Anna Deavere Smith channels Studs Terkel

    Anna Deavere Smith, any thoughts today?  

    I saw her perform this once in Chicago.  Watching her is something like it was talking to Studs, hearings his words and the kinds of things he would rat-a-tat you with. 


    Speaking of Anna Deavere Smith, the new Jonathan Demme film she is in, 'Rachel Getting Married,' is the best film I've seen all year.  No, in more than a year.  It's an unforgettable portrait of how it might feel to be an outsider in your own family. 

    Kym (Anne Hathaway)

    Plus we explore the effects of guilt, and dysfunctional family dynamics, the destructiveness of feeling self-centered, and the effects on children that a cold mother (Debra Winger) can have.  

    I was interested in the insights into how we go on when something dear missing - that seems a common feature of modern life to me.  

    As the patriarch you get the great Bill Irwin.  He is so right for the role of the controlling father who doesn't care to deal with his family's sadness,

    - and when he tries he botches it for his daughter Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) - so right, that I forgot it was Bill Irwin.

    The script is smart, complex and subtle - more than one major character hardly speaks, but holds a commanding presence; and the story is frank about ethnicities and race.

    The film is shot in a quasi-documentary style, with enough and not too much of the look of a handheld camera.    

    The music is very moving, included an extended scene with nothing but music, from around the world (I was thinking during this of how much great music - from around the world - Studs Terkel introduced me to.)  By the end it's a great portrait of hope for a less inbred, more multi-cultural America.

    And now, let's return this blog to architecture.  
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From darkness to light

    Needing a return to beauty

    I'll post SAANA's project Torre Neruda.

    Click to better its beauty. I think Pablo Neruda would be pleased.

    Tower Of Light

    O tower of light, sad beauty
    that magnified necklaces and statues in the sea,
    calcareous eye, insignia of the vast waters, cry
    of the mourning petrel, tooth of the sea, wife
    of the Oceanian wind, O separate rose
    from the long stem of the trampled bush
    that the depths, converted into archipelago,
    O natural star, green diadem,
    alone in your lonesome dynasty,
    still unattainable, elusive, desolate
    like one drop, like one grape, like the sea.

    Pablo Neruda

    On this twenty-five story speculative office tower the top three floors will be reserved for full-floor residences. One meter setbacks as the building rises. This creates terraces. Reminds one of SANAA's New Museum in New York, and like it, this will have some perforated aluminum on the facade. I think I'd prefer the skin of this one which seems to have more glass than they could put on a museum. (Although they do pretty well with glass at the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art, but again, that's not meant to contain paintings.) In Guadalajara the windows will slide open. This pure beauty should be always good to look at in the strong sun and changing light of Guadalajara.

    Torre Neruda
    Guadalajara, Mexico.
    Design 2007 - 2008. Construction 2008 - 2009

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Happy Halloween O Architects of the Past!

Studs Terkel has passed.

    Sing a spiritual for Studs.

    I'm so glad I called him the other day. He sounded so good.

    Not long ago, I posted this on Studs.
    "It will be always howdy howdy
    It will be always howdy howdy
    It will be always howdy howdy
    and never goodbye."

    -One of Studs' favorites - "Move on Up a Little Higher."

    With love,
    to Studs.

    It's a shame Studs didn't get to see Obama president. Studs did take us close to the Promised Land.

    Bottom photo: Chicago Tribune /Chris Walker. With a lovely remembrance by Rick Kogan.
    The last interview
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Mies' Lake Shore Drive Apartments being restored

    I've written a lot about the restoration going on at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive by Mies van der Rohe. It's time to start showing some pictures of the buildings that look better than they have in years. Here's one of the new plaza being laid down.

    I'll try to post more photos over the next few days, culminating in a spectacular shot of the two buildings, taken from Olive Park, across the water, showing just how crisp and jet black the new paint job looks. The two buildings really pop out now, as they should. After these two zen-like high-rises, the rest is background.

    Big thanks to Marc Boxerman for the photos.
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A more transparent Farnsworth House

    Amazing. The Farnsworth House with all the furniture and the teak wardrobe at the east end removed. The wardrobe was taken away for restoration after the flood. We get a chance to see Miesian space flow in new ways.

    I think Mies didn't want that cabinetry there, his client Edith Farnsworth convinced him she needed it.

    Photos courtesy of Whitney French and Landmarks Illinois. Every historic house should have site manager who is such a good photographer!

    Three more photographs here. And you'll find out how to visit the house, and/or help pay for restoration.
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Unsweetened concrete blocks

Sweet concrete blocks!

Sarah Vowell on Chicago Architecture

    I am very gung-ho on the history of Chicago architecture. It was a great joy to attend the School of the Art Institute as a graduate student, to get out of the El every morning next to Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott building. I can never get enough of the buildings of Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. And I loved being able to go to the Art Institute every day—how sort of grandmotherly it is, in a good way. It was always so endearing to watch the school children tramping through there like they owned the place. And I do miss the music as well. I’ve never been able to find a live band in New York as consistently thrilling and funny and fun as the Waco Brothers.

    read more here
    And in this New York Times video, Sarah Vowell tells why Sullivan inspires her, artistically and politically.

