Proof that Art Museums evolved from monkeys!

    See how this

    - Picasso's 'monkey'
    - in Chicago

    evolved into this?

    Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum.

    So what's the missing link?
    -E-chimpSource URL:
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    This gorgeous photo of Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Theresa
    transforms the sculpture into something I've never seen,
    not even while standing in front of it.

    Of course, maybe I need it more now, not being in Rome.

    No, what it is is the complete and pensive and exciting quiet
    of looking at it like this.

    The quiet contrast against her position shocks.

    The darkness is deathly.

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    The difference between Detroit and New York.

    As each gets a new museum for contemporary art.

    Where would you rather live?

    And I thought ours was bad!


    Of course one can't compare.

    The odds were stacked like the boxes in New York.

    NY's New Museum spent $50 million on their building on the Bowery. They had considered just renovating an old warehouse in Brooklyn. But they thought big and beautiful, which contemporary art deserves.

    The building in Detroit is a much lower cost conversion, from an old car dealership.

    But here's what troubles me.

    Nicolai says in the NYT that the Detroit building "accepts decay as fact."

    And the architect, Andrew Zago
    "draws inspiration from the squatters’ houses, performance spaces, local bars and grass-roots art projects that have sprouted amid the disturbing stillness of the neighborhoods: a kind of forgotten underworld tucked into ruined houses and storefronts surrounded by lots that have been abandoned for so long that they have become overgrown fields.

    The architect had no interest in smoothing over the scars, which are worn as badges of pride.

    To save money, he placed the museum’s mechanical systems, typically hidden atop the roof, in a corner of a gallery, wrapped in a chain link fence. Warmth is provided by a series of heat lamps suspended from the ceiling, as they might be in a public parking garage."

    Is this how to revive a city?

    I see that a lot of deep thought went into this creation - for example I like the big glass garage doors that roll up in the summer to open the museum to the community, and that its galleries run around a large community space with a bookstore and a cafe. The budget was small and they hope to raise $5.5 million more for a more elaborate renovation by Mr. Zago that could be completed by 2010. The cafe will be extended and a sculpture garden is planned. So judgement must wait.

    But I think that our civic institutions ought not slide down to the level of hoodlums. We raise the neighborhood up by providing exaltation in an art museum, not by romanticizing decay.

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    Did you know that building a skyscraper is complicated?

    I saw a headline today,
    "Aqua Construction Complicated, Says McHugh."

    Does this not bode well for Jeanne Gang's Aqua Tower?

    And that headline came on the heels of this big, bold headline in today's Chicago Sun-Times

    Thank you! That's good to know. Is that an exclusive?

    Oh, the small print says that's former Illinois Governor George Ryan saying that.


    Anyway, commercial real estate news had this :

    "Aqua Construction Complicated, Says McHugh."

    Yes, I suppose building an 82 story building would be complicated, especially one that is trying to do something different than the standard big box.

    GlobeSt. quotes McHugh Construction Company senior vice president Dave Alexander as saying,
    The perimeter of the building is different on every single floor. The framing of each floor will be difficult, as the balconies will be cantilevered off of the column line, and cannot hold support for upper floors.
    The story then says that McHugh will use a high-flying form system that attaches to the column and core wall to complete each floor and that the tower is expected to be completed by 2009.

    But before then will we wave bye-bye to Jeanne Gang and Studio/Gang/Architects design for a wavy exterior?

    My favorite part of this story is that McHugh is the company that built

    Wilco Towers, I mean Marina City.

    I bet that was complicated too, don't you think? And hey, Marina City on the river kind of undulates, doesn't it? More on that, right here.


    It can be done! From the homepage of James McHugh Construction Co:

    I Am McHugh
    Building Chicago

    Since its founding in 1897, Chicago-based James McHugh Construction Co. has earned its reputation as a builder of landmark, one-of-a-kind structures. This success is attributed to the company's long-standing commitment to creative construction solutions, innovation and a devotion to its staff.Source URL:
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    The Human Rights of the Eye! Pshaw. Grimshaw!

    Here's what happens when you try to build a train station in America.

    Sir Nicholas Grimshaw is trying to build this

    in New York. Near Ground Zero, at Fulton Street.

    Looks pretty nice, I'd like to have it in my town. if I had to catch a train, or go into a subway, I'd like to first pass through this space filled with natural light.

    Grimshaw has already designed and built

    Waterloo station in London

    and other fine projects.

    But in New York, according to the Times

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board members said they would
    gladly sacrifice architectural beauty if it meant that subway riders could transfer between trains more easily.

    “I won’t support a project like this that is going to discombobulate tens of thousands of passengers a day because you want to have a fancy roof,” said Barry L. Feinstein, a board member.

    The Transit Board must cut because they're still looking for $15 million to connect the subway lines with a walkway.

    That's why the beauty in Grimshaw's design has to go.

    The dome was initially designed to be 50 feet high, but it has already been scaled back to about 20 feet.

