WBEZ | Gunner's Mate School http://www.wbez.org/tags/gunners-mate-school Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The demise of Building 521 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/demise-building-521-101796 <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/Gunner%27s%20Mate%201%20SOM.jpg" style="height: 280px; width: 620px; " title="The early life of Building 521 on the Naval Station Great Lakes (Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F56666948&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.navyweek.org/chicago2012/index.html">Navy Week</a> in Chicago, and here at Navy Pier we&rsquo;ve been listening to the Blue Angels zoom past overhead all day, practicing for this weekend&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/special_events/mose/chicago_air_and_water.html">Air and Water Show</a>. To mark the event, we&rsquo;re going to take a jaunt 40-miles north of Chicago to revisit a modernist building tied to the region&rsquo;s naval &ndash; and architectural &ndash; history.</p><p>Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes, Ill., provides technical training to 37,000 recruits every year, according to <a href="http://www.cnic.navy.mil/">the naval station&rsquo;s web site</a>. And starting in 1954, Building 521 housed a significant portion of recruits training. Also known as the Gunner&rsquo;s Mate School, Building 521 was designed to house a full-scale artillery set-up, the kind that could mimic warfare aboard a destroyer.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gunner%27s%20mate%20SOM.jpg" style="height: 226px; width: 300px; float: right; " title="Building 521 was featured on Landmark Illinois’ 2008 most endangered list (Courtesy of Landmark Illinois)" />The 95,000 sq. ft. glass box also happened to be architecturally significant: Designed by Bruce Graham, the Colombian architect who famously co-designed both the Willis (ahem, Sears) Tower and the John Hancock Center, Gunner&rsquo;s Mate was the first glass curtain wall building designed by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill. Here&rsquo;s a description of the building&rsquo;s use from <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-02-03/news/0802010219_1_mies-john-hancock-center-preservationists">a 2008 story</a> by the <em>Chicago Tribune&rsquo;s</em> architecture critic Blair Kamin:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">. . .the 1954 Gunner&#39;s Mate School was straight out of the master&#39;s Bauhaus book &ndash; square in plan, with a handsomely proportioned exterior that enclosed the kind of sprawling, column-free interiors that would later appear in convention centers. &quot;Universal space,&quot; Mies called such interiors because they were meant to adapt to different functions over time. Into the building&#39;s spaces, roughly 55 feet tall, the Navy plugged towering ship mock-ups, painted battleship gray, and outfitted them with stairways, decks, gunnery and overhead cranes to shift the weaponry around. At the core was a concrete-walled structure that housed classrooms for the sailors, essentially a building within a building.</p><p>But in 2005 the Navy made plans to demolish Building 521, along with another Skidmore building elsewhere on the site; computers, the Navy said, had made its older training equipment obsolete. And, if they didn&rsquo;t tear down the building right away, they feared they might be penalized under a Department of Defense policy that withholds money for building maintenance when too many existing buildings stand empty.</p><p>Several preservation groups, including Landmark Illinois, stepped in to see if it was possible to rehab Building 521, or at least &ldquo;moth ball&rdquo; it &ndash; leave it alone until the Navy could figure out a future use. Landmark Illinois put the Gunner&rsquo;s Mate School on its 2008 list of most endangered buildings, and Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill developed several potential reuse plans pro-bono. The <em>Tribune&rsquo;s</em> Kamin wrote an impassioned plea for preserving the building called <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-02-03/news/0802010219_1_mies-john-hancock-center-preservationists">&ldquo;Why the Navy should act to save this &lsquo;box&rsquo;&rdquo;</a> in which he described Building 521 as a &ldquo;cathedral of the Cold War&rdquo;:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">What is at risk is a precious, heretofore little-known, chapter in the story of the Second Chicago School of Architecture, that flowering of power modernism that produced such much-admired landmarks as the Inland Steel Building and the Hancock Center. . .</p><p>None of their efforts bore fruit. The Navy rejected the preservationists&rsquo; proposal, and Building 521 was demolished in the spring of 2009.</p><p>So how did the firm behind some of Chicago&rsquo;s most legendary sky-scrapers get into business with the Navy in the first place? Landmarks Illinois&rsquo; Lisa DiChiera explains the evolution of that peculiar relationship in the audio above.&nbsp;It starts with an army town in Tennessee and ends &ndash; at least for our purposes &ndash; north of Chicago.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range&nbsp;</em></a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Lisa DiChiera spoke at an event presented by Chicago Architecture Foundation in December 2008. Click</em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/preservation-challenges-modernism-naval-station-great-lakes"><em>here</em></a>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Sat, 18 Aug 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/demise-building-521-101796