6pm tonight! Chicago Debates - The Malling of Chicago. See you there.

    A new and lively series of debates on what makes a great city and region.

    From the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

    Our first great debate will be:

    click for better view

    I'll moderate an opinionated panel of experts.  Pro and Con.

    We'll debate three important projects changing, improving, destroying, remains to be seen - tell us your thoughts - on the "malling" of neighborhood life in Chicago.

    Audience participation is encouraged.  At the live event, and on the website.

    All the information you need to participate is right here.  Don't wait. Do it now.

    We'll debate one project on the North Side, one on the South Side, and one downtown.  Our terrific panelists are: 

    click for better view

    The Malling of Chicago - Good or Bad? 

    Chicago defined the "City of the Century" in the Twentieth Century. But is Chicago becoming the "Suburb of the Century" in the Twenty-First? 
     Are big-box retailers eating up our neighborhoods? Or are they the perfect solution to the problem of food deserts and widespread unemployment?  
    Is the land of Sullivan and Wright becoming generic Anyplace, USA?  
    Or do mixed-use developments replace historic buildings that no longer serve their purpose, ultimately enlivening the neighborhood by providing much-needed amenities?  
    Are we becoming less of a city in which to stroll? Or do the adjoining green spaces planned for many mixed-use developments make Chicago, in fact, more walkable?
    Join leading voices from architecture, design, business and politics at Goose Island Wrigleyville as they debate the pros and cons of mixed-use development and big-box stores in the city of Chicago. 
    If you care about our city, be a part of the debate.  If you care about the quality of life here, be a part of the debate.  For no-holds barred, real, thoughtful, lively, solution-oriented conversations, be a part of the debate.

    We may be losing our Mayor, but we'll maintain the mojo.  Be a part of the debate.
    Chicago Debates.   
    I hope to see you there, 

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2010/11/
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A John Lautner house: needs plenty of water, does best in bright sun

    After Jim Goldstein bought the Sheats Residence in 1972, he hired John Lautner to renovate it and to adapt this single-family house for a family to his purposes.  Both men hailed from the Midwest: Lautner from Michigan, Goldstein from Wisconsin.  Jim Goldstein was happy to leave behind his native landscape.  He's glad to be in a warmer climate. He wishes L.A. were even warmer than it is.  So every week he fills his house with flowers flown in from Maui. 

    Goldstein said John Lautner, who died in 1994, agreed with all the changes Goldstein wanted to make to the house, including the decision to tear down a second Lautner house next door, for new construction partly based on a Lautner design.  (Goldstein says Lautner thought the now-demolished house was not one of his best.)  The one thing he says Lautner did not agree with was Goldstein's landscape plans.  Goldstein wanted tropical.  
    The koi pond, over which you cross to enter the house.
    Lautner, no lover of L.A., wanted pine trees, like the ones he grew up with in Michigan.  Lautner recommended a landscape designer but he didn't do tropical.  He recommended another but he couldn't do tropical.  Goldstein found his own landscaper and the result is a Brazil-like micro-climate on the acres around his house.  Species from exotic lands around the world grow here, with the help of four full-time gardeners.  Imagine the water flow, here in arid L.A.  

    I had just been to Disneyland, and couldn't help making the comparison.  No insult intended to Lautner and the Sheats-Goldstein house, which of course is a deeply philosophical work.  But here goes: both the house and Disneyland are products of eccentric genius.  Both feature highly artificial lush landscapes with water features, to inspire a happier, other-worldly, vacation-like mood.  Both are fully designed environments- down to the smallest details.  Both hold "Rosebudian" memories.  Walt Disney reclaimed aspects of the small town Main Street of his youth in Marceline, Missouri.  Lautner always reclaimed aspects of the family home he helped to build as a youth, named "Midgaard" by his mother, meaning "midway between earth and heaven."  

    The master bedroom of the Sheats-Goldstein house.
    At Disneyland you "fly" over London on the Peter Pan ride.  Here you "fly" over L.A. 

    And Jim Goldstein installed something like a "ride"- with his James Turrell Skyspace.

    Jim Goldstein in the Skyspace he and Turrell put together. 

    Here's Jim Goldstein, seeming to levitate, in his otherworldy, orgasmatronic James Turrell Skyspace-  with LED lights and music.
    How does a man get like this?  I don't mean levitating, I mean in love with Lautner.  Jim Goldstein said, "As a boy, growing up in Wisconsin, my best friend lived in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright."  The Adelman House. 

    Sheats-Goldstein house is like the Adelman house too.  Both are of concrete, with wide overhangs.  (Adelman is one of Wright's "low-maintenance Usonian" houses.")  Both have interior furnishings by the architect.  And semi-covered exterior walkways.  The Sheats-Goldstein straddles a hill, the  Adelman house overlooks a ravine.  Both are sited to take maximum advantage of the natural light.  

