WBEZ | Mies van der Rohe http://www.wbez.org/tags/mies-van-der-rohe Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Federal Center at 40: Modernist icon hits middle age http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/federal-center-40-modernist-icon-hits-middle-age-108918 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PA141035_0.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 874px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Making the rounds this week: <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-10-12/news/ct-met-kamin-prentice-1013-20131012_1_prentice-women-bertrand-goldberg-prentice-tower">Heartbreaking photos</a> of Northwestern University knocking down the old Prentice Women&#39;s Hospital.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Seeing a modernist building designed by the late architectural luminary Bertrand Goldberg get cut down before it could turn 40&mdash;Prentice was built in 1975&mdash;is sobering; a dark chapter in the preservation of modernist architecture. And compounding the matter: The SOM-designed former Talman Federal Savings and Loan at 55th and Kedzie is being demolished <em>right now</em>. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-03/mod-corner-gage-park-106356">I wrote six months ago</a> about the need to preserve the Southwest Side postwar building.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But there is one bright spot on the modernist front. Chicago&#39;s Federal Center&mdash;the powerful ensemble of steel-and-glass government buildings at Jackson and Dearborn&mdash;looks spectacular these days.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The General Services Administration has spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years painting and reglazing exteriors, repairing the granite plaza, restoring Alexander Calder&#39;s <em>Flamingo</em> sculpture and more. The 30-story Dirksen Courthouse, the 45-story Kluczynski federal office building and the glass jewel box of a post office building look as good as they did when the center was completed in 1974.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">(...which, incidentally, is more than can be said about 202 and 220 S. State, two skyscrapers from 1915 and 1913. The GSA bought and vacated the buildings post-9/11 to form a security buffer for the Federal Center. But the agency has shamefully let these handsome towers rot.)</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But back to Federal Center. Let&#39;s look around.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The restored exteriors showcase how geometrically precise the building are to one another. The lines of one building seem to line-up with those of its neighbor. And at the right time of day, the glassy walls of the U.S. Post Office building reflect the classical architecture of the surrounding city:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PA141043.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 413px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s another view showing the post office building&#39;s transparency:</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PA141058.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The complex was built between 1964 and 1974. Mies van der Rohe was the chief designer of an all-star architectural and engineering team that included firms Schmidt, Garden &amp; Erikson, C.F. Murphy Associates, and A. Epstein &amp; Sons. The Dirksen was completed in 1964, but the post office and the Kluczynski building&mdash;which share a block on the west side of Dearborn between Adams and Jackson&mdash;weren&#39;t finished until 1973 and 1974.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">It&#39;s too bad the old federal building&mdash;architect Henry Ives Cobb&#39;s romantic pile of stone&mdash;was wrecked to make way for the new federal buildings. If only this town had been big enough for both of them...</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Chicago_Federal_Building_circa_1910.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 303px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">A $15 million Federal Center project is being planned for 2014 and few people will see it once it&#39;s complete. The federal General Services Administration wants to build an underground boiler plant and hot water distribution system to serve the complex and adjacent federally-owned buildings.</div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PA141046.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 436px;" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/federal-center-40-modernist-icon-hits-middle-age-108918 How medical tourism impacts health care systems, Mies van der Rohe and linking up artisans with global brands http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-08-08/how-medical-tourism-impacts-health-care-systems-mies-van-der-rohe-and <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP090626039821.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We learn about the growing popularity of medical tourism and find out what impact it&#39;s having on destination countries. A Mies van der Rohe building gets a face-lift. Kathleen Wright tells us about her company, Collaborative Group.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F104583624&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-how-medical-tourism-impacts-health-care.