WBEZ | architecture http://www.wbez.org/tags/architecture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 <p><div>These days Wacker Drive rivals LaSalle as the epicenter of Chicago&rsquo;s financial district. The drive&rsquo;s high-rise office buildings tower over the Chicago River like walls of a canyon. But a break in the skyline at the intersection of Wabash and Wacker makes way for a building that is only five stories above street level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The structure looks nothing like any of its rectilinear neighbors, which favor steel and glass. Instead, it resembles a concrete space ship with a round, white, windowless facade from the second story up. And, the building has nothing to do with financial power. As spelled out in enormous letters spanning its curved wall, it&rsquo;s the home of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cs church wide.jpg" title="Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist sits on a corner of prime real estate at the intersection of Wabash Ave. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Monica Schrager asked Curious City how the church has held on to the property for so long. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>This distinctive structure caught the eye of Monica Schrager, who works right across the street on the 10th floor of the old Jeweler Building. &ldquo;It has an interesting look,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s this small &lsquo;60s-style building that you never really see anyone coming in and out of in the middle of all these skyscrapers.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s the question she asked us to look into:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><em>I&rsquo;m curious about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist that sits on the corner of Wabash and Wacker: how it came to have that prime real estate and how it&rsquo;s managed to hold on to that prime real estate for so long.</em></div></div><p>It turns out Monica has a nose for a great story. As we look into the church&rsquo;s history, we learn how the tenets of a distinctive faith were translated into concrete and steel by an idealistic, but non-believing architect. And, we follow a devoted congregation as it risked building in a once-abandoned portion of the city ... only to have that neighborhood bloom decades later.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Which faith are we talking about?</span></p><p>Not to be confused with Scientology, Christian Science is a branch of protestant Christianity. It was founded in Massachusetts in the late 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that the material world is a temporary illusion, while the only reality is spiritual. This belief informs all aspects of Christian Science practice, including its most famous: devout Christian Scientists don&rsquo;t seek medical treatment. Eddy taught a form of spiritual healing that is inspired by Jesus&rsquo; own healings in the New Testament.</p><p>Mrs. Eddy also taught that God does not communicate by way of a few chosen figures, like preachers or popes. God, she said, communicates directly and equally with all of his followers, so Christian Science is a non-hierarchical, democratic faith. Each church elects readers who serve a short term before passing responsibility to another church member. As the congregation&rsquo;s current First Reader, Lois Carlson, states: &nbsp;&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have many big cheeses.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Quakers, Christian Scientists also emphasize the importance of individual testimonies; during Wednesday services, church-goers are encouraged to stand and share their personal experiences with Christian Science healing. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;To uplift a neighborhood&rsquo;</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s notable that the intersection of Wabash and Wacker has any church at all, since there are few standalone churches around downtown. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed many of them, and many more relocated to quieter residential areas. In 1907, an unknown author penned an op-ed piece for the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune </em>which reads: &ldquo;One of the changes most noticeable between old Chicago and new Chicago is the disappearance of the churches which used to surround the courthouse square or line Wabash or Michigan avenue.&rdquo; Later, the author notes &ldquo;Chicago has nothing downtown to express the spiritual life of it&rsquo;s people.&rdquo;</p><p>So, when the Seventeenth Church was established downtown in 1924, it was a bit of an anomaly.</p><p>For decades the congregation rented several downtown venues including, at one point, Orchestra Hall. By the late 1940s, though, the congregation wanted a church of its own. Members remained committed to being downtown. In this, they bucked a trend of building Christian Science churches in outer neighborhoods such as Beverly, Uptown and Hyde Park. Current members of the Seventeenth Church don&rsquo;t have records that indicate why the congregation prefered downtown, though member Dave Hohle has a hypothesis. &ldquo;I think a church will uplift a neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, it seems like the corner of Wabash and Wacker might be the perfect candidate. Not so, according to Hohle. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t really interest them because it wasn&rsquo;t very central,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just sort of over here on the river.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Carlson points out that Wacker Drive was not always a major thoroughfare. &ldquo;It used to be that Michigan Avenue was it&rsquo;s own entity and the Loop was it&rsquo;s own entity, and there was no sense of connecting the two,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lot%202%20FOR%20WEB.png" title="" /></p><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/duo3.png" title="Site of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist before construction in the mid-1950s. (Photos courtesy Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia) " /></div></div><p>Obviously the congregation <em>did </em>decide to buy that property, after almost a decade of searching. At the time, the corner contained nothing but a parking lot and a short, rundown building, which they later demolished to make way for their new church. When they finally made the purchase in 1955, Wacker Drive was just starting to develop.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Kindred spirits: A radical faith and a non-believing architect</span></p><p>Say Hohle is right and the Seventeenth Church congregation wished to uplift their future neighborhood. Surely, then, the church would need uplifting architecture. Over two years, the congregation considered 34 architects, including celebrity designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an architect with Christian Science roots. In 1963 they settled on a Harry Weese.</p><p>You may not know Weese by name, but there&rsquo;s a chance you&rsquo;ve seen his work in Chicago: the Time Life building, the towering Metropolitan Correctional Center on Van Buren street, and several others. His resume stretches as far as Washington, D.C., where he designed a cavernous metro, famous for it&rsquo;s waffled concrete ceilings. