Less Mies in Chicago is not more

    The other day I posted a TV ad for the Art Institute of Chicago from 1988 - "The All New Art Institute of Chicago - in 1988!"

    It has a goofy 1980's jingle in it and so I asked, "Doesn't anybody want to write a jingle for the opening of Renzo Piano's new Modern Wing at the Art Institute?"

    I received this comment from "CHICAGOandPointsNorth" which is so thoughtful I'll post it here.
    One minute and forty-one seconds and not one mention of the Rice's architect - Hammond Beebe Babka. Instead the "skit" focused on the art and the resources of the AIC and how their project integrated new and old aspects of the museum's collection and its facility. The thought of an Exhibit of the new wing featuring PICTURES OF ITSELF could never have crossed their minds. The view of the new sculpture court was presented as entirely in scale and harmony with the view of the main stair (and, btw, with McKinlock Court). And most important, the Museum's lions and Michigan Avenue entrance remained the symbol of the Institution.

    Things have indeed changed.

    But not so much as we might imagine. It is the rare Architect who is truly respectful of context and precedent. And so, just as Mies tore into Henry Ives Cobb's domed, beaux-arts Federal Building, SOM is ready to demolish Mies IIT Test Cell, just as Renzo Piano........ You get the picture. Maybe we need a little of that 1988 jingly naivity.

    If you build something new and save something old you have two things instead of one. And if one shows contextual respect for the other the two become greater than either alone. That simple. Too late for Henry Ives Cobb. Or Howard Van Doren Shaw. But maybe not too late for Mies' Test Cell. Move SOM's new construction across the street. Like the 1988 AIC clip says -- "past and present" and "old and new." This is not so difficult.

    Let's just do it. This time together. Everyone could win. That's the jingle.

    Thank you dear commenter.

    A few notes: Mies "tore into Henry Ives Cobb's domed, beaux-arts Federal Building" for his Federal Center - which is probably superior than what seems from photos like a very good work from Henry Ives Cobb. (Mies also "tore into" the 1891 Mecca Flats for another pretty good work- Crown Hall.)

    Howard Van Doren Shaw is mentioned for the loss of his Goodman Theater to make way for Renzo Piano's excellent Modern Wing of the Art Institute.
    .
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Your thoughts on tearing down part of Mies's IIT campus


    I give you some of the emails I got after writing about the issue here (scroll down), advising Chicago to not demolish part of the Mies van der Rohe campus at the Illinois Institute of Technology - namely, much of the left side of the above photograph, up to the big power plant.
    Hi Edward,.... I know the building at IIT will more than likely become a memory, but your efforts don't go unnoticed.

    Would you get rid of a "the" in a Hemingway sentence, to save ink ?

    True Architecture is a rare occurrence - whereas, buildings are as common as pebbles, and unfortunately, not many can or will see the difference. I went to IIT some 28 years ago, and still find new things in Mies's work. On a somber evening I strolled through (I live close by ) Pearlstein Hall, had to use the washroom, and while drying my hands beheld the door details - the millwork...it had the nobility of the Ninth symphony !!

    ~~~
    Edward, Who is taking responsibility at IIT for the land sale/giveaway? Is IIT taking any heat? It is certainly ironic that SOM once again trumps the gentle giant Mies and his vision for the university.
    ~~~
    I appreciate your writing on the Mies building at IIT, although personally I am ambivalent about tearing it down. However, I am amused at your surprise that SOM would consider tearing it down, given how much they owe Mies; that is nothing compared to the monstrous piles of the library and Hermann Hall buildings they designed.
    ~~~
    Edward,

    I have been visiting IIT a lot the last week and park very close to the Mies building under arrest by the city, it is in sad shape but I just for the life of me wonder why that space it THE space for a train station???

    ~~~

    In terms of the little Mies box, well it is very sad shape, I am sure the outer chorus of yellow bricks needs reconstruction. That being said I think a totally new structure on one of the campus corners is just bad design. Design after all is suppose to be a solution to a problem, not the generator of a problem. The fact that there is open land across the street or on the same side but on the other side of the tracks kinda makes me think something is a-miss. SOM's once again is flexing its mussels on Mies Campus. If it has to be on that corner I would integrate the Mies building into a new building. Seems pretty logical which has no place in Chicago city planning.