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-how-medical-tourism-impacts-health-care" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: How medical tourism impacts health care systems, Mies van der Rohe and linking up artisans with global brands" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Thu, 08 Aug 2013 11:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-08-08/how-medical-tourism-impacts-health-care-systems-mies-van-der-rohe-and Lego city harnesses the power of collective building http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lego-city-harnesses-power-collective-building-108044 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/012_legocity%2CCrownHall-230711.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Children and adults alike build a city out of Legos in IIT’s Crown Hall in 2011. The city will be built anew this weekend. (Courtesy of the Mies van der Rohe Society) " /></div><p>Would-be architects and urban planners take note: this weekend you have the chance to join with fellow builders and toy-enthusiasts to construct a vast miniature city made entirely from Legos.</p><p>The event is sponsored by Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s Alumni Association and the school&rsquo;s Mies van der Rohe Society, dedicated to honoring IIT&rsquo;s most influential architecture school dean and campus planner.</p><p>But the gathering is not about replicating the slim, elegant glass and steel boxes that modernist legend Mies so favored, whether at 860-880 N. Lake Shore Drive or the Chicago Federal Center. And although some IIT students have employed Legos to <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130327/loop/lego-marina-city-iit-student-rocco-buttliere-shrinks-landmark-towers">craft scale models of other iconic Chicago buildings</a>, Elisabeth Dunbar, the Mies van der Rohe Society&rsquo;s director, said that &ldquo;any time we&rsquo;re bringing people to experience significant architectural spaces in a way that they&rsquo;re not expecting, we&rsquo;re fulfilling his legacy.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/025_legocity%2CCrownHall-230711.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="IIT's Lego city. (Courtesy of the Mies van der Rohe Society)" />The design and build session, which is now in its fifth year, normally takes place in Crown Hall -- a Mies masterpiece -- but was moved this year to the Rem Koolhaas-designed McCormick Tribune Center, tucked under the corrugated metal and concrete Green Line tunnel that has become a campus icon of its own.</p><p>Perhaps in the spirit of Koolhaas&rsquo; playful campus addition, participants are encouraged to channel their full creative energies. Photos from previous years reveal a slate of pint-sized buildings that many Chicagoans would find familiar: tiny Willis Tower replicas and vertical-lift bridges, for example. But one also sees fantastical pyramids, pagodas, spires and a big-footed monster building or two.</p><p>Dunbar&rsquo;s crew of facilitators will have over 10,000 Legos on hand, stored in crates, she said, that are &ldquo;taller than me.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>No doubt the plans for Saturday&rsquo;s lego city build are fun -- after all, this is same medium famously used to build everything from a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLq-bOk809s">miniature Death Star</a> to <a href="http://shop.davidcole.me/">tiny taxidermy</a>.</p><p>But this kind of fantastical, collaborative building project has also has the potential to engage its participants in a kind of critical thinking about their role in the built environment that surrounds them everyday. It may even have the power to challenge visions of city planning as led by singular architectural and artistic geniuses like Mies van der Rohe and Rem Koolhaas.</p><p>Consider New Your City, a project orchestrated by the Providence, Rhode Island-based artist <a href="http://www.secretdoorprojects.org/">Ian Cozzens</a> (who, for disclosure, is a close friend of mine).&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/new%20your%20city%201.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="New Your City, Ian Cozzens’ collaboratively built cardboard city, in the Fox Point branch of the Providence Public Library in 2007. Cozzens, center, helped kids channel their inner urban planner. (Courtesy of Ian Cozzens and Ann Schattle) " />In 2006, Cozzens had just finished an architecture degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. But he was feeling frustrated and uninspired by his visions of a future in the profession.</p><p>&ldquo;I was thinking about people in the city that weren&rsquo;t in the &lsquo;artist community,&rsquo;&rdquo; Cozzens said. &ldquo;There was an authentic life in the city that wasn&rsquo;t in architecture school.&rdquo;</p><p>Cozzens was already admired for making <a href="http://www.secretdoorprojects.org/printsandposters/prints.html">highly-detailed silk screen prints</a> based on elegant and carefully rendered architectural drawings of Providence&rsquo;s historic buildings. But now he started looking for way to make his work more collaborative and more democratic. He began reading the work of Bernard Rudofsky, whose 1964 book <em>Architecture Without Architects</em> explored the richness and power of communally created works made by untrained builders.