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tai%20flickr%20dc%20metro%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px;" title="Harry Weese, the architect who designed Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist building, also designed the Washington, D.C. metro stations. (Flickr/tai)" /></div><p>Weese had an impressive resume, but then again, so did his competitors and, interestingly, he was not a religious man. (In interviews the church asked each candidate about their religious affiliation. Weese responded, &ldquo;My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I&rsquo;m an architect.&rdquo;)</p><p>According to Robert Bruegmann, the co-author of <em>The Architecture of Harry Weese</em>, the congregation was impressed by the architect&rsquo;s ambitious, post-war vision for American cities.</p><p>&ldquo;The suburbs had sapped a lot of the vitality of the city,&rdquo; Bruegmann says. &ldquo;A lot of the city architecture and infrastructure was old. The city was in a pretty bad state and Chicago was no exception.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Weese wanted to build a new, more humane city, so he sought contracts for large-scale urban works such as the DC Metro. But Weese also believed architects could revitalize cities by designing new, monumental public buildings. &ldquo;So for Harry, a chance to build a church in the center of the city where the churches had been fleeing for a hundred years was a real opportunity, and he really seized it with both hands,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s simply conjecture (again, the congregation has no records of this), but we do know the Seventeenth Church congregation was impressed with the architect&rsquo;s plans, if not the architect himself. According to Dave Hohle, the church approved Weese&rsquo;s design on the first round, a rare occurrence in architecture circles. &ldquo;There were, like, no adjustments,&rdquo; Hohle says. &ldquo;It was presented and it was unanimously approved.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Faith translated into design</span></p><p>The congregation&rsquo;s first reader, Lois Carlson, says that Weese&rsquo;s radical building, completed in 1968, matches Christian Science&rsquo;s radical theology. &ldquo;I think what&#39;s so beautiful about this building is that it&rsquo;s so clearly an idea that matches the metaphysical substance of the Christian Science faith,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Specifically, Bruegmann says Weese knew that acoustics were critical to a democratic congregation that valued every voice. That led him to fashion the main auditorium of the church as a greek-style amphitheater, which is ideal for projecting sound. There are 800 seats, and each is within 54 feet of the room&rsquo;s center.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/inside%20church%20flickr%20dpyle%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist can hold up to 800 people, but a typical Sunday service is attended by about 40 people. (Flickr/dpyle)" /></div><p>Quite unusual for the time, Weese also worked with an audio engineer who created a system of hidden microphones and speakers so that members&rsquo; testimonies could be amplified. This audio system was so advanced it received a write-up in the Journal for the <a href="http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=1500">Society of Audio Engineers</a> in 1970.</p><p>A year after the church opened, it received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA recognized the structure not just for it&rsquo;s democratic design, but also for Weese&rsquo;s expert problem solving. To keep out the noises of a bustling city, the congregation did not want windows in the auditorium but, like most churches, they wanted space and light. So Weese built a tall, domed ceiling with an oculus-like skylight at the very top, which he called a lantern. To make sure the sunday school was equally well-lit, Weese created a moat-like sunken garden around the church so that there could be windows into the basement levels. &nbsp;</p><p>Then of course, there is the building&rsquo;s eye-catching exterior. Bruegmann points out that the facade is modern but still achieves the kind of monumentality that Harry Weese admired in classical buildings. &ldquo;That dome that rounds that corner is one of the grandest urban gestures of virtually any city I know of,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">If you build it they (might) come</span></p><p>When the Seventeenth Church triumphantly opened its doors in 1968, the congregation established something few other churches had attempted: a place of worship in Chicago&rsquo;s bustling downtown. The trouble is, membership didn&rsquo;t grow, at least not on the national level. &nbsp;According to sociologist Rodney Stark, the Christian Science movement&rsquo;s membership started to drop in the 1940s and, by the 1960s, was in serious decline.</p><p>So what happened? Stark suggests that early in the 20th century, Christian Science was the fastest-growing faith in the country, but there&rsquo;s a caveat. He believes Christian Science always <em>seemed </em>more successful than it actually was, mostly because members tended to be well off financially. &nbsp;Like the Seventeenth Church, other congregations had resources to establish and build new churches around the country, even after membership began to decline.</p><p>Another theory from Stark: Medical treatment was very crude at the time that Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. &ldquo;We had no antibiotics,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Part of the time they really didn&rsquo;t have any anesthetics. Doctors were pretty untrained and a lot of them were butchers.&rdquo; &nbsp;By comparison, spiritual healing seemed like a strong alternative. Stark argues that interest in Christian Science decreased in the mid-1900s after Western medicine improved.</p><p>Lastly, Stark argues that the first generation of Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t produce a second generation. From the beginning, Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t have a lot of children so they had to rely on new converts to expand. Converting new members is often difficult compared to raising children within a faith.</p><p>We can see how this affected the Chicago area by reading <em>The Christian Science Journal</em>, which lists every Christian Science church around the world. The religion was popular in Chicago; over the span of 61 years Christian Scientists opened 23 churches across the city. After the 1950s, Chicago churches began to close. By the new millenium, 13 of the original 23 churches were gone. Today there are only six.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10th%20Church%201%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The former site of Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist. (Flickr/Jamie Bernstein)" /></div><p>The remains of these closed churches are dotted all around Chicago. Some have been sold to congregations of other faiths. Thirteenth Church in Beverly has been converted into 16 loft condominiums. The abandoned 10th Church in Hyde Park was sold to a developer, but it&rsquo;s now in foreclosure and falling to pieces.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Holding onto your religion ... and property</span></p><p>So how did the Seventeenth Church hang on? This is the second part of Monica Schrager&rsquo;s question, and it&rsquo;s a good one, when you consider two things: The church now sits among prime real estate, and the congregation is modest in size.