Important cultural events

    The storm headed to New York darkened Chicago yesterday.
    I looked up and saw

    this Romantic composition, in grey.

    Lake Shore Drive

    I drove

    To the north a little, it started to clear.

    And by the time I got to Diversey, to the other Mies building, the storm had ended. Everything became clear and Modern again.


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    It's not King Tut's tomb, or Al Capone's vault, but...

    The first stone is removed at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, for plaza restoration.

    Many more will come up.

    Why are we doing this?

    You see the sad state of the many years old travertine.

    And we'll repair the corrosion underneath that is causing lobby glass to crack

    After years in the sun and Chicago winters,

    -they could use a little painting.

    Here's to a great restoration. Can't wait to see it.
    Remember, these photos focus on what needs to be fixed. What's interesting is that even with this normal wear and tear of the decades, these buildings still look great.

    Is that clear? (smile) Looks like it.

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    For which major piece of public art,
    in which American city,
    are these destined?

    Kudos to the US museum that commissioned a living American artist to grace the entrance to its new and expanded building.

    Positioned like this they feel like the colonnade at St. Peter's in Rome.

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Lego Farnsworth!

Mies and sculpture

    Goethe statue Chicago sculpture by Mies Commonwealth Plaza
    That's not a very buff Mies, that's the other "Mastermind of the German People" Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (Did he have ├╝ber-abs like that?) Goethe is seen in an extra-fine post by Lynn Becker, seeing Mies' buildings as sculptural backdrops. SuperGoethe, cape and all, stands by Mies' Commonwealth Plaza, 330-340 Diversey Avenue in Chicago.

    Here's a fuller shot

    Goethe statue Chicago sculpture by Mies Commonwealth Plaza with landscape
    I think they should replace it with a statue of Mies himself, his cigar pointing towards his building.

    As Florence, Italy has a statue of Brunelleschi looking up at his great dome.

    Brunelleschi statue Florence Italy

    My friend Tim Samuelson suggested we just replace Goethe's falcon with a martini and call it a day.


    Busts of Mies ├╝berwache (watch over) the entrances to the (former) IBM building and Crown Hall. The one in Crown Hall is by Hugo Weber, the one in IBM is by Marino Marini.

    Then there's this bust (not of Mies, though it almost could be, put a cigar in the bottom photo.) It's from Easter Island and in 1968 it stood temporarily in front of the Seagram building, on a pedestal by Philip Johnson.

    Read why: "In 1968, when, quite unbelievably, Lan Chile airlines and Air France were planning to bulldoze part of Easter Island (perhaps one of the finest sites of ancient indigenous sculpture) to create a mid-Pacific refueling station for transoceanic airplanes, (the creator of the Landmarks Foundation Protecting Ancient Sacred Sites Globally, Samuel Adams Green) and actress Yvette Mimieux, among others, hurriedly traveled there. Green had been contacted by retired U.S. Army colonel James Gray, the high-minded founder of the International Fund for Monuments, who asked Green to help bring attention to the impending archaeological and anthropological disaster.

    Green ... working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), helped to divert a cargo plane from Vietnam to transport one of the sculptures to Park Avenue's Seagram's Plaza, where he arranged to have it set on a pedestal designed by Philip Johnson. With his experience moving statues for the city, he managed to close the 59th Street Bridge and two lanes of Park Avenue while trucking in the hand-carved five-ton head. The stunt generated plenty of publicity, enough, at least, to stop the bulldozers: funds were raised to expand the University of Wyoming archaeological study of the island by professor William Molloy, and under UNESCO rules, all commercial development was halted."

    In the early 70's a many-tonned Olmec head from what is now Mexico stood for a while on Seagram Plaza. (And one in Houston by his museum there, if I remember right.) Lord Palumbo used to have outdoor sculptures on the grounds of the Farnsworth House, and Bertoia rods on the porch, but I never thought that worked. The house is too pure. The same reason, I'd say that Mies didn't put sculptures in the waterpools at Seagram (though he thought about it.) I've seen Bertoias in units in 860-880 Lake Shore Drive and they look great.

    The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments are themselves the world's greatest minimalist sculpture, like two Donald Judd boxes. And then of course there's this soggy fluke:

    Damien Hirst, Shark

    Mies chose a work of sculptor Georg Kolbe for the Barcelona pavilion

    And the Calder by the New National Gallery in Berlin

    I don't think it works. It's not needed, doesn't add anything and throws off the symmetry. (The contrast to the New National Gallery is Scharoun's Philharmonic Hall nearby, with anything but a flat roof, and in golden-yellow metal.) In Chicago's Federal Center the Calder works well, it adds color, curves and contrast.