</p><p>&ldquo;I definitely love the abdication of control and power,&rdquo; Cozzens said.</p><p>As he considered what he&rsquo;d learned at RISD, he thought, &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s turn these tools over to people who aren&rsquo;t smarty pants architects.&rdquo;</p><p>So Cozzens partnered with a local branch library in Providence, and carted in masses of cardboard boxes and tubes, construction paper, cotton balls, Elmer&rsquo;s glue and whatever other crafting bric-a-brac he could find. Then he invited in local children to build a city, in miniature, in the normally staid and quiet space.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/new%20your%20city%203.jpg" style="height: 358px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="The careful chaos of New Your City. (Courtesy of Ian Cozzens and Ann Schattle)" />The project, eventually dubbed New Your City by one of its young builders, gave kids a chance to channel their hyperactive energy and control their built environment like never before.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d err on the side of anarchy as opposed to control,&rdquo; Cozzens said.</p><p>But New Your&rsquo;s citizens also faced a microcosm of the same kinds of land-use and property-rights issues adults might face in real city planning. For instance, one child would erect a house, and another would deface it with the scrawl of a marker, or rip it down and build a tiny cardboard highway in its place.</p><p>At this point, Cozzens said, the question raised by the project became: How do you build a city in a way that respects the visions and needs of all its inhabitants?</p><p>&ldquo;Now the city needs guidelines,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Otherwise people are going to hurt each other, and each other&rsquo;s feelings.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>New Your City was resurrected in the library again the following year, and Cozzens hoped the project gave the kids who participated a sense of agency.</p><p>&ldquo;I spend more time thinking about floor layouts and the spacing of doors than other people do,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But that doesn&#39;t mean that people don&rsquo;t have ideas about how they want their space to be.&rdquo;</p><p>Cozzens recalled one kid who was frustrated with the flimsiness of the cardboard and the short-lived nature of the project -- after all, New Your City couldn&rsquo;t stay in the library forever.</p><p>&ldquo;This is OK,&rdquo; the kid told Cozzens. &ldquo;But we should be making it big. Real.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; Cozzens replied. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the next thing.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://alumni.iit.edu/lego_city">Build a Lego City </a>takes place July 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McCormick Tribune Campus Center on the IIT campus, 3201 S. State Street. Registration for the event is currently closed.</em></p><p><em>Robin Amer is a reporter and producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 12 Jul 2013 19:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lego-city-harnesses-power-collective-building-108044 The modernist suburban bank that pays homage to Mies van der Rohe http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-09/modernist-suburban-bank-pays-homage-mies-van-der-rohe-102471 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P9158558-2.jpg" style="width: 610px; height: 374px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Villa Park&#39;s best known building might be the Odeum Expo Center, where &mdash; in just a matter of weeks, in fact &mdash; you can see &quot;The Greatest Ferret Show on Earth&quot; or experience the largest haunted house in Chicagoland. Take your pick.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But here&#39;s something else worth seeing: an iconic and beautifully-maintained BMO Harris bank at St. Charles Road and Villa Ave., designed by a disciple of architect Mies van der Rohe. Indeed, the midcentury bank&#39;s design was inspired by an unbuilt work by Mies.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Built in 1964 as Villa Park Bank, the flat-roofed, single-story bank has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and an open floor plan. The building is supported by a pair of exposed trusses running parallel to each other across the roof. A drive-up facility was later added (you can see it to the left of the photo above), borrowing on the same architecture and engineering principles as the main building.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><br />The bank is a spectacular piece of modernism, particularly for a could-be-anywhere business strip with the usual run of fast-food places, dollar stores and the like. The bank was designed by architect Peter Roesch, who studied under Mies at IIT in the 1950s. His scheme for the bank was inspired by an unrealized Indianapolis drive-in restaurant Mies designed for theater chain owner Joseph Cantor in 1946.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>Here is a model of that unbuilt restaurant (and, man, do I wish they&#39;d built this):</p></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Mies-van-der-Rohe-drive-in-drawing-3-610x285.