    ~~~

    Edward,

    The problem is similar to maintaining the great landscapes designed by Jensen and Olmstead - people don't "see" them. ... Times change, what was ground breaking at one time, is invisible decades later.

    ~~~

    Edward, Send your piece on Mies to Barack Obama - he supports the common man.
    ~~~

    What say you? I'll publish all reasonable opinions. The powerbrokers tell me they read this. It's not too late, yet.

    Send your thoughts and opinions to EdwardLifson@gmail.com .

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here.


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And now, an international architecture prize from Inner Mongolia

    If you haven't heard of Ordos, click here.
    From the press release:

    NEW INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURE PRIZE FROM CHINA TO SPOTLIGHT YOUNG ARCHITECT OF GREAT PROMISE; ORDOS PRIZE IS FIRST FROM ASIA

    Prize is first to award a commission to design a building

    World’s leading architects participate; Rem Koolhaas heads jury

    ORDOS, Inner Mongolia, China – May 27, 2009 – A new international architecture prize from China, the first ever from Asia, was announced today to honor a young architect at a pivotal point in his or her career. The Ordos Prize is being co-sponsored by the City of Ordos, a new city in the Inner Mongolian region of China, and by the Jiang Yuan Cultural & Creativity Development Co., Ltd which was founded by Cai Jiang, a local entrepreneur who made his fortune in coal, natural gas and agriculture and is now an architectural patron. It is not only the first international architectural prize from Asia but it is China’s first international prize for any achievement. It has attracted a number of the world’s leading architects to serve as nominators and jury members.

    “Unlike other major prizes that recognize an architect for a significant project or body of work, The Ordos Prize is the first to honor emerging young talent,” says Rem Koolhaas, who heads The Ordos Prize Jury. One of the world’s most acclaimed architects, Mr. Koolhaas, principal of Office of Metropolitan Architecture based in Rotterdam, may be best known for the innovative design of the CCTV headquarters in Beijing that became a familiar icon to a worldwide audience during the Beijing Olympic Games. “The Ordos Prize winners will be our next generation of great architects,” Mr. Koolhaas states.

    The Ordos Prize is the first architecture prize to award a commission to design a building. The winner’s building will be constructed in the Jiang Yuan Cultural & Creativity Industry Zone being developed by the Jiang Yuan Cultural & Creativity Development Co. in Ordos to showcase the arts and artisans of Mongolia. The winner also will receive a $20,000 monetary award and his/her work will be exhibited at venues in the U.S. and Asia. Further, the winner will be given lecture dates at two architecture departments – one at a Chinese university and one at an American or European university.

    Yun Feng, vice president of the Political Consultative Conference of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a member of the Secretary Municipal Committee of the CPC and Director of the Municipal People’s Congress of Ordos, is the Honorary Chairman of The Ordos Prize Jury. Joining Mr. Koolhaas on the jury are Lauren Bon, an artist from Los Angeles who intersects art with public space and urban ecology; Zhiyuan Cui, a philosopher, author and professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing; Robbie Finkel, a musician and composer from Montreal, perhaps best known for Cirque du Soleil scores; and Qingyun Ma, dean of the University of Southern California School of Architecture, founder/principal of MADA s.p.a.m., a fast-rising architecture firm in Shanghai, and founding director of The Ordos Prize.

    “In the past 30 years, China’s unparalleled growth has triggered unprecedented challenges to urbanism and architecture on the global scene. The Ordos Prize is destined to confront these questions,” according to Mr. Ma. “The Ordos Prize was created to honor a young architect at the most critical stage of his or her career. It recognizes great promise in intellectual rigor and formal brilliance and will be based on both theoretical and built projects,” Mr. Ma notes. “It is this unprecedented opportunity to recognize the emerging stars in our field that has drawn such distinguished architects to participate.”