    Come to think of it, it'd be nice to see what the plaza would look like without it! When they remove all the potted plants from a Mies lobby (for restoration work) the lobbies look better. Again, more pure. The light and the volume is the sculpture. No further ornament is needed.

    Then there's this, perhaps as close as Mies himself came, to sculpture

    Mies' Monument to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, Berlin, 1926

    They talk about rebuilding it in Berlin.
    - E.

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    Nice curves and skin
    Have you seen the cladding that just went up on the ramp to Trump Chicago's parking garage?

    It may be the best part of the building. The ramp seems to flare out a bit, almost like a flower. And the green tint is nice, it has some life to it, and it's marine-like, like much of this tower along the Chicago river. The ramp is not on the riverfront, it's on the Wabash Avenue side.

    Were the glass not green, it would look even more like Frank Gehry's glass at IAC/InterActiveCorp Headquarters in New York.

    The curves of Trump's parking ramp complement the curves on the edges of the building. And in our straight-lined, right-angled downtown, such sensuality shocks. As does Bertrand Goldberg's curved auditorium at Marina City, which complements the curves of that riverside structure.
    -E 'scuse me, while I kiss the sky.

    Marina City photo by Ron Schramm/Edelman Gallery
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Designers don duds to visit Philip Johnson's Glass House

    Johnson's Glass House is about the senses, exhibitionism, display, and class, isn't it?

    Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture of Asymptote
    wear Prada and Lanvin.

    Matthias Hollwich, Christy MacLear, and Stephen Apking
    sport Jil Sander, Calvin Klein and Dior.

    Wouldn't this Men's Vogue photo shoot look very different in Mies' less physical Farnsworth House? Wouldn't they look out of place?
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Crown Hall in the Summer Solstice

    Which buildings purposely dazzle
    at the summer solstice?

    Column tops in the Phoenix, Arizona Burton Barr Central Library by Will Bruder light up at solar noon today and every summer solstice.

    Bruder, who designed the building to take advantage of Phoenix' great asset - natural light - spoke about the effect this morning at the library.
    Library assistant Debbie Veldhuis explains: "There are pillars that start on the first floor and taper off, on the fifth floor, into what we call a birthday candle tip. At solar high noon, or about 12:20 at the library, the end of the pillars start to glow and a light show starts along the side walls. Every day, it does its little show and we all stand there going 'Wow!' " At summer solstice, the sun is at highest, which only make the light show that much more spectacular.
    So what other buildings are designed to line up with the sun each June 21st?

    Thanks Jeff!
    Foto from Flickr.

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    More Morphosis. Thom Mayne & Morphosis will open a New York office by August.

    Morphosis is working near and Phare.

    That's a model and a rendering of the "Phare" Tower in Paris. Mayne told me, half-in-jest, that with it he "betrayed his own principles" by making "Phare" more sensual since it's in Paris.

    For contrast, here's Mayne and Morphosis' Caltrans in L.A.

    A little less sensual, more cerebral. Which stands out in very sensual, curvy L.A.

    His firm is also cooking up social housing for Madrid.

    There's Mayne, back to his angular self. And this project is also very Corbusian, it's a contemporary HLM, with gardens in the low-rise portion. The firm has another
    social housing project for Malaga in early design stages; and another large planning project in Madrid.

    They say they'll announce more European work soon. And in the U.S., in addition to the new academic building for Cooper Union in New York,

    they'll announce more work on the east coast of the US. Kind of nice to receive a Pritzker Prize, no?

    Thom Mayne told me, "Our work is becoming equally balanced between west coast, east coast and Europe. The New York office will let us service each project more readily becuase of the time zone differences." He said he'll split his time between the offices. He's been renting an apartment on Manhattan but is looking to buy.

    Morphosis has chosen Chelsea for its NY office, in the mid 20's, on the west side - very near the Fashion Institute. A little different than Santa Monica where, for now, the Phare Tower is still evolving.

    And as he contemplates his move, Mayne says Santa Monica will remain headquarters.


    Thanks to the USC / Annenberg Getty fellowship for the visit to my Mayne man in Santa Monica.
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