as of early 2006, taking up space in the new Hyatt Center building closer to Union Station. Law firm Jenner & Block is vacating ten prime top floors of the building in spring of 2010.
IBM Plaza has several design features that are rare in an office building but understandable given its original owner. The building's electrical system, environmental system, floor strength, and ceiling height (on certain floors) can support large "raised floor" computing centers. Also, the "banked" intelligent elevator system is a model of efficiency and rarely keeps anyone waiting for service. IBM Plaza stayed dry during the 1992 Chicago Flood.
Notable tenants as of 2006 include the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Perkins and Will's founding/largest office,[3] the international architectural firm DeStefano Partners, and several smaller law firms. Prime Group Realty Trust, a subsidiary of The Lightstone Group, the building's current owner considered partially converting it to condominiums in 2006.[4] Those plans were soon abandoned. In 2007, plans were announced to convert floors two through fourteen of the fifty-two story building into a high-end hotel. The Langham, Chicago is expected to open in 2013, occupying floors two through thirteen. The building was declared a Chicago Landmark on February 6, 2008 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 26, 2010. It is also the newest building in Chicago in terms of age on both lists.

Pritzker Pavillion, Frank Gehry

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, is the new home for Chicago's Grant Park Symphony, which for nearly seventy years has been providing free summer concerts in downtown Chicago. The name of the bandshell refers to Chicago's Pritzker family, owners of Hyatt Hotels and the Marmon Group. Cindy Pritzker was instrumental in insisting that Gehry be brought to Chicago to design the new bandshell, the architect's first building in the city.
The bandshell, built atop a sublevel muncipal parking garage, is the centerpiece of the city's new $475,000,000 Millennium Park, which was itself constructed partially on the site of an older park that had fallen into massive disrepair, and partially over tracks that were originally built by the Illinois Central Railroad in the early 19th century and that had remained, until Millennium Park's creation, an open trench that separated Michigan Avenue from the city's lakefront.
The bandshell has seating for 4,000, with room for another 7,000 people on the broad lawn behind the fixed seating. The site of the old band shell, which remains the location for the city's fourth of July concert and numerous pop music festivals, was in most places little more than clumps of grass isolated in great expanses of dirt - a heavy rain and it was Woodstock redux. At least for now, the great lawn of the Pritzker pavilion is a thick uninterrupted carpet of newly laid sod.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Milwaukee Museum of Art

During a quick vacation to Chicago, we took a day trip to the Milwaukee Museum of Art.

For more information, reach me here.  I will also post slideshows at my youtube channel.  Thanks for reading! 

We really went to see the expanded museum space that architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava designed. I am a huge fan of Calatrava and was introduced to his work by the Ovation Network, where I watched the Turning Torso documentary.  Turning Torso is Calatrava's building in Malmo, Sweden.   Read more about that here.   It is absolutely stunning.  Some of you may know Calatrava from his design work that was to be the new transportation hub in New York City.  Some may know him because of his bridge designs. will take you to the Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA.  You can watch a 30 minute documentary on the building of the Sundial Bridge at Netflix. 

So we left Chicago at 9AM in a Cadillac sedan.  Really a nice ride.  Kind of like driving your couch.  Milwaukee is about 90 miles north of Chicago and the ride was traffic-free and the weather was clear and cold.  We arrived around 1040 and there were maybe four cars in the parking lot.  Like having the entire museum to ourselves. The museum has a nice permanent collection of art and objects dating from the 1700s to the present.  The docents/guides were extremely knowledgeable and made the visit that much more special and informative.  The current exhibition is Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper.  Organized in conjunction with the Albertina in Vienna, Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the significance of drawing to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist avant-garde movements—and to the development of modern art. The exhibition makes its premiere in Milwaukee, presenting more than one hundred drawings, watercolors, and pastels by many of the greatest artists in the history of Western European art—Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec. These artists created drawings independently of painting, as they sought to create an art that more accurately represented their times. In the process, the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists effectively elevated drawing in nineteenth-century France to a status equal with that of painting.

Panoramic view facing east

 This is what the heated and air-conditioned garage looks like:

From the MMA website:  The graceful Quadracci Pavilion is a sculptural, postmodern addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum completed in 2001, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. A 1975 addition had increased space five-fold, but the Museum remained hidden from public view on the lower floors of the War Memorial Center. A $10 million then-anonymous gift from Betty and Harry Quadracci kicked off a capital campaign.
In 1994, the Museum’s search committee convinced Santiago Calatrava to submit a proposal and was wowed by his creative design. Calatrava, inspired by the “dramatic, original building by Eero Saarinen, …the topography of the city” and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style architecture, initially proposed a small addition, with a pedestrian bridge connecting the Museum to downtown. As excitement over the project grew, fundraising accelerated and the project evolved, with the architect and Museum trustees sharing ideas.
The 142,050-square-foot Quadracci Pavilion was planned to primarily contain public spaces—a reception hall, auditorium, café, store, and parking, plus 10,000 square feet of flexible space for temporary exhibitions. Calatrava later said, “I had clients who truly wanted from me the best architecture that I could do. Their ambition was to create something exceptional for their community…. Thanks to them, this project responds to the culture of the lake: the sailboats, the weather, the sense of motion and change.”
The structure incorporates both cutting-edge technology and old-world craftsmanship. The hand-built structure was made largely by pouring concrete into one-of-a-kind wooden forms. It is a building that could have only been done in a city with Milwaukee’s strong craft tradition.

