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Simplicity, Structural Clarity & Sustainability: How SOM Remains a Global Leader

Originally posted under the title "Well-Oiled Machine" on Metropolis Magazine, this fascinating article by Ian Volner profiles the international behemoth that is SOM, exploring how the practice has remained so prominent - and relevant - after 78 years, and what it is that stylistically unites a practice spread across five continents with more than 10,000 buildings to their name.

Frank Lloyd Wright called them the “Three Blind Mies.” Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings, and John O. Merrill were the architectural troika whose namesake firm—founded in Chicago in the mid-1930s—became something like the Julia Child of postwar design, delivering European sophistication to middle America at midcentury. Through hundreds of buildings in cities all across the country (and, later, around the world) the office turned the stringent aesthetic of German master builder Ludwig Mies van der Rohe into an architectural metonym for big business. Whether you look at rows of sleek glass skyscrapers and see grace and economy, or only the “thousand blind windows” of Allen Ginsberg’s monstrous “Moloch,” it’s no stretch to say that you have Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to thank for them.

More on SOM's huge influence after the break

2014 Emerging Visions Winners Announced

The Chicago Architectural Club has named Christopher Marcinkoski and Andrew Moddrell of PORT Architecture + Urbanism and Grant Gibson of CAMES/gibson winners of this year’s Emerging Visions. Since its inauguration in 1998, the portfolio competition has sought to recognize significant endeavors by young architects, designers and new practices in Chicago. Works designed by the recipients will be on display at the 2014 AIA National Convention in Chicago. More information, here

William McDonough Designs Ultra "Clean" Manufacturing Facility for Method

William McDonough + Partners has been selected to design Method’s first U.S. manufacturing facility on a brownfield site in Chicago’s historic Pullman community. The company, known for producing environmentally conscious cleaning products, commissioned McDonough to design an ultra clean, LEED Platinum facility constructed from Cradle to Cradle Certified materials and powered entirely by renewable energy. 

Emerging Visions Portfolio Competition 2014

The Chicago Architectural Club, with the support of AIA Chicago and the Graham Foundation, today announced the launch of the 2014 Emerging Visions portfolio competition. This competition seeks to provide a forum for young designers to be recognized and to share their visions, inventions and ideas. The award promotes significant architectural endeavors by young architects, designers and new practices yet to be acknowledged. 

Ranquist Development Group Office / Vladimir Radutny Architects

© Mike Schwartz Photography © Mike Schwartz Photography © Mike Schwartz Photography © Mike Schwartz Photography

IIT’s College of Architecture Launches the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize

The College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and its Dean Wiel Arets has announced the creation of the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) and the MCHAP for Emerging Architecture. With an objective to “reward the daring contemplation of the intersection of the new metropolis and human ecology,” these two biennial prizes will “recognize the most distinguished built constructs of the North and South American continents” while fostering research toward rethinking the metropolis.

MCHAP is an extension of the larger curricular and research initiatives of IIT, as established by Dean Wiel Arets, who states: “This new prize will not be bestowed to an individual or organization based solely off inventive form, however clever its design, or based solely off a submitted image, no matter how captivating. The prize's jury will instead be holistic in their approach to selecting exceptional works. Architecture, as a discipline, will continue its pursuit of technology, so that it can further advance. And architecture is for people; it is strengthened by their presence.”

Developer Seeks to Revive Calatrava's “Chicago Spire”

Cloaked in financial woes, what was intended to be the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere has remained a stagnate hole in the Chicago cityscape since the height of the crisis. However, the fate of the Santiago Calatrava-designed luxury condominium may be about to change, as developer Garrett Kelleher is actively seeking court approval to reinstate the project with a $135 million investment from Atlas Apartment Holdings LLC. More on Chicago's 2,000-foot “twisting" spire latest update here on the Chicago Tribune.   

UC Lab School – Earl Shapiro Hall / Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, FGM Architects

© Karant + Associates © Karant + Associates © Karant + Associates © Karant + Associates

Michael Sorkin Sites Future Obama Presidential Library in Chicago's South Side

Bidding for the future home of Barack Obama's Presidential Library is underway with three locations claiming the chief executive as their own. Obama's birthplace, Hawaii, has mounted a campaign in pursuit of their native son, followed by New York City's Columbia University, where he received his bachelor's degree in political science. Architect and urbanist Michael Sorkin believes it is the Windy City, however, his adopted hometown, that will ultimately win the presidential library bid.

William Jones College Preparatory / Perkins+Will

© James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography

Design: A Long Term Preventative Medicine

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism has produced a new report examining urban health in eight of the USA’s largest cities, which has been translated into a collection of meaningful findings for architects, designers, and urban planners. With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas - a statistic which is projected to grow to 70% by 2050 - the report hinges around the theory that “massive urbanization can negatively affect human and environmental health in unique ways” and that, in many cases, these affects can be addressed by architects and designers by the way we create within and build upon our cities.

Perkins+Will Selected to Design Prentice Replacement

Northwestern University has selected Perkins+Will to design the new 600,000 square foot Biomedical Research Building for the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Planned for the site of Bertrand Goldberg’s recently demolished Prentice Woman’s Hospital, the new building will “anchor the University’s research facilities and be the hub of a world-class research and development enterprise that attracts innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Natural Resources Defence Council Office / Studio Gang Architects

© Steve Hall | Hedrich Blessing © Steve Hall | Hedrich Blessing © Steve Hall | Hedrich Blessing © Steve Hall | Hedrich Blessing

New Exhibition Calls for a Bold Vision in the “Great Basin”

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), in partnership with the International Secretariat for Water (ISW) and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), presents Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin. The new exhibition calls for a 100-year vision to guide planning and development in the binational watershed of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Gulf of St. Lawrence – the Great Basin. Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin is on display in CAF’s Atrium Gallery at 224 South Michigan Avenue until February 2014.

Northwestern Unveils Potential Replacements for Prentice

Northwestern University has unveiled three final proposals that are in the running to replace Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital, which is currently being demolished in Chicago after a long, high-profile preservation battleThe shortlisted architects - Goettsch Partners and Ballinger, Perkins + Will, and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Payette - have each proposed a two-phased plan for the 600,000 square-foot Biomedical Research Building, which is intended to become a “world-class research and development enterprise” that serves as an “anchor” for the Feinberg School of Medicine’s research facilities.

View the shortlisted proposals after the break...

New Hospital Tower Rush University Medical Center / Perkins + Will

© James Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp Photography © James Steinkamp Photography

The Absent Column: Examining the Prentice Preservation Battle

In light of the extensive demolition that has already taken place at Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in downtown Chicago, we present to you this short film that examines the hospital’s preservation battle and poses the question, “Who determines the future of the past?”