In 2013 the former IBM Building in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe’s last completed skyscraper, underwent a significant renovation as a part of the tower was converted into a hotel. In this article, originally published in Blueprint issue #338 as “Lobbying for Mies van der Rohe,” Anthea Gerrie catches up with Dirk Lohan – the Chicago architect who helped his grandfather design the building nearly 50 years ago, and who was called back in to design the new hotel’s entrance lobby.
“It’s not very Mies,” says Dirk Lohan dubiously, in one of the great understatements of the year. We are standing in the double-height reception hall of the Langham Chicago hotel with what looks like dozens of multicoloured glass balloons swimming above us and a mirror-glass frieze adding to a cacophony of glitz and dazzle.
It is indeed the very antithesis of the aesthetic of the architect known for the phrase “less is more”. But then the audacious idea of converting an office building by the most functionalist of architects into a five-star hotel was always going to be problematic.
The Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) has revealed the winners of its fourteenth annual Chicago Prize Competition - The Barack Obama Presidential Library - following Chicago’s recent selection as one of three cities being considered to host the presidential library.
Inspiring designs across the United States, the winning entries aimed to envision a library that could both recognize the President by displaying a collection of mementos from his life and provide the basis for community programs. Contestants were asked to consider the building’s context within the city of Chicago to generate a speculative proposal that not only fosters learning and exploration, but also inspires public discussion. To further encourage creativity, the library’s program was unspecified, allowing participants to decide how to incorporate these civic and educational elements in their designs.
Ultimately, a distinguished panel selected two winners and three honorable mentions emerged from the competition. The winning proposals and honorable mentions are as follows:
Following the extensive preservation battle over Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Prentice Women’s Hospital, the Chicago landmark was demolished a few months ago to pave the way for Perkins+Will’s new Biomedical Research Building for the Feinberg School of Medicine. The four year preservation struggle was marked by repeated appeals to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and Mayor Rahm Emanuel with attempts to place the building on historic registers, proposals to adapt it for modern use, and design competitions to gain public opinion on the future of the building. Ultimately, the outpouring of global support by architects and preservationists to save Prentice fell short of the political agenda of progress, prioritizing future development over preserving the city’s past.
In the wake of the loss of this icon, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has released a time-lapse video documenting the demolition process of Prentice from start to finish. This incredible footage memorializes the one-of-a-kind building so although the new Biomedical Research Building will soon take its place, a piece of its predecessor will always be remembered.
Concerns regarding the environmental sensitivity of George Lucas’ proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago has caused the project to halt, and may even prevent it from being realized. According to a suit filed against the museum by the Friends of the Parks, environmentalists believe that the “mountainous” lakefront proposal, designed by MAD Architects, will disrupt the site’s ecosystem.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Lucas’ hasn’t given up on Chicago yet. However, considering that Lucas wants to see the museum built within his lifetime, the 70-year-old Star Wars director is starting to reconsider a University of Southern California (USC) campus site in Los Angeles.
Chicago’s Jackson Park is expected to see some big changes in the coming years. Nonprofit organization Project 120 is working to revitalize the park, restoring many of the design aspects implemented by its landscape architect, the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. Alongside this restoration, the park will also receive a new Phoenix Pavilion, homage to Japan’s gift to the US for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. An outdoor performance space will be added to the park, as will an installation funded by musician and activist Yoko Ono. See the details, after the break.
Visiting a city as large as Chicago can be overwhelming. For the architect, this is doubly true. The city is a treasure trove of architectural history, perhaps most notable as the birthplace of the skyscraper and the Chicago School. Names like Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Daniel Burnham are commonplace in Chicago, their buildings nestled amidst more modern works by the likes of SOM, Jelmut Jahn, and Studio Gang Architects.
Still more works are hidden away in obscure corners of the city, less well known but equally representative of the time and style in which they were built. In the interest of cataloging these buildings, and bringing attention to those that may not be on the typical city tour, blogger John Morris has created Chicago Architecture Data. A near-comprehensive survey of projects built before 1940 organized by neighborhood and architectural style, Chicago Architecture Data is a veritable history book for the architecture of the Windy City.
The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) will hold its 68th Annual International Conference in Chicago, Illinois, from April 15–19, 2015, with the theme “Chicago at the Global Crossroads.” SAH will celebrate its 75th anniversary during the conference, which includes lectures by Jeanne Gang and Blair Kamin, as well as roundtables and 36 paper sessions covering topics in architecture, art and architectural history, preservation, landscape architecture, and the built environment. SAH is committed to engaging both conference attendees and local participants with public programming that includes over 30 architectural tours, a plenary talk, and a half-day seminar addressing Chicago’s waterways and neighborhoods. Register at sah.org/2015.