</p><p>In the 1980s Wacker Drive saw a major boom in office construction. Eventually Wacker replaced LaSalle as the center of Chicago&rsquo;s financial industry, with massive, glassy skyscrapers to show it. In 2013, <a href="http://s1156.photobucket.com/user/ksershon/media/2013USsMostExpensiveStreetsforOfficeSpace.jpg.html">Jones Lang and LaSalle listed Wacker Drive as the 20th-most expensive street for office space </a>in the country. Next door to the church, a hotel developer &nbsp;bought a narrow empty lot for 5 million dollars. (That&rsquo;s over one thousand dollars per square foot. The developer is now in the process of building a Hilton Garden Inn on that site.) Right next door to that, the historic motor club building was auctioned off in 2011 for 9.7 million. Word is, that building will soon be a hotel as well. &nbsp;</p><p>There may be a competitive real estate market raging outside the walls of Seventeenth Church but, believe it or not, the church says it&rsquo;s never gotten a serious offer from any kind of buyer. Still, Seventeenth Church is a big building, while the congregation is likely small.</p><p>Christian Science branch churches never publish their membership numbers because they don&rsquo;t want to be distracted by material measurements, so we can&rsquo;t know the exact size of the Seventeenth Church congregation. However, when I attend a recent church service, I count approximately 30 people in the 800-seat auditorium. Dave Hohle says that number is likely low, adding that perhaps forty or so attendees arrive for typical Sunday services.</p><p>If you think there&rsquo;s a mismatch between the building&rsquo;s stature and the size of the congregation, Lois Carlson notes the church was paid off in 1978, and members cover maintenance costs.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, even though we&rsquo;re a small congregation, we&rsquo;re an incredibly financially committed group,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s likely additional income. On occasion, the church receives a visit from a big movie studio. The Seventeenth Church amphitheater was the set for the &ldquo;choosing ceremony&rdquo; in the blockbuster film <em>Divergent</em>. The church&rsquo;s exterior played a cameo in <em>Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.</em> (In the film, the church was spared, while robots laid waste to the rest of downtown Chicago.) The church did receive income from those films but does not disclose the amount.</p><p>The congregation, regardless of costs, seems to be just as committed to downtown as it was when it first sought property in the 1940s. First and foremost, Lois Carlson says, the church can be a resource for what she calls &ldquo;hungry hearts that are looking for a deeper understanding for God.&rdquo; The church operates a reading room in the lobby six days a week. Carlson says tourists and curious passersby come into the reading room regularly. A small handful of people have become members this way. &ldquo;We just feel like we belong here because the need is so great,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In keeping with that, the congregation regularly shares Harry Weese&rsquo;s architectural gem. They lend their auditorium to interfaith groups, and the local alderman conducts community meetings there. A couple times each month the church welcomes tour groups from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In October, more than 4,000 visitors arrived as part of the Open House Chicago event.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Down the road?</span></p><p>For now, it seems like Seventeenth Church congregation wants to stay put, but what about over the next decade or two? Will it be able to sustain itself? Professor Bruegmann is concerned that the building might not survive if the congregation were to move or dissolve. In fact, many of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings have already met the wrecking ball. Bruegmann argues that buildings from the &lsquo;60s and &lsquo;70s are no longer new, but they are not yet considered historic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s exactly at that moment when they&rsquo;re middle-aged buildings that they&rsquo;re most vulnerable,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Like Monica, he&rsquo;s very aware of the competitive real estate market on Wacker Drive. &ldquo;The economics of having such a small building on such a prominent, very expensive site are going to weigh so heavily in the balance,&rdquo; he worries. &ldquo;If the current congregation moved out, it would be extremely difficult to figure out what to do with a building like that and how you might save it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mschrager.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Monica Schrager submitted our question about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Photo courtesy of Monica Schrager)" />Monica Schrager was thrilled that our investigation made a connection between her current home &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood &mdash; and Washington, D.C., area, where she grew up. The relevant detail? Architect Harry Weese designed the Seventeenth Church as well as the DC Metro!</p><p>Monica is a web developer by trade but her interest in architecture is responsible for her question about Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</p><p>&ldquo;I love the variety of architecture we have in the city, from Mies Van Der Rohe to Frank Lloyd Wright,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Monica works right across the street from Seventeenth Church in the old Jeweler Building. She sees the church every day outside her office window and she&rsquo;s definitely rooting for the church to survive, especially now that she has seen the inside. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the whole combination of the lighting and the acoustics is kind of really neat,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You almost don&rsquo;t feel like you&rsquo;re in the middle of the city. It&rsquo;s an oasis of sorts.&rdquo;</p><p>Her bottom line? She thinks Wacker Drive needs an oasis more than it needs another skyscraper.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 Uptown Theater: How could it be repurposed? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/uptown-theater-how-could-it-be-repurposed-110707 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/uptown thumbnail.png" alt="" /><p></p> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/uptown-theater-how-could-it-be-repurposed-110707 The tale of the two-flat http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164044282&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The podcast version of the story includes an excerpt from a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-flammable-fire-escapes-109009#related" target="_blank">more extensive examination of Chicago-area wooden porches used as a means of egress</a>. To catch every episode, <a href="http://wbez.is/VIdLFv" target="_blank">subscribe to our podcast</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Most older U.S. cities have a signature kind of building. In Brooklyn it&rsquo;s the brownstone, one standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the next. In Philadelphia, newcomers and visitors are struck by the distinctive row houses.</p><p>What about Chicago? Well, it&rsquo;s a city known for its skyscrapers, for sure. Outside of downtown, though, you won&rsquo;t find soaring steel and glass. In the neighborhoods, it&rsquo;s wood, brick and stone. The real workhorse of Chicago&rsquo;s built environment is the modest, ubiquitous (yet fascinating) two-flat.