Thursday, December 23, 2010

A brief pause

I try to keep a regular schedule for posting, but with the holidays underway and family obligations pulling me this way and that, I need to take a short break. I'll be back at it come January.

Till then, thanks to everyone who's been reading (and especially those who have been commenting) this year. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have!

In the mean time, have a few older photos that reflect the current weather.

River bridge

Lobby of light

Weather Bell in the weather

Green Line pulling out

Federal Center Plaza and Post Office

From the EL

Monday, December 20, 2010

Public Storage Mutilates for Commerce!

Y'know what company really hates architecture? Public Storage.

Clark Street, Edgewater

These guys ram their unified corporate paint scheme over every building they get, with a disregard for aesthetics and architectural detail that borders on the criminal.

S. Ashland Avenue

Archer Avenue

N. Broadway, Edgewater

Seriously. It melts my brain.






What crime did these poor warehouse buildings commit to have their ornament slathered over in such a fashion? Who did they offend?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lakefront towers

With the weather having taken its inevitable late-fall turn for the crappy, I'd like to skip up and down the lakefront a bit in photographs, and remember both warmer, bluer and greener times, and also some of the lovely highrises that one glimpses while running Lake Shore Drive.


One of the first and most obvious lessons here is the evolution of scale. Just contrast the historicist towers - generally from the 1920s and earlier - with their post-war successors. The size of the latter tends to be hugely inflated.





And yes, the post-war buildings often are a lot uglier. The Modernist ethos of minimalist design soon transmogrified into an ethos of minimal designing. On the flip side, they usually have more generous windows - more light coming in, better views looking out.

But not all pre-war high rises are delicate little flowers! Some are massive chunks of masonry.
3750 N. Lake Shore Drive / 1540 N. LaSalle


The lakefront, being Chicago's greatest amenity, has long attracted its greatest wealth. Apartment houses were dressed up to the nines, as if for a night on the town.



The Belden-Stratford Apartments, a U-shaped Beaux Arts courtyard building with a Second Empire mansard roofline, is one of my favorites.
1922 - Fridstein & Company


Some of the MidCentury buildings are interesting in their own right.
3470 N. Lakeshore Drive - Raggi & Schoenbrod, Inc., 1967

This one, at Sheridan and Bryn Mawr, is one of the finest towers on the lakefront. Its clean horizontal banding make it an outstanding example of International style architecture.
"The Statesman" - 5601 N. Sheridan - Milton Schwartz & Associates, architects, 1964


And this pair of conjoined towers may look like an overmassed monstrosity, but take a longer look. There's a lovely offset grid of windows, and those two mechanical penthouses on top, with their curved brick walls, just make the whole thing come together. The penthouses cap off wide brick bays that act like visual wrapping paper - a pair of bows tying the whole package together.
3950 N. Lake Shore Drive - Shaw, Metz & Dolio, 1957, originally with rooftop dining. Built on the site of 1910 Richard T. Crane mansion.


And whatever you think of it, you surely must admit that it's far better than the dreadful concrete skeleton that stands behind it.

The towers tend to get shorter as one moves further north. Here's a couple of my favorite Rogers Park high rises, long past Lake Shore Drive's end.



The Farcroft - 1337 W. Fargo Avenue - Charles Wheeler Nicol



Learn a bit more about this last one, with its delightful bosses, here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lake Street Church, Evanston


Lake Street Church is Evanston's oldest (designed 1872 by architect Cass Chapman) and, for my money, the most beautiful. It's Victorian Gothic - tall, narrow windows with pointed arches, and a general sense of verticality. The exterior is a simple affair of plaster (not original; when opened, the building's brick walls were exposed), with only a few bits of ornament emerging at the corners.


The simplicity without anticipates the elegance within. The sanctuary is a space defined by dark wood and stained glass in the earth-hued range of tones that inspired both the Prairie and Arts and Crafts movements.



The element that most defines the space is the 2nd-level gallery, which wraps nearly the entire space. According to the head usher, it originally wrapped the entire space until a later remodeling (confirmed by a Tribune article from the building's 1875 opening.)



The head usher shared a couple of other interesting tales. This was the church of Jimmy Carter's daughter, so the President and his wife would occasionally attend services. This would bring the Secret Service pouring in, of course. Being a community church, most of the congregation was recognizable by face to its ushers. A stranger in the gallery turned out to be one of the agents.




Lake Street Church was originally the First Baptist Society of Evanston, organized in 1858. Today the church is the oldest public building in Evanston, and an officially designated city landmark.



A later addition forms a courtyard space north of the sanctuary, and contains offices and meeting rooms. The stone Gothic design works well enough with the older building, but lacks its powerful and charming Victorian verticality.