    "It's not just, you know, roccoco frippery." - Sarah Vowell

    Thanks to Lynn Becker of ArchitectureChicagoPlus for the video link.


    If Sullivans inspire so in Chicago, and your town had one, would you not cherish it?

    In Cedar Rapids, Iowa stands

    Louis Sullivan's Peoples Savings Bank of 1911. It's about a block from the river, and suffered greatly in last summer's floods. Damage to the main floor and basement are reported.

    So what do you do about this? Pauline Saliga of the Society of Architectural Historians writes,
    Apparently the city fathers of Cedar Rapids are considering endorsing a plan to build levees in downtown which would require demolition of many historic structures, including City Hall, a county courthouse and the SULLIVAN BANK.

    Below is an email from one of the people who is spearheading an effort to find alternate solutions. She has created a blog where you can sign a petition protesting the potential demolition of their historic downtown. Please take a moment to express your outrage at the thought of demolishing Sullivan's bank for a flood wall."


    In happier Sullivan news, the Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin has the story on a newly discovered Louis Sullivan building in downtown Chicago!

    (I like that this post on Sullivan is tripartite - "base, shaft, attic." Like his tall buildings. The blog, like the skyscraper, must be, "every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line." And good that it all rests on that quote. I guess Sarah Vowell's head would be the capital. Not bad.)

    photograph of the bank: Einar Einarsson Kvaran
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Learning from a homepage


    The previous post about music and Frank Lloyd Wright, and knowing how he loved music, made me think of his Guggenheim Museum as a giant cochlea - the organ of the inner ear that converts mechanical vibrations into electrical impulses.

    And inside

    His Guggenheim also converts our vibrations and impulses and allows us to take in sensations.

    As Wright said,
    Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

    exterior cochlea photograph via the Ethnomusic Department at UCLA
    cutaway cochlea photograph via The Auditory Science Lab-Hospital for Sick Children

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Music and Frank Lloyd Wright

    Always interested in the intersection of architecture and music, and in edification, I give you this

    "Frank Lloyd Wright playlist"
    • "Building a Mystery" by Sarah McLachlan
    • "(She's a) Brick House" by Rick James
    • "Mother Nature's Son" by the Beatles
    • "Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension
    • "Inside Out" by REM
    • "Square One" by Coldplay
    • "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors
    • "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" by Charles Mingus
    • "Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect" by The Decemberists
    • "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" by Simon & Garfunkel
    Any additions?

    The list is from this fine blog from the "curator's corner" of Wright's fine Darwin Martin house in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Want to buy a Frank Lloyd Wright in California?

    Frank Lloyd Wright
    Los Banos, California

    The Harriet and Randall Fawcett Residence, 1961
    From the air, midway between Monterey and Yosemite, with its pool, pond and palms, Fawcett Residence is an oasis amid the checkerboard farms of the great San Joaquin Valley. With 80 rich fertile acres, the property fits naturally within a peaceful rural community context. Its self-sufficiency affords a virtual case-study of Wright's Usonian vision of home as a "refuge for the expanding spirit of man the individual."

    And they're saying if it's too much for you....

    Built for family living, the residence today would be ideal as a private retreat or arts center.

    Plus, this being California, you can grow produce on the land,

    as well as a walnut orchard.

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New book: Mies and Modern Living

    From the esteemed art publisher Hatje Cantz

    Mies and Modern Living
    Interiors, Furniture, Photography

    “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)

    Based on the most recent research findings and taking new material into consideration, this publication devotes itself to these modern classics and in doing so, discusses the progressive concepts of interior space developed by Mies van der Rohe, who invariably understood the interior-design aspect to be part of an overall architectonic plan. Well-informed experts not only look back on the artistic highlights of Mies’s career and the history of their creation, their contributions also bring to life the atmosphere that prevailed in Berlin in the twenties and thirties. In addition, this book contains a series of previously unpublished photographs on Mies’s work. (English edition ISBN 978-3-7757-2220-9)

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Fall at the Farnsworth

    Plan your visit now. 20 - 100 bucks for "Special post-flood" Farnsworth House access. Money raised goes to support the restoration. A lot needs to happen before winter!

    It's lovely in fall, isn't it? The season and the house remind us that our time on earth is a passage from one state to another. Red, yellow and golden autumn-colored leaves heighten the white of the steel, ceiling and travertine stone, and give it a sheen. As the leaves fall off the branches and alight on the ground, the skeletons of nature and the house become more apparent.
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Wright, Saarinen and Mies restored at the University of Chicago

    Read the story of each by clicking on each photo.

    Wright's Robie House is stirring up a little controversy for how it might be used in the future. In architecture, as in politics, "follow the money."