</p><p>You know the building. Two stories, with an apartment unit on each floor, usually with bay windows greeting the street through of a facade of brick or greystone. Most were built between 1900 and 1920.</p><p>Two-to-four unit apartment buildings make up 27 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s housing stock, according to data from the <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">DePaul Institute of Housing Studies</a>. The rest is split evenly between single-family homes, condominiums and buildings with five or more units.</p><p>We recently got a question that returns some wonder to this everyday building. Our question asker, who chose to stay anonymous, is particularly interested in why the two-flat became so popular. And she wants to know who calls these buildings home. As she observes in <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">the question she submitted to Curious City</a>, they&rsquo;re somewhere between suburban houses and big apartment buildings:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Chicago-area two-flats straddle the line between apartments and homes. Who were they originally designed to serve? Has that changed?</em></p><p>The answer to that last part? It&rsquo;s revealed in a story, one you&rsquo;d miss if you choose to focus on the city&rsquo;s skyline or crane your neck to see the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower. It turns out the advent of the humble two-flat mirrors the development of Chicago&rsquo;s middle class. And in many ways it still does today, but in the wake of the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, that may be changing.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A Bohemian building boom</span></p><p>Through the late 1800s, European immigrants made up almost half of Chicago&rsquo;s population. Hundreds of thousands of Polish, German and Czech people settled here, often making their first home in narrow one-story buildings usually made out of wood. Those came to be called worker&rsquo;s cottages.</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://wbez.is/1q1Znnk" target="_blank"><strong>Related: How the size of the &quot;foreign born&quot; population has changed in the city.&nbsp;</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>As Chicago&rsquo;s big industries grew &mdash; Sears, McCormick Reaper and Western Electric, to name a few &mdash; so did the population. Soon it made sense for developers and architects to build up as they built out. Hence two- and three-flat buildings, which offered denser housing, and gave the owners a shot at some extra income from renting out their extra unit.</p><p>We found several architects from the era who built two-flats by the dozens on spec, meaning they weren&rsquo;t designing for a specific client, but acting as &ldquo;owner-architect&rdquo; in the parlance of records from the era. Many of them were Bohemian. (Today, the former Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/czeckad.jpg" title="An ad for Lawndale two-flats steered toward Eastern European immigrants. (Courtesy Chicago History Museum) " /></p><p>In fact, along with Jen Masengarb of the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> &mdash; whom we partnered with on <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">this voting round</a> and helped us research this story &mdash; we found an old article from the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> that shows the connection between the city&rsquo;s booming Czech population and its sprawling housing market. A headline from <a href="http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/28540648/" target="_blank">Oct. 17, 1903</a> crows: &ldquo;BOHEMIANS IN LEAD AS BUILDERS OF HOMES.&rdquo;</p><p>At the convention of the Building Association league of Illinois, Bohemian Frank G. Hajicek boasted of &ldquo;$12,000,000 in shares in force&rdquo; held by the &ldquo;the Bohemians of Chicago.&rdquo; It was a point of pride for the 28-year-old resident of the South Lawndale neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Never in the history of the world, I believe, have people in a foreign land established themselves in homes so securely and rapidly as have the 200,000 Bohemians who make Chicago their home,&rdquo; said Hajicek in 1903.</p><p>In the heavily Eastern European Southwest Side neighborhoods of Pilsen (named for the Bohemian city of Plzeň), North Lawndale and South Lawndale, many of those homes were two-flats.</p><p>With Masengarb&rsquo;s help, we dug up some documents at the<a href="http://www.chicagohistory.org" target="_blank"> Chicago History Museum</a>, including a 1915 &ldquo;Book of Plans&rdquo; that enticed homebuyers to order away for all the materials needed to build a two-flat sized for a typical Chicago city lot.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/bookofplanslarger.png" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bookofplansinset.png" title="Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum. Click for larger view. " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;Our design No. 144 is a two-family flat designed for a money making proposition,&rdquo; begins one such ad. &ldquo;Anyone wanting a comfortable home and at the same time a good income on the investment will do well to consider this proposition.&rdquo;</p><p>Many, it seems, did consider it. A 1910<em> Tribune</em> article reported $38 million of flat building, &ldquo;a new high record in this field, exceeding by over $4,000,000 the figures of 1908, which also established a new record.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A &lsquo;workhorse building&rsquo; in a western paradise</span></p><p>Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that it often wasn&rsquo;t young first-generation immigrants buying Chicago two-flats. Instead it was those who immigrated to Chicago as children in the late 19th century, and by the early 20th century had built up enough money to graduate from renting.</p><p>&ldquo;What appears to have happened is that the Czech population was essentially moving further west, out of Pilsen and other sort of areas, Maxwell Street areas, to newer land, I guess you could say,&rdquo; says Matt Cole of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which administers the <a href="http://www.nhschicago.org/site/3C/category/greystone_history" target="_blank">Historic Greystone Initiative</a>. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the name California [Avenue] comes from &mdash; it was like their western paradise.&rdquo;</p><p>Jen Masengarb and I take Cole up on his offer to point out one such western paradise: <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Lawndale,+Chicago,+IL/@41.8582574,-87.7139721,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e328a692e8e51:0x26c3604dc3282d76" target="_blank">the part of North Lawndale known as K-Town for its K-named avenues (Kostner, Kildare, Keeler, etc.)</a> near Pulaski and Cermak Roads. In 2010 K-Town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of classic Chicago apartment buildings.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/masengarbktown.jpg" title="Reporter Chris Bentley, Jen Masengarb and Matt Cole with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago meet in K-Town to learn about Chicago's two-flats. (Photo courtesy Anne Evans) " /></div><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a microcosm of Chicago architecture,&rdquo; says Cole, pointing out stately greystones, single-family brick residences and flats in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Prairie to mashups of any and all architectural detailing popular between 1900 and 1930. &ldquo;The reality is that the two-flat and three-flat are the workhorse building of this period of Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>During our neighborhood walk, Masengarb points out that for a lot of early 20th century Chicagoans, the two-flat was a vehicle of social mobility.