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Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple Undergoes Massive Restoration

Frank Lloyd Wrights's Unity Temple is undergoing a much needed $23 million restoration. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the Oak Park temple's integrity was first called into question when a large piece of the ceiling fell above the pulpit in 2008 (thankfully no one was hurt).

The comprehensive overhaul is going beyond restoring the building's to its original beauty; a geothermal heating system and air conditioning will be integrated into the building and site for the first time, allowing the uninterrupted services year-round.

The refurbished temple will reopen in late 2016. 

Design With Company + Arup Create “Shaw Town” Theatre in Chicago

Chicago based architecture studio Design With Company, in collaboration with Arup, have constructed their winning proposal for the Ragdale Ring design competition, which asked entrants to redesign Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1912 performance venue for a Chicago artists’ community. Their design lightheartedly references features of Shaw’s architecture, while creating a venue for acoustically unamplified performances.

Courtesy of Robert Becker/Design With Company Courtesy of Allison Derr/Design With Company Courtesy of Robert Becker/Design With Company Courtesy of Allison Derr/Design With Company

Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered: What Was the True Story Behind Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House?

Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.
Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated. [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1951, Mies van der Rohe completed a house in Plano, Illinois that was the epitome of his modernist ideals; with a steel structure surrounded entirely by glass walls the building perfectly connected the user with its idyllic natural setting, and it was - and is - venerated as a masterwork. A lesser-known story about the work is how its owner Dr Edith Farnsworth attempted to sue her architect, in a story of bitterness and unrequited love - but even less well-known, argues Nora Wendl, is the story of what really happened. In this excerpt from her essay "Uncompromising Reasons for Going West: A Story of Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered," published in Thresholds issue 43: "Scandalous," Wendl examines the overblown and dubious assertions made about Farnsworth's intentions, finding that the truth may be much more simple: perhaps the Farnsworth House is just not a pleasant place to live.

“I have decided to speak up.”

Such is the threshold between a private affair and a public scandal: one person speaks. These are also the opening lines to “The Threat to the Next America,” which appears in the April 1953 issue of House Beautiful. Penned by editor Elizabeth Gordon, the article describes an unnamed, but “highly intelligent, now disillusioned, woman who spent more than $70,000 building a 1-room house that is nothing but a glass cage on stilts.”[1] Gordon warns readers of a design movement sweeping the nation:

Something is rotten in the state of design—and it is spoiling some of our best efforts in modern living. After watching it for several years, after meeting it with silence, House Beautiful has decided to speak out and appeal to your common sense, because it is common sense that is mostly under attack. Two ways of life stretch before us. One leads to the richness of variety, to comfort and beauty. The other, the one we want fully to expose to you, retreats to poverty and unlivability. Worst of all, it contains the threat of cultural dictatorship.[2]

Farnsworth House, south façade and terrace. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, interior. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, looking northwest from the interior of screened-in porch, furnished by Farnsworth. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, exterior, view of south façade and east end of terrace with Farnsworth’s sculptures. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

"Lina Bo Bardi: Together" Opens at The Graham Foundation

From April 25 through July 25, 2015, the Graham Foundation will host an exhibition at its Madlener House showcasing the vision of Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Known for her emphasis on social modernism and expressive use of materials, Lina Bo Bardi: Together explores her legacy through her collected works, as well as that of other artists paying homage to the architect and striving to generate new conversations about her designs. Curated by Noemi Blager, the exhibition features photographs, films, and artistic objects reflecting Bo Bardi's diverse work and immersion in Brazilian culture.

Studio Gang Goes Public with Chicago's Newest Tower: Wanda Vista

Studio Gang Architects has gone public with what will be Chicago's third tallest tower, Wanda Vista. The massive mixed-use development, planned to open adjacent to the Chicago River in the city's Lake Shore East community by 2019, will reach 1100 feet (335 meters) and encompass more than 1.8 million-square-feet of residential and hotel space. 

Defined by three vertical elements, the tower is shaped to maximize resident views of the city and river below. 