    Candidates for the prize are being nominated by a panel of preeminent global architects: Ben van Berkel, Stefano Boeri, Liz Diller, Jacques Herzog, Thom Mayne, Pierre de Meuron, Enrique Norten, Kazuyo Sejima, Wang Shu and Robert A. M. Stern,

    The Ordos Prize grows out of a commitment to experimentation in architecture by the Jiang Yuan Cultural & Creativity Development Co. The company first drew the eyes of the world to Ordos by teaming with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, architects of the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, to select 100 young firms from 27 countries to design 100 villas in the residential district of this creative industry park. The Ordos 100 project gave birth to the idea for the Ordos Prize.

    A territory once home to nomads and yurts, Ordos is an “overnight” city in Inner Mongolia rising out of the Ordos plains and surrounded by unique grasslands and deserts. Founded only seven years ago, the city now has a population of 1.36 million with one of the fastest growing economies in all of China due to the visionary efforts of Yun Feng who was instrumental in driving the city’s growth through the sustainable development of its natural resources.

    “We are very proud to be a benefactor for the Ordos Prize,” says Mr. Feng. “The Ordos Prize strongly supports our commitment to culture and to building our city’s attraction as a visitor destination.”

    In the 13th century, Yuan dynasty emperor Genghis Khan fell in love with the beauty of the area and decided to build his mausoleum there. Khan Square, a large landscaped plaza with massive bronze sculptures of Genghis Khan, is the centerpiece of the new city whose boulevards radiate out from its boundaries. Ordos is often called China’s “energy bank” and the city’s rapid growth has been triggered by development of its rich coal, natural gas and mineral resources. The city’s per capita GDP is now at $10,000, topping even Beijing’s $7,200, and city government has set a goal of $25,000 per capita GDP by 2012.

    In the Mongolian language, Ordos means “many palaces” and the city is building many cultural palaces including a Mongolian Theatre and Music Hall. Opposite these is a library designed as three towering books to reflect three famous books of Ordos. The Ordos Museum by Beijing-based MAD, now under construction, will house the art and cultural artifacts of Mongolia.

    The Ordos Prize will be awarded on August 20, 2009, at a unique Mongolian-style ceremony in Ordos. It will be a signature event of the 11th Asia Art Festival that will bring cultural and arts leaders from more than a dozen Asian countries to Ordos.

    For more information: www.ordosprize.org
    ###

    Again, if you don't know Ordos, click here for a New York Times story.
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The All New Art Institute of Chicago - in 1988!

Brecht posters, from Brecht's estate. Cost-- well, more than Threepennies

Gotta buy a Gehry?

Tear down a Mies in Chicago and put up Donkey Kong?

    On Lynn Becker's blog a commenter named Erik compares the Metra station designed to replace a Mies van der Rohe building slated to be torn down this summer to the very basic graphics in the old video game "Donkey Kong."

    I couldn't resist:





    Read about how Chicago will soon tear down an integral part of Mies van der Rohe's historic, groundbreaking campus for the Illinois Institute of Technology here.


    (Of course I believe in public transportation and that the stations should be accessible. I don't believe we need to tear down part of Mies's campus for this when vacant land stands on the other three sides of the intersection.)

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here (scroll down).
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Memorial Day in Public Art

    Seen over the Midwest on my flight to Chicago last week.


    We were about an hour and a half west of Chicago when I saw this. After we landed I asked a few people, including the pilot (on the way out), if they'd see this and knew where we were at the time. No one else had see it. If I didn't have this photo I'd think it was a mirage. Or is it?

    Here's to all who serve, especially my father, who served in Korea, and who loved to put up the flag on Memorial Day.
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How to make Chicago's new Modern Wing of the Art Institute an even better amenity

    The highly acclaimed Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, faces the wildly successful Millennium Park. Here's a no-brainer: close Monroe Street that runs between the two!

    Truly connect Millennium Park with its sculpture and art to the Art Institute.

    This would also be the easiest way to make it easy for great numbers of people to enter the art museum. Here's the scene as the Modern Wing opened this week:


    Just imagine the above scene with this space landscaped and with sculpture! It'd be a fine new public space for the citizens and the many tourists.

    The automobile drivers survived Monroe street being close on the day above, didn't they? They easily found alternate routes.