</p><p>&ldquo;This two-flat is that bridge, I think, between that older 1880s, 1870s housing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And then the bungalow which was the even bigger dream, and a bigger yard, my own space and nobody living upstairs, clomping around. &ldquo;</p><p>Consider Frank Stuchal. Census data shows in 1888 he immigrated to Chicago from Bohemia as a 13-year-old with his parents and two sisters. The census is taken every 10 years, and every 10 years as his income increased &mdash; Stuchal was first employed as a typesetter, then a print shop foreman, and finally business manager for a newspaper &mdash; he moved further west along Cermak avenue. In 1900 the 24-year old Stuchal rented an apartment at W. 23rd Street and South Spaulding Avenue with his two sisters. In 1920 he and his wife owned a two-flat, half of which they rented out to a German family. By 1930 he and his wife were raising their son in a bungalow they owned in the southwest suburb of Berwyn.</p><p>The 1920 census shows the street lined with two-flats occupied by second generation Czech, German, and Polish immigrants in their 40s and 50s, raising Chicago-born teenagers. Stuchal&rsquo;s neighbors included butchers, policemen, bookkeepers, bricklayers and librarians.</p><p>That two-flat Stuchal owned in 1920 was in K-town, near 21st Place and Keeler Avenue. It was built in 1916, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s still there</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/Capture_0.JPG" style="width: 610px; height: 234px;" title="Frank Stuchal's two-flat was built in 1916. (Google Streetview/Google)" /></a></div><p>Today it&rsquo;s owned by Arquilla Lawrence, whose parents moved in when she was two years old.</p><p>&ldquo;And I love it,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been my home all my life, ever since I was two we moved into the neighborhood. I&rsquo;ve been here my whole life except when I went away to college.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many African-Americans, Lawrence&rsquo;s father moved to the neighborhood from the South &mdash; Oklahoma, in his case &mdash; during <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html" target="_blank">The Great Migration of blacks to northern cities </a>during the middle of the 20th century. After World War II the neighborhood became the first African-American neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s so well kept,&rdquo; says Corey Brooks, who also grew up in K-town. &ldquo;Because most of [the property owners] migrated from the South. This is where they put their roots in, so they all know each other.&rdquo;</p><p>Brooks introduces us to his wife, Rita, who is on her way to check in on her mom. Both of them moved back to their childhood homes in order to care for their parents. Turns out it&rsquo;s not just the neighborhood&rsquo;s property ownership that has lasted all these years.</p><p>&ldquo;This is my childhood sweetheart,&rdquo; says Rita, pointing to Corey. &ldquo;He was my first boyfriend! Then he got married to someone else, I got married, I lost my husband, and then two years ago we found each other and got married.&rdquo;</p><p>Before we leave K-Town, Jen Masengarb surveys the mishmash of early 20th century architectural styles on display.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a metamorphosis or an evolution. We&rsquo;re gonna try this over here on this block, and then this is five years later we&rsquo;re gonna try this &hellip; You can just see it evolving in the way that we live and the decisions that we&rsquo;re making in terms of what our families need, what is stylistically impressive,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This architecture is us, it&rsquo;s a reflection of us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Losing equity: Is the workhorse getting exhausted?</span></p><p>So the form of two-flats was basically a response to economics and demographics, as well as the size and shape of a Chicago city lot. The buildings no longer house predominantly Czech and other Eastern European immigrants, but today&rsquo;s tenants share a lot with their neighbors across the decades &mdash; many of them used two-flats to build community and a little bit of personal wealth in the form of equity. The two-flat was a bridge to a better life for the families that built Chicago as we know it.</p><p>One hundred years later, however, it&rsquo;s not clear how much longer two-flats will be able to fill that role.</p><p>K-town is well kempt, thanks in part to incentives from its historic district status. But two-flats are expensive to maintain. And since the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, a lot of two-flats in other neighborhoods around Chicago are sitting vacant or being bought by developers who don&rsquo;t occupy the units.</p><p>And sometimes the ownership moved in the other direction. Eric Strickland tells us he bought a K-Town two-flat in the 90s. When he purchased the building on 21st Place, it was divided into three units. Once he&rsquo;d saved up enough money, Strickland converted the two-flat into a single-family home. He lives there now with his wife and daughter.</p><p>During the housing crisis two-to-four unit properties were disproportionately impacted by foreclosure. And Geoff Smith from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a> says two-flats don&rsquo;t really make economic sense for new development, so they may well be lost to history in lower-income neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;What you see more commonly is a single-family home targeted for owner occupancy, or you see a larger rental building,&rdquo; Smith says.</p><p>He adds that, if older two-flats fall into disrepair, there will likely be no two-unit rentals to replace them. &nbsp;&ldquo;The concern is that in some of these more distressed areas, where there is a substantial stock of these buildings, there is a risk in some neighborhoods that this kind of housing could be lost,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>That prospect matters. According to data from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a>, today there are more than 76,000 two-unit apartment buildings in Chicago. In some neighborhoods &mdash; Brighton Park, New City, and South Lawndale &mdash; they still make up more than two-thirds of the housing stock, as well as a substantial proportion of the city&rsquo;s affordable housing.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://housing-stock.housingstudies.org/#13/41.8759/-87.6436" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/depaulmap.PNG" style="height: 300px; width: 620px;" title="Click to view full map from DePaul's IHS. " /></a></div><p>Prices for two-to-four unit buildings in distressed areas of Chicago fell roughly 70 percent between the pre-crash peak and current figures. That means many homes in those areas are worth less than they were in 1997, says Smith.</p><p>So if the &ldquo;money making proposition&rdquo; that two-flats once promised to working families is more elusive these days, what will become of the lower-income neighborhoods where these historic buildings are most prevalent?