    “We are not building cathedrals here” said Nancy Shevell Blakeman, the committee’s chairwoman."

    So what happened to the Human Rights of the Eye?

    Anyone want to write a manifesto? (smile)

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    "Today the architect celebrated his victory, at the oyster bar with a glass of champagne!"

    (Read to the bottom for, "The Human Rights of the Eye!")

    The architect, with his champagne, was not celebrating that the above was built, it opened last May. This is the new Central Train Station in Berlin It's the largest in Europe.

    But apparently it might have also been a more profound piece of architecture, both aesthetically and functionally.

    When announced, [according to this writer]
    "The prize-winning design by Gerkan, Marg and Partners with two towers looking over the curve of the station roof, promised to become Berlin's architectural landmark of the twenty-first century.

    It was to claim its place in Berlin's long and famous tradition of artistic industrial architecture – from Peter Behrens' AEG Turbine Factory and Josef Paul Kleihues' workshop building for the city refuse disposal services through to Oswald Mathias Ungers' sewage pumping station....

    Inside, the architects had planned a neo-Gothic vault with great pointed arches ...

    (rendering as originally designed)

    The arches receding into the distance on different levels would have called to mind the lightness of Arab architecture. ... Europe would have gained an unparalleled underground theatre of light and motion... The designation "cathedral of transport" would not have seemed exaggerated for this ennoblement of functional architecture."

    Alas and alack, if you read this fabulous critique, you learn that before the work went up,
    "130 metres were to be simply lopped off the length of the 450-metre glass roof.

    ...As the office towers grew, the calamity became more obvious with every passing day. The interplay between the length of the ribbon of glass and the height of the towers, originally in a charged equilibrium, now insults any sense of proportion.

    One can imagine what a cinematic effect the trains would have offered, accelerating out like bullets from a gun. Now they will just chunter off into the open air.

    The deformation of the interior is no less gratuitous and equally fatal...."

    (as built)

    But the worst is, if you believe this writer,
    "... neither time nor money justified the shortening....

    Culture was destroyed in the name of economics, and this will in fact weaken the economy. "

    I hate when that happens.
    And then the writer Horst Bredekamp heaps it on,
    For generations to come, the monstrosity of Lehrter Bahnhof will remain associated with the name of its disfigurer. In Hamburg they have never forgotten how Kaiser Wilhelm II stopped the original design of their main station with a flourish of the imperial quill.

    Well get this, today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [via] reports
    "Yesterday the Berlin District Court ruled in favour of the architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who sued the German rail company Deutsche Bahn for building a bastardised version of his designs for the subterranean level of Berlin's new main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which opened on May 28 this year.

    "It will now have to be rebuilt according to von Gerkan's plans, at an estimated cost of 40 million euros."
    The FAZ continues,
    "It would be mistaken to see Meinhard von Gerkan as some star architect diva, intent on nursing his artist's ego no matter what the cost."
    and here comes my favorite part,
    "The thousands of rail travellers who pass through Berlin's Hauptbahnhof every day value architectural aesthetics as much as the price of train tickets, something Deutsche Bahn chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and his colleagues blithely ignored.

    Meinhard von Gerkhan and the Berlin Federal Court have decided for the human rights of the eye."
    - Dieter Bartetzko in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.



    Can you imagine what von Gerkan would think if he tried to build a train station in America? lol and see next post!

    -Edvard von Lifson

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    How Now Bruce Mau?
    rumors and innuendo

    Is it true Bruce Mau will move from Toronto to Chicago?

    And/or open a branch here of his Institute Without Boundaries?

    That's the rumor floating around town. That he'll help "Mr. Green Mayor" Mayor Daley to update Daniel Burnham's famed Plan of Chicago for its centennial in 2009.

    A few weeks ago Mau and "Massive Change" - his traveling exhibition now in Chicago on how design can save the world - placed an insert in the local run of the New York Times in which he praised Hizzoner Daley.

    I wondered about it at the time. And I mentioned that the Mayor would give Mau a medal, at a "Global Visionaries Symposium."

    Well, it is true that our Jolly Green Mayor Daley is committed and passionate about sustainability.
    Mr. Mau, come on down!

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"Playtime" in Petersburg and "Peking?"

    While we're doing international, contempo, hard-to-live-in-or-around,
    see some beautiful photos

    of the planned Gazprom City in St. Petersburg. Check out the slideshow.

    and ... Rem likes Red

    But Inga Saffron doesn't like

    Rem's work for the Chinese state. Not aesthetically, not politically.

    She writes,

    With skyscrapers, there has always been a fine line between the heroic and the humbling.
    But any individual who stands under the canopy of CCTV's suspended cantilever will have no uncertainty about the power of the Chinese state. ... As with so much in China, the scale is so immense that the mind can hardly comprehend it.
    The world's greatest skyscrapers make you believe you can reach the heavens. You feel uplifted by your part in humankind's accomplishment. But it's hard to imagine anyone passing over CCTV's glass-floored upper cantilever without experiencing a moment of terror.
    There's no denying that Koolhaas and Scheeren have created thrilling new forms for a new kind of city. But it appears to be a city that only the coldest hearts will long to inhabit.