    But after it is restored, Robie House should look better than any of us has ever seen it.

    From the website of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust:

    The restoration's main goals are to stabilize the building, repair the damage caused over time, and return the building to its original appearance in 1910 when construction was completed and the house best reflected the design intent of the architect and the client. Throughout the process, as much original building fabric as possible will be conserved so that the Robie House will showcase with historical accuracy Frank Lloyd Wright’s original extraordinary design...

    Exterior restoration began in the spring of 2002, and was completed on schedule in July 2003. The first step was to stabilize the building by preventing further water infiltration and repairing termite-damaged areas. Major projects included repairs of damage caused by water penetration, installation of a historical clay tile roof, replastering of deteriorated soffits, extensive masonry repairs, replacement of damaged bricks and limestone, stabilization or rebuilding of balconies, and conservation of 22 art glass doors and windows. All internal electrical wiring was updated and new water service was introduced. A climate management system, interlocking aspirating fire detection system, and a dry sprinkler system were installed. Reproduction iron gates have been installed in the garden and garage area....

    While the exterior restoration has been completed, a significant amount of work remains to fully restore the Robie House to its historic appearance.... The interior of the home, after years of use as a dormitory and office building, needs to be restored to the original design. This includes recreating interior finishes and paint colors; conserving the original wood floors; and conserving 118 art glass windows and sashes. Missing building elements need to be restored, including custom fabricating 70 brass light fixtures; reconstructing built-in cabinets and buffets; replacing missing hardware; recreating bathroom fixtures; and procuring period pieces such as telephones, a stove and kitchen sink. Five custom-made carpets also need to be recreated.

    And the landscaping!
    Finally, the exterior needs to be landscaped to emphasize the relationship Wright created between the building and nature. Three large elm trees must be planted to recreate the appearance of the site in 1910, and the built-in flower boxes planted to recreate the appearance of the exterior as portrayed in the famous Wasmuth Portfolio plate of 1910.

    That'll change everything. Can't wait.

    Robie House is expected to be fully reopened in 2010, in time for its 100th anniversary.

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Cold War Modern

    The Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, 1955

    Now parked in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

    as part of

    Cold War Modern: Design 1945 - 1970

    "The 300 objects on display range from terrific toys -- such as the three-wheeled micro car above. Plus a shiny Vespa motor scooter, an even shinier Sputnik and some Apollo space suits showing signs of wear -- to futuristic frocks by designers such as Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin.

    There are Eames chairs and Dieter Ram radios, and Raymond Loewy's drawings for the interiors of spacecraft.... Robert Rauschenberg's 1963 painting "Kite," with its menacing military imagery, contrasts with the near-primitive Socialist-Realist pathos of a 1950 tapestry woven by Polish art students.

    The show starts with the startlingly differing hopes for the reconstruction of Berlin in the architectural plans for the old-fashioned classical buildings on Stalinallee in the East, and the Modernist housing schemes in West Berlin by the Interbau team that included Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Arne Jacobsen."

    If you can't make it to London, visit the show's excellent website here.

    And you can watch these videos related to the exhibition, such as the climax of Dr. Strangelove, to the song "We'll Meet Again"

    And then what to do in case of attack ("Send your young children to the fallout room.....") in "Protect and Survive"

    Top photo: Die Neue Sammlung, A. Laurenzo
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Miles Davis also said

Miles Davis said

Fixing the Farnsworth after the Flood

    Now that it's dry, the real work begins.

    And the Farnsworth House team is blogging it.

    (Careful on those travertine steps! )



    The Site Manager of the Farnsworth House will offer special tours Wednesdays at 1 pm, at least through October 2008. $100 donation.

    On the weekends, for a donation of $50, there will be special docent-led tours. Visitors will experience an expanded standard tour with views of the flood-damaged property and learn about our current restoration efforts.

    Help Save the Farnsworth House by Donating Today

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What is it about Obama and columns?

    Dr. Freud, can a column sometimes be just a column?

    It started way back when

    at least as far back as Harvard.

    Small columns adorn the front of my house

    on Chicago's south side.

    And yet, I keep dreaming about bigger ones.

    I took my campaign to Berlin; guess where I ended up?

    I don't find Middle East politics particularly sexy, but

    And to humbly accept my party's nomination at the convention in Denver, I erected

    The Washington Post got close enough to see they were made of drywall and laminated plywood.  I will etch in stone that as President, I'll be more solid and honest.

    Doc, do you think I like these things because like them I'm tall and thin?   

    I figured I liked them because columns connote strength, and democracy

    and exactly what I'm hoping for - victory!

    Dr. Freud, is that why we have yet to have a female president?

    Grow up, I'm interested in how columns project Humanism

    Like these, copied from the Erechtheum on Athens' Acropolis. These ladies call out to me from the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of Chicago, a major monument, just a few blocks where I live. For now.  Until

    6/02/11 UPDATE: A video in which President Obama explains what architecture is all about.
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