</p><p>&ldquo;Because of changing population dynamics, the changing nature of the city, in some areas you are going to see demand in decline. You may not see it recover, and there just may not be an economic value to some of these properties,&rdquo; says Smith. &ldquo;Hopefully some prescient, some really far forward-seeing investor can come in and say &lsquo;these properties have value for the long-term.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist and reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Follow him at cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research for <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">the Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> and contributed reporting to this story. </em></p><p><em>Correction: A draft of the text for this story misstated the time period during which the majority of Chicago two-flats were constructed. The correct timeframe is between 1900 and 1920.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681 After four years on the beat, architecture blogger bids adieu http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2014-01/after-four-years-beat-architecture-blogger-bids-adieu-109461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_2.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>This blog started four years ago this month.&nbsp;</p><p>During that time you&#39;ve been gracious enough to indulge me as I wrote about new buildings, explored abandoned structures, documented lesser-known streetscapes and found obscure movies and video&mdash;all in service of telling stories about Chicago&#39;s built environment.</p><p>Some of these explorations were pure fun, like the time Columbia College&mdash;which owns the former Johnson Publishing Company headquarters on south Michigan Avenue&mdash;let me photograph the building&#39;s perfectly-intact <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-01/soul-survivor-look-intact-and-avant-garde-interiors-ebonyjet-building-104868">1970s mod interiors</a>.</p><p>Others were tougher to swallow, such as the demolition of the former Michael Reese Hospital. Wrecking those buildings compounded an earlier, and greater, civic tragedy: that a world-class medical institution like Reese would be allowed to waste away in the first place. The continual erosion of building and population from the greater South Side was another point of concern.</p><p>And there are more stories: The redevelopment of the city&#39;s neighborhoods; the fate of all those shuttered schools; the midcentury architecture and classic churches at are at risk. But they are stories others will have to tell. This is my last blog post for WBEZ.</p><p>It&#39;s been a good run here and I&#39;ve been treated well. But I&#39;ve just landed a new job at the University of Chicago working with artist and placemaker Theaster Gates that&#39;ll demand my full energies.&nbsp;</p><p>After years of sounding the trumpet about the importance of assisting neighborhoods, I figured it was time to join in and do some work of a different sort.</p><p>So a hearty thanks to WBEZ and executive producer Justin Kaufmann who brought me in four years ago and named the blog &quot;Beyond the Boat Tour&quot; (I wasn&#39;t fond of that name, originally&mdash;and I caught flak from friends at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as you might imagine). But after a while, the title grew on me. And praise is due to Digital Content Director Tim Akimoff and his team who manage a stable of bloggers of which I was proud to be a member.</p><p>My biggest &quot;thank you&quot; goes out to you readers. You&#39;ve suggested ideas, posed questions, praised what you liked and challenged what you read. All of that made me better, sharper and appreciative. And let&#39;s stay in touch. You can follow me on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/leebey" target="_blank">@leebey</a>, Facebook and <em><a href="http://soulcloset.blogspot.com">Lee Bey&#39;s Soul Closet</a>,&nbsp;</em>a personal blog devoted to 20th Century African-American pop culture, movies, film and ephemera, that will re-debut in a few weeks.</p></p> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 05:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2014-01/after-four-years-beat-architecture-blogger-bids-adieu-109461 Gone but not totally forgotten: Chicago Park District Administration building http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-12/gone-not-totally-forgotten-chicago-park-district-administration-building-1 <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/379274pr.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 474px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">A decade has passed since the Soldier Field renovation was completed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The propriety (and $600 million expense) of putting a new seating bowl half-way down into the confines of the neo-classical stadium made the project one of the most hotly-debated public projects of a generation or more. So much so, comparatively few back then noticed the redesign also meant the outright demolition of the Chicago Park District Administration Building, an unusual pre-War modernist structure designed by architects Holabird &amp; Root.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Built in 1939 for the then-new park district, the long, four-story limestone building, 425 E. McFetridge Dr., abutted Soldier Field&#39;s northern edge, as the image above shows.</div><p>The vanished building is worth a revisit. The old headquarters, with its strong WPA modern design and European modernist inflections, was unusual for Chicago&mdash;if only because so little on that scale was built here in the 1930s. The building lives on, thanks to a compelling set of <a href="http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=chicago%20park%20district%20administration">Historic American Building Survey</a> images on the Library of Congress website. The photos accompanying this piece come from there.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s a photo of the lobby during the building&#39;s final years. You can get sense of the building&#39;s modernity with the circular recessed lights and the marble walls:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><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/376634cr.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 487px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The open staircase, with its minimalist, curved railings...nice:</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/379283pr.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">And look at this enclosed garden out back, with seating, located outside the building&#39;s basement dining hall:</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/379297pr.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 484px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s the park district board room:<br /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/376636cr.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 480px;" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">And here&#39;s a photo taken from the roof of the Field Museum showing the building and the stadium&mdash;pre-renovations&mdash;behind it:</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/376629cr.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 487px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The administration building was in sad shape in its last years. The park district estimated it would have then $20 million to fix up the old building&mdash;and that was in the mid-1990s.</div></div></div></div></div></div><p>It was demolished in 2001 and the agency took up residence, as renters, at 541 N. Fairbanks.