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 280px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The concepts behind the unbuilt restaurant would manifest in full in 1956 with the completion of Mies&#39; world-famous<a href="http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/crown/"> Crown Hall</a> on the IIT campus. There, four visible overhead steel girders attached to eight steel exterior columns support the structure and create open &quot;universal space&quot; inside the glass-walled structure.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Roesch is now 83 and retired. He has vivid memories of designing the bank in Villa Park.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;After it was built, they all thought it was a refreshing new idea and that made it something of a landmark in Villa Park,&quot; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Roesch said the use of trusses was a way to overcome the poor and &quot;trashy&quot; soil conditions on the site. With the building&#39;s weight supported by something akin to a bridge structure that touches the ground in just four points, the expense of drilling numerous caissons through the bad soil was eliminated. Roesch studied Mies&#39; 1946 restaurant as part of his masters&#39; thesis at IIT and said he was able to improve a bit on the four exterior columns to make the design work better.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He also liked the idea of an all-glass bank.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;The critics said, &#39;What is that all-glass building?&#39; I said &#39;It is a safe bank. You can see inside.&#39; &quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">You can. As this vintage photo shows:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/oldbank.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 220px; " title="" /></div><p>Like Mies, Roesch was born in Germany and was an architect there before moving to the United States.</p><p>&quot;I am a modernist and a minimalist,&quot; he said. &quot;When I got to Mies, my whole life changed. He was the kind of person I thought didn&#39;t exist: He built what he thought. I held on to him and learned from him.&quot;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P9158546_0.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="" /></p></div><p>Roesch had a long career as an architect and professor at IIT. With his firm Hammond &amp; Roesch in the 1960s, he designed the notable Episcopal Church Center at 65 E. Huron.</p><p>Mies died in 1969, five years after the Villa Park bank was completed. Did the student ever take the master to see his work?</p><p>&quot;I never took him there,&quot; Roesch said with a hint of regret. &quot;I never knew if he saw it on his own. He was a very busy man &mdash; up to the end.&quot;</p><p>Roesch himself hasn&#39;t seen the building in decades. &quot;It&#39;s the same with any good architecture. You have to photograph it the day it was built and keep your fingers crossed,&quot; he said. &quot;I hope they didn&#39;t mess it up.&quot;</p><p>Nope. Not at all.</p></div><p>***</p><p><em>One last thing: A look at<a href="http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3ACL%3AI%3A18&amp;page_number=861&amp;template_id=1&amp;sort_order=1"> the unrealized house</a> Mies designed for Joseph Cantor in 1946.</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Sep 2012 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-09/modernist-suburban-bank-pays-homage-mies-van-der-rohe-102471 Famous architects step in to save the Prentice building http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/famous-architects-step-save-prentice-building-101229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS2508_Prentice Women&#039;s Hospital_Flickr_TheeErin.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 60 architects, educators and historic preservationists are betting their famous names might help prevent demolition of the old Prentice Women&rsquo;s Hospital.</p><p>Northwestern University owns the building and plans to tear it down for a research facility. Prominent architects, like Jeanne Gang and Frank Gehry, intervened on Wednesday and submitted a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>The architects called the clover-shaped building by Bertrand Goldberg a &ldquo;breakthrough in structural engineering&rdquo; and asked for landmark status.</p><p>Goldberg is a Chicago native who spent much of his career here and is best known for his Marina City towers. He studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus in Berlin.</p><p>&ldquo;The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg&rsquo;s Prentice Women&rsquo;s Hospital is unmistakable,&rdquo; the letter says. &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s reputation as a nurturer of bold innovation and architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.&rdquo;</p><p>But on Thursday, Northwestern said it has not changed its plans to demolish the building. A spokesperson said that it&rsquo;s &ldquo;unsuitable for the kind of modern biomedical research building the University needs to build on the site.&rdquo;</p><p>The university says a feasibility study showed the Prentice wouldn&rsquo;t be adequate as research space and would cost too much to convert.