    Chicago, especially at its hugely successful Millennium Park, needs to prioritize the people, the walkers, those strolling, enjoying city life. A great thing about Millennium Park is that because it is built over a parking garage it is raised up above the street. It is one of the few public places in the city where you don't see and hear and smell cars whizzing by, as you do in, for example, Daley Plaza. Extend this peaceful, urban, exalting feeling right to the door of the fabulous new Modern Wing of the Art Institute.

    Note to Mayor Daley: for a long time your name came up first when people talked of great American mayors, "green" mayors, visionary mayors. Now I hear more talk of Mayor Bloomberg in New York, as, for example, he closes parts of Broadway to car traffic - starting this Sunday - to make it more friendly to pedestrians. We'll see Manhattan derive great benefits and better quality of life from this progressive move.

    And if better quality-of-life ain't enough, as New York's commissioner of transportation told the Wall Street Journal, "It's a down payment on a better economic environment." (Do read this about her.)

    More and more people want a livable, walkable, quieter city. If New York can close parts of Broadway, why can't Chicago close a part of Monroe?


    More Hello Beautiful! on the Modern Wing here. (Then scroll)
    .
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A new bus stop - from MIT


    EYEstop, developed by MIT's SENSEable City Lab. More info here.

    Looks pretty nice, a lot of good work went into this.
    It aims to enrich the city with state of the art sensing technologies, interactive services, community information and entertainment. The project is partially covered with touch-sensitive e-ink and screens, so that it can deliver information seamlessly.

    I like that it's not retro-style, but embraces the present. Yet I wonder if it'd be cheaper to give everyone an iPod Touch? My more pressing question is this: When I stand at U.S. city bus stops, on our urban streets that are mainly maximized for automobile traffic, the wait is long and I stand there looking at, listening to and breathing fumes from thousands of autos, buses, motorcycles, etc.

    So why doesn't a bus stop have a plate of glass between the person waiting and the street?

    Take the back of the shelter, which separates it from the sidewalk, and use it to protect the person waiting from- the street. Anyone know why this isn't done?
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The Battle to Demolish the Test Cell by Mies van der Rohe

    Lynn Becker nails it (of course, saving this thing is like trying to nail bricks) with his typically powerful and clear writing:
    The view down Federal Street is the only one that puts the industrial aesthetic of Mies's IIT buildings, not in a park-like landscape to help the medicine go down, but directly within the industrial context of a gritty city street running parallel to a set of railroad tracks. If you don't care much for Mies, you probably don't see much beyond ugly. But if you appreciate what he accomplished, you can't miss the incredible, rough beauty.

    The abject Test Cell, a far more accomplished conception than the critics would lead you to believe, is indispensable to that view, a variant of the Miesian corner in the way it mediates the turn from 35th street into the classic assembly of steel, glass and brick industrial buildings on Federal. In the Metra design, it's replaced with a generically prettified plaza, an empty, characterless void that has absolutely no relationship to the IIT complex, and that thoughtlessly trashes any idea of context.

    That view down Federal isn't just another generic city street. It's modernism alley, the place where Chicago architecture was reborn. And that homely sentry station on the corner is its perfect pivot point.

    ...to idly declare that it won't inflict irreparable violence on one of the most seminal streetviews in Chicago architecture is a willful act of blindness.

    It is beautiful as an ensemble, isn't it?


    Fix it up and let it shine! That's the historically, environmentally and culturally responsible thing to do.

    More on Mies's Test Cell here. A fine work by one of the most important designers of the twentieth century.
    ---
    (Thank you, friend.)

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here.
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Daniel Burnham - in the Philippines

Lego Frank Lloyd Wright

The Wrong Architect

Music and Architecture?

    Of which rock-and-roll logo does Renzo Piano's bridge for the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago remind you?
    (Chicago Tribune photograph.)





    Everybody's thinking it-- the Rolling Stones.




    More Hello Beautiful! on the Modern Wing here. (Then scroll)
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Don't demolish a Mies van der Rohe building in Chicago

    I previously wrote here and here (and later here - scroll down) about the plan in Chicago to tear down a building by Mies van der Rohe, in order to put up a Metra train station. The station could easily be erected just a few feet away, just across the street - on vacant land - thus preserving for posterity a work by one of the greatest architects in history.

