Chicago Architecture Foundation - Open House 2016

Another great year of visiting interesting sites! This year we covered locations from Back of the Yards, the Loop, and UIC. These are a few phone shots, proper photos will be posted on my site soon. 

 

Union Station

Union Station

Maybe less scenic part of the station

Maybe less scenic part of the station

Palmer Printing

Palmer Printing

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River City

River City

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Growing Power Iron Street Farm

Growing Power Iron Street Farm

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Testa Produce

Testa Produce

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UIC's brutalist campus

UIC's brutalist campus

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Fine Arts Building

Fine Arts Building

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Roosevelt University Auditorium Building

Roosevelt University Auditorium Building

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Idaho State Penitentiary - The challenge of historic prisons

While visiting family in Boise, I visited the Idaho State Penitentiary. This historic site functioned as a prison from 1872 to 1973, and it is comprised of complex of buildings surrounded by an imposing stone wall. Over 13,000 inmates lived here while the penitentiary was active. Prisoner riots in the 1970s over living conditions led to its closure and it was placed on theNational Register of Historic Places the year it closed.

 

I picked up a quarterly issue of Clog at the Chicago Architecture Biennial on prisons and architecture. The dozens of articles by architects, reformers and activists, and prisoners shed light on a variety of issues that relate to this type of architecture. This publication helped put into context my visit to the historic penitentiary. When prisons were first built, they were meant both to punish those deemed to be criminal and protect society from the prisoners. There was often little consideration for the physical, much less the psychological, well-being of the inhabitants of these buildings, given these goals. This explained the cramped, dreary quarters and what to me seemed like uninhabitable windowless boxes that were solitary confinement.

 

There was also an essay discussing the recent trend of historic prisons as horror-gazing. Historic sites face the challenge of competing with other entertainment and cultural attractions. Some make the decision to dramatise some historical aspects in order to appeal to a wider audience. Idaho State Penitentiary has capitalized on this trend, offering haunted tours and a Halloween haunted house. Sensationalizing what was indeed a place of great misfortune and unhappiness can trivialize it. It’s a fine line to walk between experimenting with the identity of a former prison and exploiting the reality that many faced while residing here.

 

I’m glad we visited, though the trip took a toll on us, and I left with more questions than I started with thanks to Clog.

 

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Chicago Architecture Biennial - SC Johnson Campus Visit

Sadly, the first Chicago Architecture Biennial has come to a close. I’m happy I was able to attend some of the programs and spend time exploring the extensive exhibits at the Cultural Center. I also had the chance to get out of the city for an interesting day trip thanks to one of the sponsors. S.C. Johnson offered free shuttles and tours of their campus in Racine, Wisconsin throughout the biennial. I took advantage of this opportunity, and neither the Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings nor the locally-purchased Danish kringle disappointed.

 

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Chicago Architecture Biennial - Programs

In addition to the exhibits on display at the Cultural Center and at many other venues across the city, there have been lots of programs for the Architecture Biennial. There are lectures and site tours nearly every day, and I have had the chance to attend two different discussions over the last few weeks: Here Comes the Neighborhood - Placemaking and Transforming Neighborhoods; and Art, Architecture and Community: Catalysts for Social Change.

Here Comes the Neighborhood was a discussion moderated by the curator of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Juan Gabriel Moreno of JGMA and Katherine Darnstadt of Latent Designs “examined the transformation of urban landscapes and the influence of architecture and aesthetics on community and civic life.” I was particularly interested in their discussion of community buy-in for their projects, and fostering a sense of pride.

Art, Architecture and Community was a presentation by Catherine Baker of Landon Bone Baker Architects on her firm’s project of turning former public housing buildings in Greater Grand Crossing into mixed income housing and a community dance center. She talked about the process, from the additional bureaucratic challenges of working with the Chicago Housing Authority to the evolving understanding of the condition of the buildings themselves to the in-depth process of getting community input for the public space. As a part of the Rebuild Foundation’s complex, this project is an interesting example of taking unused property and reusing it for the good of the neighborhood.

These programs have proved that the Architecture Biennial is more than a presentation of beautiful buildings - it’s an evaluation of all the different forms architecture takes, and how the built environment should benefit those who use these spaces.

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Chicago Architecture Biennial - Exhibits at the Cultural Center

The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial opened in October and will continue through January of next year. The expectations for this event were high, though there was a good deal of uncertainty as to what it would look like, and how it might appeal to a wider audience than architects and urban planners. I visited the hub of exhibits and lectures for the biennial, the Cultural Center, and was pleased to see it well attended by a diverse audience.

Every floor featured a number of exhibits dealing with different aspects of our constructed environment. There were models and renderings from international firms solving problems, some of which had been realized, and there were also more abstract representations of architecture. Sou Fujimoto Architects created an installation of dozens of small sculptures on pedestals that, paired with small figures, became found architecture. The playfulness and humor made the work fun to explore. Some of my favorite work was that of Professor Amanda Williams. Her photographs struck me; from the CAB website: “her work centers on color, race, and space… she uses vivid, culturally derived colors to paint abandoned houses on Chicago’s South Side, marking the pervasiveness of undervalued Black space.”

Even after wandering through the building for several hours, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of everything on display. Another trip will definitely be necessary.

 

Photography by Amanda Williams. 

Photography by Amanda Williams. 

Sou Fujimoto Architects. 

Sou Fujimoto Architects. 

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Mos Architects. 

Mos Architects. 

Rua Arquitetos. 

Rua Arquitetos. 

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Studio Gang. 

Studio Gang. 

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Chicago Architecture Foundation Open House

My favorite weekend every year is the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see buildings that are often off-limits to the public, many of which have excellent tours. I’ve also used it as a way of seeing parts of the city I don’t often get to explore. This year, I ventured out with friends to see sites in Bridgeport, Back of the Yards, South and West Loop, and downtown. As always, I had a great time, and would highly recommend making sure you’re in Chicago next year for Open House!

Hidden Sullivan stairwell. 

Hidden Sullivan stairwell. 

McCormick rooftop garden. 

McCormick rooftop garden. 

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Bertrand Goldberg! 

Bertrand Goldberg! 

Cermak bridge, Chinatown. 

Cermak bridge, Chinatown. 

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Stockyards, Back of the Yards.

Stockyards, Back of the Yards.

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Architectural salvage yard. 

Architectural salvage yard. 

Former gear factory turned office space, West Loop. 

Former gear factory turned office space, West Loop. 

The Rookery, downtown. 

The Rookery, downtown. 

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Vault in the basement. 

Vault in the basement. 

Zap props, Back of the Yards.

Zap props, Back of the Yards.

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Bridgeport demolition. 

Bridgeport demolition.