</p><p><strong><em>Listen to an extended excerpt from the interview with architect Dirk Lohan:</em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1343432055-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/DirkLohan%20MP3_0.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>One of the well-known architects who signed the letter asking for landmark status, Dirk Lohan, doesn&rsquo;t buy that argument.</p><p>He&rsquo;s the grandson of Mies van der Rohe. &nbsp;Lohan&rsquo;s legacy in Chicago involves the restructuring of classic old buildings like Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and his controversial addition to Soldier Field. &nbsp;He&rsquo;s a fan of Goldberg&rsquo;s building.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the kinds of things that I think our city needs to think about, to rejuvenate older buildings that may not meet their original functions exactly the way they were meant to be,&rdquo; Lohan said. &ldquo;And I have a hard time believing that another use cannot be found to work within that structure.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Goldberg&rsquo;s work was singular and idiosyncratic,&rdquo; Lohan said. &ldquo;He was a creative talent that worked in a way in contrast to the predominant modern direction that was popular at that time.&rdquo;</p><p>Lohan said Goldberg&rsquo;s distinctive use of cement helped him stand out during this period when many modernist architects, like van der Rohe, were working primarily with glass and steel.</p><p>The Prentice building&rsquo;s concrete shell has been likened to a cloverleaf or flower petals.</p><p>&ldquo;You could read all kinds of things in it,&rdquo; Lohan said. &ldquo;I think the building also has a very sinuous quality, and it was a women&rsquo;s hospital. So to me, it expresses something about women&rsquo;s bodies that I find attractive.&rdquo;</p><p>The National Trust for Historic Preservation has joined the fight. It added the Prentice to its list of most endangered buildings last year.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 18:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/famous-architects-step-save-prentice-building-101229 The path not taken led to Frank Lloyd Wright http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/path-not-taken-led-frank-lloyd-wright-100147 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/YC%20Wong%20and%20Mies%20van%20der%20Rohe%20-%20small.jpg" title="The late Chicago architect Y.C. Wong with Mies van der Rohe at the Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill. during its construction circa 1951. (Courtesy of Ernest C. Wong)" /></div><p>Y.C. Wong was extremely disappointed by his son&rsquo;s choice of profession &ndash; even though the apple didn&rsquo;t fall far from the tree.</p><p>He was hoping his son would follow in his footsteps and become an architect. Instead that son, Ernest C. Wong, grew up to be a landscape architect. He admits he didn&rsquo;t tell his father what he really wanted to be: a park ranger or a social worker.</p><p>The career the younger Wong ultimately chose fulfilled what he describes as &ldquo;a combo&rdquo; of his interests: a love of the outdoors, a passion for social justice and a fascination with public space.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of his fault,&rdquo; Wong says, referring to his late father. As a child, Ernie discovered <em>The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces</em> by William H. Whyte in his father&rsquo;s home library. He was fascinated by the scholar&rsquo;s 1980 study of what made New York&rsquo;s parks and public squares successful or not, right down to how people chose their favorite park benches.</p><p>&ldquo;It all started to come to fruition with me when I started to take my lunch breaks at the First National Bank Plaza,&rdquo; Ernie says. &ldquo;I would watch people during my lunch hour &ndash; how they would interact in these almost festival-like performances.&rdquo;</p><p>The younger Wong pursued his interests and took Whyte&rsquo;s work to heart. The portfolio of his firm, Site Design Group Ltd., includes some of Chicago&rsquo;s most interesting and recently renovated public parks, including Palmisano Park (Stearns Quarry) in Bridgeport and Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown. Wong currently has a bid in with several teams to work on the 28,000-square-foot field house scheduled to be built in the latter park by 2013.</p><p>Going back to Wong&rsquo;s father, though, Y.C.&rsquo;s disapproval of his son&rsquo;s career choice is all the more ironic when you consider his particular pedigree.</p><p>According to his son, Y.C. Wong came to the U.S. from China in 1947, having received a scholarship to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin studio in Spring Green, Wis. But Y.C. never made it to Spring Green. Instead, he was waylaid in Chicago by another architect, who persuaded him to stay in town: Mies van der Rohe.</p><p>In the audio above, Ernie Wong offers up the fascinating story of how his father became a disciple of one of America&rsquo;s most important architects, and how that enabled him to leave his own architectural legacy to the city of Chicago.