    Koolhaas (full name Remment Koolhaas) has been a strong critic of the U.S. government. But apparently Chinese money is clean. Oh and Time Europe hearts Rem. In fact, he's one of their heroes.

    I thought "the people are the heroes now." But If we live like this, in the shadows of towers of industry, I think we'll feel like peasants.Source URL:
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    A bunker into a museum? What's new about that?

    The New York Times reports that in Germany they're going to turn a old grey concrete war bunker into a museum.
    A museum in a bunker? Don't we have that here in Chicago?!

    Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art by Josef Paul Kleihues from Berlin.

    The Times says of the new museum in Germany,
    "Venturing into the labyrinth of dark tunnels is like wandering onto a set for Dr. Strangelove."

    That's what climbing these steps is like!

    Maybe they should emblazon this, from the museum in Germany, on the steps of 'das Chicago Bunker'

    instead of the corporate logos seen above and here.
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    "The desperate state of dance in America."

    Reading Terry this morning:

    Ballet? Never Heard of It.
    The decline and near-disappearance of dance in America.

    ... "Just a quarter-century ago, ballet and modern dance were vital, exciting, and (above all) popular. Now they’re at a frighteningly low ebb. What happened—and what can be done to pump up the volume?" ...

    I leapt to my feet (that's not me above) and thought, "not in Chicago!"
    Dance here is more glorious than I can ever remember.

    Yesterday's Trib agrees.

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    Musing in my Mies (I live in a Mies. And it inspires me.)

    1. I have the choice tonight to see a play or a movie. I think I'll see the movie. Because I'm tired. And theater requires more energy, because it requires a genuine human response, as the actors are there in the room with you.

    Is this why people prefer movies?

    2. Agora, the new sculpture in town with 106 figures has changed the way I look at human crowds, especially when they're walking through parks. After staring at Agora for a long time, now when I see groups of people walking through our parks, they seem to be marching, like the figures of Agora. And they seem cast adrift, like the figures of Agora. And I wonder who is their leader, as we wonder at Agora. So that's a powerful piece, if it can already make me see differently.

    3. When writing of precedents for Agora, I forgot to mention

    Alberto Giocometti (both are his.)

    Remember his figures crossing plazas? ...Source URL:
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    A fine day in the suburbs.

    After looking, and trying not to, at

    I happened, not for the first time, onto

    Helmut Jahn's Shure, Inc. (Built as Ha-Lo)

    It's pretty


    But the big surprise was

    A low-slung addition. I'd also seen this before, even recently, but I guess I hadn't been ready for it then. Or it hadn't been ready for me. Or the light was wrong, or, well...

    The addition to the Jahn is not spectacular. It is something else.

    In here, engineers design new Shure microphones.

    And as the sun set, and they went home for Thanksgiving,

    I couldn't tear myself away from the building.
    I walked around it and listened,

    and looked at how it met the original structure

    respectfully. With a gap.

    In the lobby and outside it felt quiet and peaceful.
    I watched the sun set behind it, and come through it.

    And then I got it. The building whispered to me who its father was.

    Crown Hall .
    The serenity in the Shure building springs out of
    Crown Hall, the architecture school designed by Mies van der Rohe
    at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

    Shure addition architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton know it well. They studied in, taught in and masterfully restored Crown Hall, not long ago.

    Peace, in the suburbs,
    Now I can have my Thanksgiving.
    I hope yours is satisfying too.

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Frank Gehry lands a big one in Chicago!

    We all know Frank Gehry likes fish. He turns fish into




    scaly skin

    public art

    a restaurant!

    Even Bilbao looks like a fish's tailfin swishing left and right.

    The story is that little Frank Gehry (Goldberg) played with carp in his Grandma's bathtub before she cooked them and made gefilte fish. I've even heard that his nickname in school was "Fish." (Was it Fishke?")

    The builders of Millennium Park in Chicago, where Gehry has a bandshell, trellis and bridge, originally asked him just for a fish sculpture to adorn a Skidmore - designed bandshell. Later the entire commission went to him. Most of us love his swirling steel bandshell, his bridge that snakes like a river, and the curving trellis open to the sky, and from which speakers hang.

    I sometimes thought his trellis with its x's looked like a deflated Chicago John Hancock Tower, as if sculptor Claes Oldenburg (a Gehry friend) had deflated the Hancock and laid it on its side in Millennium Park.

    And when I saw Gehry's trellis yesterday, from a window across the street in the Cultural Center, the x's of the trellis looked more than ever like a fish carcass, washed up from the nearby beach. Like a dead Lake Michigan alewife in the park.

    Can you see it in this photo? The bandshell even looks like the tail (a la Bilbao above)

    And under the trellis, you do feel like Jonah in the whale.

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