NPR journalists David Eads and Helga Salinas have published a photographic essay by Patricia Evans alongside their story of Chicago’s public housing. Starting with Evans’ iconic image of a 10-year-old girl swinging at Chicago’s notorious Clarence Darrow high-rises, the story recounts the rise and fall of public housing, the invisible boarders that shaped it and how the city’s most notorious towers became known as “symbols of urban dysfunction.” The complete essay, here.
Of the four locations that are under consideration to host the future Barack Obama presidential library, two have released visions of what could be if their sites were selected – the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Hawaii at Honolulu (UH). UH, who’s offering a stunning oceanside site on Waikiki Beach, paired Snøhetta, MOS, and Allied Works Architecture with local architects to draw up proposals, all of which share a deep connection to nature. UIC, on the other hand, has proposed an idea that reinterprets the library as a systemized network of public infrastructure focused on revitalization.
View all four proposals, after the break.
The City of Chicago has officially linked Studio Gang Architects to the massive mixed-use “Wanda Vista” development planned to rise alongside the Chicago River. A trio of interlocking supertall towers, the $900 million riverfront project is expected to become the city’s third tallest building.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, the tallest part of the skyscraper will reach 1,148 feet and 88 stories, one story less than rumors originally indicated, stirring speculation that the final count has something to due with its Chinese developer and “eight” being considering a lucky number in China.
It is now just over a year since the unveiling of Zaha Hadid’s Al-Wakrah Stadium in Doha, Qatar, and in the intervening twelve months, it seems like the building has never been out of the news. Most recently, remarks made by Hadid concerning the deaths of construction workers under Qatar’s questionable working conditions created a media firestorm of legal proportions. Hadid’s stadium has been widely mocked for its ‘biological’ appearance, not to mention the fact that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, for which the stadium will be built, has encountered a storm of controversy all of its own.
The criticism surrounding Al Wakrah has prompted us to look far and wide for the world’s most debated buildings. Could Al Wakrah be the most controversial building of all time? Check out ArchDaily’s roundup of nine contenders after the break.
Find out which buildings top our controversial list after the break
With criticism forcing progress on MAD’s “mountainous” Lucas Museum to come to a standstill, Frank Gehry has released a statement on the Chicago Tribune urging critics to “take the proper time to review” the museum before dismissing it.
“Chicago is a great city for architecture and has historically supported innovative, forward-looking work. There is a natural impulse to deride a project in the early stages of design, particularly one that has a new shape or expression. This is not a new concept,” says Gehry, citing that both the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall were shrouded in criticism before becoming “great assets to their mutual cities.”
In an interview with Core77 Sam Jacob, formerly of FAT and now principal at Sam Jacob Studio, has “always pursued an idea of design practice as a combination of criticism, research and speculation that all feed directly into the design studio.” This approach has allowed his ideas to “cross-fertilize, find connections and directions that make the practice stronger, more agile and able to respond intelligently to the problem at hand.” Jacob, who is also a Visiting Professor at Yale and the University of Illinois at Chicago whilst simultaneously director of the Night School at London’s Architectural Association, recently saw one of FAT’s final projects to completion: the curation of the British Pavilion (alongside Dutch architect and academic Wouter Vanstiphout). In the UK, former partner Charles Holland is bringing a collaborative project with artist Grayson Perry to completion in Essex.
Read more and see some of Jacob’s drawings after the break.
The following is an excerpt from Last Is More: Mies, IBM and the Transformation of Chicago. The Langham Hospitality Group commissioned architectural photojournalists Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren to document the transformation of eminent architect Mies van der Rohe‘s IBM Building — the last skyscraper he designed — into The Langham, Chicago. In this chapter, Sharoff and Zbaren provide a more detailed look into the period between 1965 and 1975, when Mies’s influence on Chicago’s skyline was at its most pervasive.
The construction of the IBM Building occurred midway through a legendary period in Chicago architecture—the decadelong building boom between 1965 and 1975, when Mies’s influence on the city’s skyline was at its most pervasive.
During these years, numerous Miesian structures by firms such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, C. F. Murphy Associates, and Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett were erected, and the city’s reputation as the founder of American modernism was finally and firmly established. The best of those buildings continue to dominate the skyline.
Calling all architects and students, the Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) wants to see your ideas for The Barack Obama Presidential Library. The recent media coverage surrounding the announced library, drawing bids from New York, Honolulu, and Chicago, once again initiates the desire for speculations and projections. As the fourteenth of its kind, this civic institution will not only function to house a collection of artifacts and documents relating to the president’s life but will also provide an educational infrastructure and framework for outreach and community programs. Thus, in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), this year’s Chicago Prize Competition is calling for speculative proposals for the Barack Obama Presidential Library to initiate a debate in order to rethink and redefine this particular building typology.