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s<em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Ernest C. Wong spoke at an event presented by the Illinois Humanities Council in May. Click </em><a href="../../amplified/green-spaces-ping-tom-memorial-park-hardin-square-park-and-sun-yat-sen-park-99969"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 16 Jun 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/path-not-taken-led-frank-lloyd-wright-100147 Gene Summers, architect of McCormick Place, dies at 83 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-12-13/gene-summers-architect-mccormick-place-dies-83-94879 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-14/McCormick-Place-2_Flickr_Eric-Alix-Rogers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/_A269337.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 375px;" title="(WBEZ/Lee Bey)"></p><p>Architect Gene Summers, whose flat-roofed lakeside McCormick Place building has been one of the city's most powerful expressions of modernism--and a target for open space advocates and a former mayor--since its completion in 1971, has died. He was 83.</p><p>The San Antonio-born Summers got his big break working with Mies van der Rohe from 1950 to 1966. One of the projects, Berlin's National Gallery completed in 1968 owed a debt, design wise, to Mies' <a href="http://www.iit.edu/about/historical_architecture.shtml">Crown Hall at IIT</a>. But as the next photo shows, the National Gallery--a dark, glassy building with a cantilevered roof--was also a near dress rehearsal for Summers' much larger McCormick Place, a building he'd design after leaving Mies' office and joining the Chicago firm C.F. Murphy Associates:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/Neue_Nationalgalerie_Berlin_2004-02-21.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 375px;" title="Berlin's National Gallery, designed by van der Rohe with Summers as project architect, was completed in 1968. "></p><p>The McCormick Place project remains among the most controversial in history; a spectacular structure built in the wrong location. Summers' design replaced an earlier McCormick Place built in 1960 on the same site and designed by Edward Durell Stone.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/McCormick1_gcf_dc.jpg" style="width: 496px; height: 325px;" title="The original McCormick Place, designed by Edward Durell Stone. (City of Chicago)"></p><p style="text-align: center;">Stone's cinderblock of a building burned down in a five-alarm fire in 1967:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/mccormick_fire.jpg" style="width: 436px; height: 338px;" title="The building was destroyed in a five-alarm fire in 1967. (City of Chicago)"></p><p>C.F. Murphy Associates was hired to design the replacement hall. But to save money, the new building to be constructed on the foundations of the old. Summers came up with several schemes, including an unbuilt scenario in which the Arie Crown Theater and the conventional hall were two separate buildings on the site. What was built--an overhanging, structurally-expressive roof atop a dark glass box---was a far cry from the previous McCormick Place. Summer's building was graceful, forceful, modern, and <em>Chicago.</em></p><p>But it was still on the lakefront, earning the unofficial title "The Mistake on the Lake." In an Art Institute of Chicago <a href="http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/research/specialcollections/oralhistories/summers.html">oral history</a>, Summers said he tried to get Mies involved in the building's design, but architect told him, "Gene, I wouldn't touch that thing is the site was the Acropolis and the building were the Parthenon. Controversy I don't need at this time in my life." A young Helmut Jahn worked on the design. He'd later <a href="http://www.murphyjahn.com/base.html">run the firm</a> Charles F. Murphy started.</p><p>While in office, Mayor Richard M. Daley publicly ruminated twice about tearing down the convention center, calling it a "Berlin Wall" that created a barrier along the lakefront. And it does, although a more public use for the structure--now that McCormick Place has expanded into a series of larger buildings to the west--would alleviate that.</p><p>Summers led the design of Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, before leaving C.F. Murphy Associates in 1973. He would wind up doing a range of things including develop real estate, restore Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel, move to France, then return to Chicago to head IIT's College of Architecture from 1989 to 1993--the position his mentor Mies held 40 years earlier--before moving to California.</p><p>In that Art Institute of Chicago oral history, Summers said McCormick Place was the building of which he was the most proud. "[I]t was done under such trying conditions," he said. "To have pulled it off under those conditions, that was something." Even Mies, not long before his own death at age 83, sent a good word to Summers about the building taking shape on the lake.</p><p>"The structure was up and he was sick," Summers said. "He had [his companion] Lora Marx call. Lora called me one Monday and she said, 'Mies asked me to drive him by McCormick Place. We did, and he just wanted me to call you to say he thinks its a good building.' "</p></p> Wed, 14 Dec 2011 02:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-12-13/gene-summers-architect-mccormick-place-dies-83-94879