    The power of Wright.  (Me, from childhood on I spent a lot of time in and around Wright's works, and seriously so from the age of nine.  It hurts so good.)  

    In 1935, John Lautner wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright: "If there is anything that I value in this world, it is my connection with you... I can hardly say or do anything without connecting it with you and your ideas."  

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2010/11/
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Rain after Thanksgiving, from my car window. Pacifica, California, 2010

Mies, this is Andy. Andy, this is Mies.

    The best videos I've seen of Andy Warhol's clouds in Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall last summer. An event sponsored by the Mies van der Rohe Society of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

     By "zeldazonks".  My own video of this was more spare.  But I still like my stills of the Clouds in Crown Hall. 

    Viewed in winter, these summer clouds look even better.

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2010/11/
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What to wear to see Crown Hall or, G-d is in the Bifocals

Romantic Residence in L.A. - The Sheats - Goldstein Residence by John Lautner

    It was a dark and stormy day...

    Well, "dark and stormy" by Los Angeles standards.   

    Not sunny and no bright blue sky.

    We had been invited to visit Jim Goldstein at his John Lautner-designed house, first named after the family that commissioned it, and now commonly called the Sheats - Goldstein Residence, given all the care and money Jim Goldstein put into it; and also perhaps in recognition of his opening it up to those interested in such things.  On this gray day of fog and drizzle driving there on the 101 felt more like being on the autobahn in Prussia.  In L.A. if it rains, you take a moment to remember what and where windshield wipers are.  

    Jim Goldstein, the owner and great caretaker of the house greeted us, 

    in colorful coat by John Galliano, short pants and bright yellow sneakers, topped it off with a baseball cap.   

    Gray and rain bring out more complex emotions in the Lautner house.  To see it this way is a privilege.  It tests your love of Lautner.  The house, less overwhelmingly gorgeous, feels more intimate.  You get to know it better,  like a lady without makeup.  You see sides of the house you didn't know where there.  More moods to the experience. 

    I had known, in sunny weather, how the great roof framed a view of nature and sent my soul flying out to the treetops and beyond.  Now I saw how in the rain, the triangles on the underside, became like abstracted leaves of a tree.  

    The cement ribs became the structure of the leaves.  We stood under it as man and woman in nature gather under trees to keep dry.  The roof was now one large leaf keeping us dry.  You thank it.  Because of the design and because the side is open you are much more aware of the goodness of this roof - especially in the rain.   You experience more fully in this contemplative condition how the individual triangles merge into one large triangular roof.  The parts combine into the whole. 

    The oculi, in sun allowing light to pass, transform into abstracted raindrops on the leaf.  Light becomes liquid.       

    Move farther inside.

    I know of no better cave than this place.  Radiant heat in the floor keeps you warm from your feet up to your head.

    Lautner too was moody.  The dwellings he designed are not gee-whiz pads for James Bond; they are ruminations, on our relation to nature, to changing light, to materials, to the metaphysics of geometry, the parts to the whole, organic to inorganic, solid to spirit, house and human to landscape and heaven.  

    It's easy and pleasant to forget this under the sun, when all is perfect and warm, as is so often the case in L.A.  

    John Lautner didn't like it here.  Jim Goldstein once asked him how he would improve the city.  

    "I'd make a huge concrete boulder and roll it down Mulholland Drive," Jim Goldstein says Lautner told him.    

    I think Lautner would approve of the German Romanticism felt in his house on this day. His Austrian father had filled him with the German philosophy he'd studied in studied Göttingen, Leipzig, Geneva and Paris.  His Irish mother, an artist, filled young John Lautner with Nordic myths. 

    This great architect of mid-century Los Angeles roadside eating and hillside homes, could never anchor himself in this sun-drenched sprawl, but drew inspiration from the nature and dwellings he knew back home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; and of course from having worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, in Wisconsin.  More on that in the next post.   


    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2010/11/
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Greet the Light

    Inside the James Turrell / Jim Goldstein Skyspace, on the lush grounds of Jim Goldstein's extraordinary and lavishly maintained Sheats / Goldstein Residence.

    The house is a John Lautner design in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.  Mr. Goldstein had hoped to have James Turrell and John Lautner design the Skyspace together. Both work with cave-like sheltering enclosures, looking outwards to bring in and worship the vista, the light and the heavens. Lautner and Turrell had a few discussions, but did not collaborate on this.  That was not meant to be.

    Mr. Goldstein was extraordinarily generous today to allow me to bring this year's USC Annenberg / Getty Arts Journalism Fellows to his house, and to spend time sharing it with us.  We thank him.

    As we walked up the driveway, leaving behind this particular paradise, some were giddy, some were glad, all were grateful.    
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2010/11/
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