</p></p> Mon, 23 Dec 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-12/gone-not-totally-forgotten-chicago-park-district-administration-building-1 In Gage Park, a midcentury bank and piece of Chicago history vanish http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/gage-park-midcentury-bank-and-piece-chicago-history-vanish-109238 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10592307763_ef9d84ee4c_c.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px;" title="" /></p>The former Talman Federal Savings building, a Southwest Side midcentury modernist structure designed by Skidmore Owings &amp; Merrill, has been demolished.<p>Its expected replacement? An LA Fitness health club.</p><p>It&#39;s a sad end to a neighborhood building that not only stood on the corner of 55th and Kedzie, but also occupied the intersection of Chicago architecture and history.</p><p>Talman Federal began in 1922 at the kitchen table of 29-year-old Ben Bohac, living at&nbsp;51st and Talman. By 1955, Bohac&#39;s enterprise was one of the state&#39;s most successful savings and loan associations, with enough money and clout to hire a blue-chip architecture firm like&nbsp;Skidmore Owings &amp; Merrill to design the new building. The design won a certificate of merit award from the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1957.</p><p>The building is gone now, along with an addition and parking and banking annex across Kedzie. Photographer Martin Gonzalez documented Talman&#39;s demise last month.&nbsp;His photo above looks northwest, across the ruins to the former entry lobby in the background. Below is a photograph I took of the vacant, but still standing, Talman earlier this year.</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/P3199043_0.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another view from Gonzalez. Bohac&#39;s name was still on the building as the demo equipment rolled:<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10995418936_c7fa2f3107_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px;" title="" /></div><p>Again, here&#39;s Talman when I visited the building in April:</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/P3198995_0.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">This is an image from Gonzalez showing the 55th Street frontage under demolition and with graffiti:</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/10345669655_5d57379180_c.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 902px;" title="" /></div></div><p>Talman merged with LaSalle Bank, a&nbsp;subsidiary of&nbsp;Dutch banking giant&nbsp;ABN AMRO Bank N.V., in the 1990s, ending the empire Ben Bohac created.</p><p>Scores of 1950s and 1960s commercial buildings and churches are scattered among the pre-war Chicago bungalows and two-flats on the Southwest Side. If any good (other than the prospect of firm abs) can come of Talman&#39;s demolition, let&#39;s hope that it brings more attention&nbsp; to these neighborhoods and buildings.</p><p>Meanwhile, check out more of Martin Gonzalez&#39; work <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/25165196@N08/">here on flickr.</a></p><p><em>Lee Bey writes about Chicago architecture for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @LeeBey.</em></p></p> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/gage-park-midcentury-bank-and-piece-chicago-history-vanish-109238 Kanye: 'The world can be saved through design' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/kanye-world-can-be-saved-through-design-109178 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20131118_kanye_harvard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/xDbVz-7WH2o" width="420"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image ">Kanye West popped into a <a href="http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/news/all-news/feed.html">Harvard Graduate School of Design</a> studio earlier this week to talk architecture.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Yes, yes: West often comes off as a self-aggrandizing tool who beefs with presidents &mdash; and that&#39;s both Bush and Obama &mdash; and has frequent run-ins with the paparazzi.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But give him a listen here. West is smart, sensitive and has a feel for design; the creative process and the results those things should bring.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;I really do believe that the world can be saved through design and everything needs to actually be &#39;architected,&#39; &quot; he says in the video above made by Harvard GSD student Flavio Sciaraffia.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">West visited the studio Sunday, on invitation from the school&#39;s African American Students Union, and gave students 300 tickets to see his show in Boston that night.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;I believe that utopia is actually possible &mdash; but we&#39;re led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political,&quot; he told students. &quot;So in no way am I a politician. I&#39;m usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct. &nbsp;I really appreciate you guys&#39; willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">West&#39;s remarks are also another example of his (and hip hop&#39;s) interest in architecture and design.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;I want to do product, I am a product person,&quot; West told BBC1 a few months ago. &quot;Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture ... I make music, but I shouldn&#39;t be limited to once place of creativity.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And if <a href="http://www.icecube.com/">Ice Cube</a>, the actor and former member of rap group N.W.A,&nbsp;still counts, two years ago <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-12-09/ice-cube-chills-designs-charles-and-ray-eames-94756">he expressed his love</a> for the work of&nbsp;American designers<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 16px;">&nbsp;</span><a href="http://eamesoffice.com/charles-and-ray/">Charles and Ray Eames</a>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For years now, rap and hip hop music videos have often brilliantly documented the beauty and scale of urban spaces. Their desolation and abandonment, too.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One standout is the West-directed 2005 music video for Common&#39;s &quot;The Corner.&quot; The minor masterpiece showcases Chicago&#39;s built environment, beginning with the places formed by those utopian ideals he talked about, and then travels to the spots where politically-shaped and contested spaces hold sway.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/6mnKNr2Tiq8" width="560"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Speaking of contested spaces: <a href="http://www.preservationchicago.org/">Preservation Chicago</a>, the Chicago Film Archives and Kartemquin Films tonight are <a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/current-events/vanishing-neighborhoods">screening three short and rarely-seen 16mm films</a> that documented the demolition, change and tumult in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One of the films, DeWitt Beall&#39;s &quot;A Place to Live,&quot; was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-01/place-live-newly-resurfaced-60s-film-sought-humanize-chicagos-urban-renewal">featured in this blog</a> earlier this year.