860 - 880 Lake Shore Drive by Mies to be restored!

    880 Lake Shore Drive, Mies van der Rohe
    860 - 880, while a premiere, magical address, has not been optimally maintained. For many years. And it shows.

    860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Mies van der RoheFor years I've been asking the board of trustees to look into tax credits or subsidies to restore this landmark. None were found and maintenance was done piecemeal, or in-house.

    Last summer two of the south windows of 860 cracked. I brought in one of the top restoration architects in the nation and an architect who has done expert work restoring another Mies van der Rohe masterpiece in town. They walked the entire building, went inside a unit and toured the garage and maintenance areas. That got the ball rolling.

    We learned from them and other engineers later that the windows cracked because the steel underneath the plaza is corroding and pushing up on the plaza. The steel is corroding because water is seeping through the plaza. Other rust and oxidation is occurring along Mies' famous I-beams that run up the side of the building, including by some connector plates added during a previous 'restoration' - to prevent rust! Some of the pipes in the lobby floor that run hot water for radiant heat are also leaking.

    It sounds like a mess, but here's the good news - the restoration architect knew of tax breaks available in Illinois for work done on landmark buildings. Slowly, he, me and others were able to convince the board that serious and comprehensive restoration must be undertaken and that with the tax advantages it would be affordable.

    Here's the deal from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and if you live in an historic building in Illinois, look into it.

    If you meet certain requirements, and you spend at least 25 percent of the property's market value on an approved rehabilitation project that improves the condition of the building, your property tax can be frozen for 8 years and partially frozen for three more.

    That can be a huge savings.

    Another architect and engineers brought in to 860 - 880 concurred that serious comprehensive restoration was the way to go. Not that the buildings are in imminent danger of collapsing, they're not, but they are almost 60 years old and in need of major repairs.

    The final dollar costs and tax benefits are yet to come in but we're talking about an approximately 7.5 million dollar restoration. The board of trustees will vote on it soon.

    But it looks like in the next 18 months you will see 860 - 880 N. Lake Shore Drive have its travertine plaza returned to glory, and we'll clean the travertine inside the lobbies.

    We'll paint the exterior steel black again for the first time in years. We wouldn't use the original "Detroit Graphite" paint that Mies specified, because it's lead-based. But the Tnemec ("cement" backwards) paint used these days looks great. The steel would look jet black again rather than the washed out black it is now.

    We'll have to redo some or all of the stainless steel around the two story lobby glass - these frames were originally aluminum, which turned black, so they were changed to stainless during a 1981 renovation by Holabird and Root.

    Also during that renovation, Mies' opalescent panes of sandblasted glass, were changed to two sheets of glass with a plastic film in between to acheive the milkiness. The effect was not the same. We're talking about returning to the sandblasted glass, and I hope we do. At the Illinois Institute of Technology, Crown Hall, the architecture school, Mies' black steel and glass pavillion, had suffered the same indignity. It was restored in 2005 and returned to sandblasted glass. The effect is unearthly. The sandblasted glass looks more ethereal and serene, zen like a Japanese screen.

    It'll likely be a mess, with the plaza dug up and all, for much of 2007, but it'll be worth it.

    Anyone who saw Crown Hall, before and after its recent restoration, (here's my audio commentary on the restoration of Crown Hall,) should rejoice for 860-880.

    Before, we thought we knew Crown Hall. We found it beautiful. we thought we understood the slight materiality of it - and there isn't much. But seeing it after the award-winning restoration, the place had an effect far more powerful than it could with decades of accumulated grime and weathering and deterioration. Seeing Crown Hall after the restoration made you think you'd never seen it before, it was that much more sublime. It was like taking the mute off while Louis Armstrong played trumpet .

    If you love 860-880, as I do, rejoice. The same is possible here. And it looks like it will happen, beginning this year.
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2007/01/860-880-lake-shore-drive-by-mies-to-be.html
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