    I'd like to show you the drawings for this project by Mies, scanned from the published Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Archive in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. You see the care he put into this with these highly detailed drawings for this modest structure. They're stamped with Mies's name.
    (Click each to enlarge)

    Looks to me like great care went into this. You're going to tear this down when you could easily put the train station on vacant land right across the street?


    Some say, "people in the office designed the Test Cell" - but how do they know that? Are they basing their judgements on the seeming simplicity of the building and the beautiful walls? Have they have taken the time to really look at this work, this important piece of the campus? It is not an immediate satisfaction, like some of the one-liner buildings that have gone up since it. Architect Rem Koohaas noted that most kids today walking into Mies's masterpiece Crown Hall will not understand its message. It's the same with the Test Cell.

    Those I've heard say, "people in the office designed the Test Cell" are speculating. We haven't heard from anyone who was there how much work Mies himself put into this. Knowing something about how he worked, I doubt he would have not cared how this corner of the campus looked. We ought not write history by speculating. Mies's work is too important for that.

    It goes without saying that many of the great drawings and collages in "Mies in America" were not "by" Mies. They were done by people in the office. We know that's how architects work. Many great paintings "by" for example, Michelangelo, involved the work of others. That does not detract from their importance or from the great ideas in them.


    Remember, Mies and his office didn't build a lot. As we saw in the recent exhibition "Mies in America," they would spend months on the tiniest detail that many of us might not even see, but they believed that that was "Architecture," and that we would be affected whether we knew it or not. And yes, the Test Cell is listed under 1950 in the "Mies in America Building Chronology 1937 - 1969" compiled by Elspeth Cowell and printed in the catalogue of "Mies in America."



    My eyes aren't good, does this say,
    "MIES VAN DER ROHE ARCHITECT CHICAGO, ILL." ?




    Some articles on this issue show a bad photo of just the "simple" building and say it can go. Here is the most important view, again.

    (click to enlarge, to see the beauty)

    See how the Test Cell (lower left) begins the ensemble? It is just the beginning of the symphony that is Mies's design, his master plan, for the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). This was always supposed to be a "background" building. It was always supposed to to lead you in to the campus. It is not a "destination" building. As you see above, it is part of a whole.

    The view above would be lost forever.

    Some of the same people saying it's okay to tear this down say that not every building should call attention to itself. They're right. Good neighborhoods and places are ensembles, made up of great buildings that knock you out, and others that calm you down, rest your eye a bit, and prepare you to take in the great monuments. The latter is this Test Cell by Mies van der Rohe.

    Some say the Test Cell can be torn down because it was not built to Mies's specifications. Researcher Grahm Balkany believes they are basing this on the drawings above on page 295. They are slightly different that what currently stands there. But if you click on the scan of page 295 to enlarge it, you can make out that the west and south elevations are stamped, "void." They were changed before construction. Balkany says, "This is more indication that the project mattered - why revise the design if it were not important?"

    What stands there today looks close enough for me to say "save it." The Test Cell was there for almost twenty years while Mies was alive and working for much of that time on the IIT campus. Mies's acknowledged masterpiece Crown Hall was not built exactly to his original specs (it was going to be taller.) And what we already have there is a lot closer to what he wanted than this station that doesn't fit in, and doesn't acknowledge architecturally that IIT is one of the great sites in Architecture history. And the more complete IIT is, with the highest amount of integrity, the better for all.

    A critic said of the Test Cell, it is not an "'A' building or even a 'B+' building,'" but he gave no grade or even comment on what is planned to replace it. Which is this:


    by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Chicago office. Is that an A or a B+? Or worse? It would be alright on the empty, vacant land directly across the street, literally a few feet to the south.

    Somehow, this station will cost about $11.7 million dollars. Since Metra is to get some $6.8 million in federal stimulus funds, and President Obama says he cares about culture, let's at least try to get the Federal government to pay the small amount it would cost to redesign the station to be built a few feet to the south. With a little creativity and sensitivity to history, this issue is so easily solved.

