Humboldt Park Boathouse & Pavilion (photo by Lee Bey)
Even on the coldest days, the Humboldt Park Boathouse can still throw off a little visual warmth.
Designed by architects Schmidt Garden & Martin with an assist from Jens Jensen who designed the surrounding park, the 103-year-old structure‚ is one of the most spectacular pieces of public architecture in Chicago and also one of the city's finer examples of Prairie School design.
St. Mary's Church, 47th and State, 2006 (photo by Lee Bey)
The word "empty" describes some of the city these days. There are empty buildings such as the old Main Post Office that hovers over the Eisenhower Expressway in the West Loop. Shuttered Cook County Hospital is a few minutes southwest of there. The former Kennedy King College campus sits vacant at 69th and‚ Wentworth. Even the Three Arts Building at tonier 1300 N. Dearborn is padlocked.
Now add acres of empty land to the list. There's the 37-acre former Michael Reese Hospital campus under demo on the South Side. And the old US Steel South Works site--all 570 acres of it--further south at 79th and the Lake. There is block after block of emptiness on State Street north of Garfield Blvd where the portions of the old Robert Taylor Homes public housing high-rises once stood.‚ And more.
We want to see something new built in all of‚ these places. But should we?
Standard Bank (photo by Lee Bey)
The Standard Bank building was a minor icon on the Southwest Side: a sober and symmetrical five-story concrete office‚ block that hit the ground with panache--in the form of‚ a spherical, glassy Space Age Modern banking lobby.
The building has held the northwest corner of 95th and Western in Evergreen Park since the 1960s.‚ Its grip slips daily now, however. A demolition crew is at work, clearing the spot for a new Standard Bank building. In this economy it's good to know that it's only the building that's being lost and not an entire bank.
But the building's demolition is worth noting if only because it's another reminder that Postwar/MidCen buildings are among the most endangered ranks of architecture in and around Chicago. Very few are given protected landmark status, even as they reach their golden years. In postwar suburbia, where these buildings could be a celebrated part of a town's heritage, there is often no binding landmark ordinances to protect them at all.
(Ed. note - We have asked guest blogger and former Sun-Times Architecture Critic Lee Bey to tell us about the high and low points in architecture from 2000-2009. Lee can be found at leebey.com)
Chicago was enjoying a building boom in 2000. Residential towers sprung up along the outskirts of downtown; townhouses and two flats did likewise, particularly on the North Side and South and West sides.
But there was this persistent buzz behind rumbling of construction equipment: from the graceless concrete residential slab towers in River North to neighborhood housing rendered with Ye Olde Tyme architectural detailing, much of what was being built looked pretty schlocky. And compared to the architectural razzle-dazzle happening in Europe and Asia, our new buildings looked tentative, staid and unremarkable. Chicago had lost its nerve.
Luckily, the city's architectural fortunes improved during the decade. Trump Tower swaggered onto the urban stage at 401 N. Wabash in 2007, becoming the tallest new building in North America since the Willis (nee Sears) Tower. Once the city finally remembered its heritage of making good-looking tall buildings, we got the noteworthy 62-story One Museum Park, designed by Pappageorge Haymes (on Roosevelt east of Michigan); Helmut Jahn's 41-story 660 N.