Right now the museum is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the completion of the Quadracci Pavillion.  It has been named the sexiest building in the world, featured in TV ads and shows and Hollywood movies, and it has transformed the city of Milwaukee. In September, the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates the 10th anniversary of its iconic building, the Quadracci Pavilion, with the exhibition Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Designed by internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the Quadracci Pavilion was the Spaniard’s first completed commission in the United States. In 2001, it was named Time Magazine’s “Best Design of 2001.”
The exhibition will highlight the construction of the entirely custom-made project, a testament to Milwaukee’s tradition of precision manufacturing and craftsmanship. Watercolors, models, and photographs will trace the evolution of the design, including the architectural wonder of the Burke Brise Soleil, perched high above the Quadracci Pavilion.

 The wing-like structure on top of the pavillion is the Burke Brise Soleil.  A motorized sunscreen.  You can see it in action here
Unprecedented in American architecture, the Burke Brise Soleil is a moveable, wing-like sunscreen that rests on top of the Museum’s vaulted, glass-enclosed Windhover Hall. The “wings” open at 10 a.m. in accordance with regular days of operation, close/reopen at noon, and close at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursdays). Schedule is subject to change without advance notice due to weather/maintenance.
While the Burke Brise Soleil has a wingspan comparable to that of a Boeing 747-400, its two ultrasonic wind sensors automatically close the wings if the wind speed reaches 23 mph or greater. Unlike the airplane, the Museum prefers to remain on the ground.

The ceiling of the pavillion as the wings close

The ceiling of the pavillion as the wings close

The ceiling of the pavillion as the wings close

Dale Chihuly (American, b. 1941)
Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II, 2000
Blown glass
103 x 86 in. (261.62 x 218.44 cm)

view north down the hallway that leads to permanent collections.  The way Calatrava plays with light and shadow is truly remarkable.

facing east towards Lake Michigan.  Note the bench built in to the concrete form.  A perfect place to sit and take it all in.

facing east towards Lake Michigan
 Here are some photos of the exhibition:

Gaetano Trentanove (American, b. Italy, 1858–1937)
The Last of the Spartans, ca. 1892
26 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 27 3/8 in. (67.31 x 201.93 x 69.47 cm)
After Greek late 4th-century BC original
Torso of a Male Athlete (The Oil Pourer), 1st–2nd century AD
height: 47 in. (119.38 cm)

Gaetano Trentanove (American, b. Italy, 1858–1937)
The Last of the Spartans, ca. 1892
26 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 27 3/8 in. (67.31 x 201.93 x 69.47 cm)
Gaetano Trentanove (American, b. Italy, 1858–1937)
The Last of the Spartans, ca. 1892
26 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 27 3/8 in. (67.31 x 201.93 x 69.47 cm)

Gaetano Trentanove (American, b. Italy, 1858–1937)
The Last of the Spartans, ca. 1892
26 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 27 3/8 in. (67.31 x 201.93 x 69.47 cm)

Gaetano Trentanove (American, b. Italy, 1858–1937)
The Last of the Spartans, ca. 1892
26 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 27 3/8 in. (67.31 x 201.93 x 69.47 cm)

Claes Oldenburg (American, b. Sweden, 1929)
Trowel – Scale A 3/3, 1970
Aluminum on steel base filled with dirt
104 x 26 x 24 in. (264.16 x 66.04 x 60.96 cm)

Robert Henri (American, 1865–1929)
Betalo Nude, 1916
Oil on canvas
41 x 33 in. (104.14 x 83.82 cm)

Duane Hanson (American, 1925–1996)
Janitor, 1973
Polyester, fiberglass, and mixed media
65 1/2 x 28 x 22 in. (166.37 x 71.12 x 55.88 cm)
Gift of Friends of Art M1973.91
Photo credit John Nienhuis
© Estate of Duane Hanson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917)
The Walking Man, 1905, cast after 1953
Vienna, Austria
Settee, 1825/30
Walnut veneer on softwood, modern upholstery
37 x 52 x 27 3/16 in. (93.98 x 132 x 69 cm) This was designed and built almost 100 years before art nouveau and deco. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marmol-Radziner pre-fab in Desert Hot Springs, CA USA

At long last, I made the journey to Desert Hot Springs to see the Desert House, designed by Marmol Radziner and Associates, The critically acclaimed design firm who's work on Richard Neutra's Kaufman House brought them international attention.    

The Desert Home,  3 beds and 2 baths in 2100 square feet sits on 7.5 acres with wonderful desert views that are spectacular when night falls.  You hear nothing, there is little light to distract from a sky full of stars.    You can see my photos at!/media/set/?set=a.10150263053030178.330959.606955177&type=1 

For more info, you can visit

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Alzada house

Wow.  Architects: Robert F. Gordon, 1949, Tim Andersen, 1975, Fung and Blatt, 2004

This is a 3bed/3 bath 1844 square foot home in Altadena.  Sits on an acre of lush green plantings and trees complete with pool and pool house/guest house/retreat with bath. Seamless additions made over the years.  Really a great example of the early midcentury ranch style.  Heavy on the Schindler.  Great little clerestory windows between each roof stud.   $1.1mil.  Crosby Doe is the agent.