    Moving the train station to the empty land across the street would also place it closer to, and more convenient to U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play.

    As planned, it will destroy the great, historic, Modernist view I showed above. The view up that street, with Mies left and right, you walk it, and when you get to the end you find one of Mies' great ninety-degree turns, which he used so effectively to take you into the Farnsworth House, into his 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, into the Barcelona Pavilion. The well thought out entry sequence, taking you through ninety degree turns, takes you out of your world and into a new world. Here, when you get to the end of this alley, you make a ninety degree turn and you see
    Crown Hall.

    That's partly why this little Test Cell is modest. To prepare you for that. It's like Frank Lloyd Wright's little entryway at the Guggenheim Museum, before you enter the great spiral space. Could we tear that down and still get the full effect of Wright's atrium? No, you need context, you need comparison, you need to move through the architect's work, transition slowly, leave your world behind, enter a complete work of art.

    Mies does this masterfully, for example at the Farnsworth House. You make your turns through the woods, before you reach the house. At the stairs, you put first just one foot on the travertine, you are slowly leaving the world and the past. Take another step and two feet and your body is on the travertine, but you are still surrounded by the outdoors. Then, as you move forward, you're on a larger, more encompassing platform of travertine, but still surrounded by outdoors. Move forward a bit more and you're under his roof. You must make one of those famous ninety-degree turns, pass through a thin wall of glass, and you're "inside." Now you have a floor underneath you, a roof above, and glass walls around you. Mies does not give it to you all at once. He could have turned the front door towards the driveway instead of away from it and he could have made the journey into the house more direct. That's not Mies's way. We ought to keep his procession to Crown Hall, his procession onto the IIT campus, so we can appreciate it, enjoy it and learn from it.

    Especially when there are blocks of empty space directly to the south, where that train station could go.
    Right across the street, directly south of the Test Cell is empty land.


    Then we'd have a train stop at IIT, and more of Mies van der Rohe's work. What is so difficult about that? Where is the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency?

    Look how much empty land there is right there, right along the tracks on the left of the photo. Put the station there!


    Here's the Test Cell, and beyond it, empty land where the station ought to go.


    Directly south of Mies's Test Cell, directly across the street stands this:


    The city owned this land recently. They sold it to a very politically-connected developer, who has put up what you see in the background. The city and/or Metra could cut a deal to get it back. He's not going to build on it in this economy anyway.

    Here's a photo of the land on the southwest side of the intersection of 35th and Federal.

    You could also move the station here, to everyone's benefit. If the station were here, hundreds of thousands of White Sox fans would be let out closer to White Sox park than they would be if they got out under the tracks and across the street at the Test Cell. The fans would not have to cross 35th street, which gets busy with cars at game time. White Sox Park - U.S. Cellular Field stands just to the right of this. (Hey, would U.S. Cellular like to buy naming rights for the Test Cell? Just trying to think of everything to save it!)

    Or on the northwest side of the tracks you have this:

    You could put the ADA ramps for the Metra station here, and then incorporate the rest of the station into Mies's Test Cell on the other side of the tracks.


    The only land at the intersection of 35th and Federal with any building on it is the one Metra chooses to build its station on, and to destroy a work by Mies van der Rohe in the process.

    Aren't we more creative as problem solvers than that?
    ---

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here.
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Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing by Renzo Piano, visit with me

    We're in Millennium Park. There's Studio Gang's Aqua Tower, seen through the trellis in front of Frank Gehry's bandshell.


    And there's the Ben van Berkel temporary pavilion going up in Millennium Park, (with another one by Zaha Hadid) to mark the centennial of Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett's Plan of Chicago.

    The lip of Renzo Piano's pedestrian bridge to get us from the park to the third floor sculpture terrace of the new Modern Wing. And there's the museum wing, with the flat roof - "flying carpet" Piano calls it, to filter the daylight into the top floor galleries.


    The bridge just rises up through the trees in the park.


    Here it is from the other side, from Monroe Street. Straight as a Chicago street it flies across Monroe.


    Here's how you'll enter it, from the park.


    The museum, across the street.

    Who knew the bandshell would be reflected in Piano's glass?