6 Ways to Repurpose the Chicago Spire "Hole"

With Santiago Calatrava’s unfulfilled Chicago Spire amounting to just a (costly) depression along the Chicago River, what was to be the second-tallest building in the world certainly has not established the legacy it intended. However, following the site’s relinquishment to local developers Related Midwest, it may yet have a meaningful impact on its community. Six Chicago-based firms of various disciplines have developed designs to make use of the "hole" by injecting a public program into the abandoned site.

Check out the inventive proposals, with ideas from firms including UrbanLab and Solomon Cordwell Buenz, after the break.

Urban Island / VOA. Image Courtesy of Chicago magazine Birds in Horto / Hoerr Schaudt. Image Courtesy of Chicago magazine Swimming Hole / UrbanLab. Image Courtesy of Chicago magazine Underground Amphitheater / SPACE Architects + Planners. Image Courtesy of Chicago magazine

Controversy Shrouds Chicago's Plan for the Barack Obama Presidential Library

The competition to host the new Barack Obama Presidential Library has generated quite a stir, attracting proposals from cities across the United States with Chicago emerging as the current front runner. Amid the debate, that is expected to end with a decision later this month, a new controversy has surfaced on the coattails of the University of Chicago's speculative plan. The proposed concept involves a land transfer for the library to occupy one of two historic parks designed by iconic landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1870s. Read more about the heated debate over using public parkland to house the library, here.

The Chicago Prize Highlights Two Speculative Proposals for Obama's Presidential Library

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:

The Destruction of a Classic: Time-Lapse Captures Demolition of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital

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. 

Yoko Ono and Project 120 Collaborate to Reimagine Chicago’s Jackson Park

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.

Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing

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.

Four Presidential Libraries for Obama to Consider

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.

University of Illinois at Chicago. Image Courtesy of UIC Snøhetta and WCIT Architecture at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC Allied Works Architecture at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC MOS and Workshop-HI at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC

Studio Gang Behind Supertall Tower Planned for Chicago

© City of Chicago
© City of Chicago

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. 

Gehry Sides with MAD, Defends Lucas Museum from Critics

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.”

Studio Gang Breaks Ground on Chicago Writers’ Theatre

Studio Gang has broke ground on the new home for Chicago’s beloved Writers’ Theatre. Situated on the sloped Tudor Court site of the Glencoe Woman’s Library Club, the glass encased timber structure will be a theatrical spectacle, as the main performance space's second story catwalk is designed to peer through the transparent facade.

“Our process has been built around the creative team dialogue with Writers Theatre, its audiences, and the community, and we could not be more excited to celebrate this milestone today while looking forward to the ideas that will soon become a built reality in 2016,” said Jeanne Gang. “The design of Writers Theatre’s first purpose-built theatre reinforces their important mission and vision to maximize the feeling of intimacy between actors and audience within the park-like setting of downtown Glencoe.”

New renderings and more information from the architect, after the break.

Luftwerk to Illuminate Mies' Farnsworth House this Weekend

Starting tomorrow (October 17), Chicago-based artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero of Luftwerk will be transforming Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House into a “canvas of light and sound” with the digital installation, INsite. “An exploration of the philosophy of Mies through light,” INsite will offer an entirely new nighttime experience at the Plano residence that highlights the architecture’s famed characteristics with an interactive light show pulsating to the original “sonic exploration” of Owen Clay Condon.

A video preview of the installation, after the break.

Hydraulic Stilts Considered to Protect Farnsworth House

In recent years, Mies van der Rohe's famous glass-walled Farnsworth House has been under a grave threat from flooding by the Fox River which runs right past it. In the past 18 years, the house has been flooded three times, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage, and now its owners the National Trust for Historic Preservation are considering plans for a permanent solution - among which is a plan to install hydraulic stilts which would lift the entire house out of harm's way in the event of a flood.

Read more about the plans after the break

Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome Home to be Restored as Museum

On April 19, Southern Illinois University will begin to restore the world’s first geodesic dome home, built by Buckminster Fuller. Originally assembled in just seven hours from 60 wooden triangle panels, the dome was occupied by Fuller and his wife, Lady Anne, in the 1960s during his residency at SIU. After Fuller’s death, the dome was used as student housing before falling into disrepair. In 2001, the home was donated to a non-profit that had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It will now be restored and preserved as a museum in Carbondale.