    I toured a couple of days ago and so I entered from the older wings of the Art Institute. Work was still going on. When you enter the Modern Wing from the older galleries, you'll be coming from the 19th century works, to the twentieth, and twenty-first, and when you enter the Modern Wing, you'll see this.


    Detailing is superb throughout; with more nice reflections and transparencies.


    Starting with the first gallery, you're dazzled. A maquette for Chicago's Picasso statue - "Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Monument" (1965) reconnected with the city it was for, and related to Frank Gehry's curving sculpture in metal. And on the wall, a Picasso's great "Nude under a Pine Tree" (1959). Will we see such frolicking in Millennium Park? Don't know, it's terrific to see the flesh of the painting in natural daylight.


    Step up to the floor to ceiling glass for great views of the city - without the noise. You see Millennium Park, where we just were. Connections to the city, where art is made.


    The Brancusi's look alive as they reflect changing natural daylight. Interesting to connect it to Millennium Park, in which stands Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," - the Bean. The Bean, of course, is a child of Brancusi's work.



    Here's how the light gets in, on the third and top floor.


    A portrait of Picasso by Juan Gris (1912), his "do" was way ahead of, but similar to that of former Illiniois Governor Rod Blagojevich.


    Outside, in a new garden by Kathryn Gustafson, who co-designed the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. Above it floats a white wall sculpture by a Chicago favorite - Ellsworth Kelly. His "White Curve," is made of painted aluminum, it's Ellsworth Kelly's largest wall sculpture to date.


    Another view of the new garden - open to the public, and under Piano's sun-shade.


    Looking to fix the hole in the sculpture? Nope, just admiring.


    Gerhard Richter, seen with some natural light.

    Bruce Nauman, creates his own light.


    Robert Ryman.


    Robert Gober.



    Richard Serra.


    "Hinoki," by Charles Ray. A new acquisition for the Art Institute. Would the money have been better spent on lowering admission fees? General admission is going up from $12 to $18! (Update: after some controversy, the fee will go up to $16, with many ways, new and old, to enter for free.)


    Kerry James Marshall - one of Chicago's best living artists - was finishing the installation of his works. Glad they're there.


    On the second floor of the galleria, or atrium (yes it's rentable, since you asked) named the "Griffin Court" - stop for an espresso, or buy a gift.


    You can sit and overlook the galleria; people watch.


    Now it's on to the Modern Wing new galleries for Architecture and Design. Those great Hilbersheimer drawings of blocks of buildings in a city, greet you at the door.


    Along with a model of Chicago's Inland Steel building.


    That's architecture, curated by Joseph Rosa, right behind it, as advertised, is design, curated by Zoe Ryan.


    Not as much stuff as at MoMA, but choice. I want the Yves Behar light piece, don't you?


    Oh, it changes color! D'uh. LED's of course.


    And then it's back out again.



    Terrific detailing. Nicely proportioned galleries. An elegance, a dignity to this new work. Neo-classical in ways, all of that recalls Mies van der Rohe, the local archi-hero and his New National Gallery in Berlin. Both are made to elevate us, as humans and as citizens of a democracy. Wonderfully modulated natural light. Nice connections with the city. A little too large for the lakeside park. Should have been able to preserve very dignified Howard Van Doren Shaw's Goodman Theater, which was underground here. And if you're going to build this large in the park, at least give back with windows facing east - remember, Chicago has a wonderful lake right there, and Grant Park. But for a work at this scale, one connects with it--perhaps not as intimately as with the great 1893 Michigan Avenue entrance, but we may learn to. The spaces here are more mall-like than anything in the old museum, but the great experiences you get here looking at art make it all worth it. The natural light is such a plus- ever changing, ever alive, adding life to the colors and the forms of the artworks. We must thank the donors and the trustees, James Wood who was Director when this was begun ten years ago, and James Cuno, the current Director, who saw it through and kept the quality at a very high level. I give it an A. A for the Architecture, and a place to view Art.

    More Hello Beautiful! on the Modern Wing here. (Then scroll)

    Read my review of the Modern Wing and my interview with Renzo Piano in the June 17 edition of The Architect's Newspaper .
    ..
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