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The group will also show<em>&nbsp;&quot;</em>Kali Nihta, Socrates,&quot;<em> </em>a short that looks at the demolition of the Greektown neighborhood in the 1960s and &quot;Now We Live On Clifton,&quot;&nbsp;a documentary about two kids who fear &mdash; and rightfully so, as it turns out&mdash; that gentrification will force them out of their multiracial Lincoln Park neighborhood in the 1970s.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong><a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/current-events/vanishing-neighborhoods">The screening</a> will begin at 7:30pm at Comfort Station, 2579 N Milwaukee Ave. Admission is free.&nbsp;</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Lee Bey writes about architecture at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/LEEBEY">@LeeBey</a>.</em></div></p> Tue, 19 Nov 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/kanye-world-can-be-saved-through-design-109178 After Prentice: Northwestern shows finalists' designs for new building http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/after-prentice-northwestern-shows-finalists-designs-new-building-109127 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/23.jpg" style="height: 564px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="" /></p>I spent the weekend eyeballing the three final submissions for Northwestern University&#39;s highly-publicized architectural bake-off to build the school&#39;s new biomedical research facility.</div><div><p>The finalists include three Chicago firms: Goettsch Partners is working with Philadelphia company&nbsp;Ballinger; Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture is partnered with Payette from&nbsp;</p><p>Boston; and Perkins and Will is going at it alone.&nbsp;</p><p>To make way for the building, dubbed the Feinberg School of Medicine Medical Research Center,&nbsp;architect Bertrand Goldberg&#39;s Prentice Women&#39;s Hospital is being torn down.</p><p>The winning design will be built in two phases. Construction of the 600,000 sq ft first phase is expected to begin in 2015. The space would then double &mdash; and the lab tower would grow substantially, as the Goettsch/Ballinger rendering above shows &mdash; in a planned second stage.</p><p>So what can we make of all this?</p><p>One look at the submissions shows why the university never would have reused the old Prentice building. Not that it couldn&#39;t have been, but the&nbsp;proposals&nbsp;show Northwestern is looking for a big, efficient, machine-like building somewhere between a hotel and office building in space, amenities and design. Prentice, with its concrete quatrefoil shape and relatively small size, was never going to be that.</p><p>Judging projects based on renderings is always risky, but here are some images of the proposals.</p><p>Shown above, the Goettsch design seems to me unimpressive on first glance. The angled windows reminding me of Helmut Jahn&#39;s two-decade-old <a href="http://www.lpcmidwest.com/our_properties/120-north-lasalle-street%E2%80%93chicago-il/">120 N. LaSalle Street</a>. But that&#39;s the problem with renderings &mdash; in this view below where the building meets the street, the design and the facade seem to have a lot more going for them.</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/goetsch.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 335px;" title="" /></div><p>Next is Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill&#39;s submission, which depicts the building after the second phase is complete. The undulations in the facade are good and one of several elements designed to bring natural light into the core of the building.</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/asgg2.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 630px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The small park nestled under this glass spine in the Smith and Gill scheme below is also worth noting.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</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/10.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 637px;" title="" /></div></div><p>Next, Perkins and Will&#39;s facade design is the most sculptural of the three, with the curves seeming to acknowledge the old Prentice building.</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/perkins2.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 840px;" title="" /></div><p>&nbsp;This next view shows more of a separation between the tower and its base.</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/1_9.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 840px;" title="" /></div><p>The new structure will be a complex building, the success of which should not be judged as a beauty contest. The true heir to Goldberg&#39;s advanced-for-it&#39;s-time Prentice would be a structure that is a game changer among its building type; one so technologically advanced in architecture, engineering, energy usage and function that it couldn&#39;t have been built, say, five years ago.</p><p>It&#39;s too early to tell which of these designs are able to do that.</p><p>Northwestern has been soliciting public input on the designs, which you can see and contribute to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/biomedical-research-building-competition/">here</a>. Trustees are expected to make their choice within a month.</p><p>The designs and models will remain on public display at the Lurie Medical Research Center, 303 E. Superior until 7 p.m.</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 22:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/after-prentice-northwestern-shows-finalists-designs-new-building-109127 Will an iconic hospital emerge from life support? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-iconic-hospital-emerge-life-support-109086 <p><p>Like many residents of Tri-Taylor, Dorota Gosztyła hopes her Chicago neighborhood will finally figure out what to do with two city blocks of brick and terra cotta rising up from Harrison Street.</p><p>&ldquo;I find the building to be beautiful, and I think it&rsquo;s a shame that it&rsquo;s just standing here vacant,&rdquo; says Gosztyła, 35. She often glimpses the old Cook County Hospital building while driving on the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290). The hospital&rsquo;s fluted columns soar three stories, lining a facade festooned with classical symbols: cupids, lions, warriors&rsquo; shields.</p><p>&ldquo;When you get a closer look it&rsquo;s a little different. It&rsquo;s definitely run-down. &lsquo;Neglected&rsquo; I would say is the perfect word to describe it,&rdquo; Gosztyła says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s pretty sad.&rdquo;</p><p>It bothered her enough that she sent Curious City a succinct question about the building that could play a future in her neighborhood:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What will become of the old (and now vacant) Cook County Hospital?</em></p><p>The building, 1835 W. Harrison St., is hard to miss. When it opened in 1914, it had space for 650 patients. Subsequent expansions made it the world&rsquo;s largest medical facility from the 1920s until the 1950s. Among the superlatives it racked up during that time: It was home to the world&rsquo;s first blood bank; Chicago&rsquo;s first HIV/AIDS clinic in 1983;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/why-trauma-centers-abandoned-south-side" target="_blank"> the site of the country&#39;s first dedicated trauma center</a>; and in 1973 Dr. Boone Chunprapah became the first doctor to successfully reconnect four severed fingers to a patient&rsquo;s hand.</p><p>While its architectural significance has never been in doubt, the aging structure isn&rsquo;t a sure bet for rehabilitation. New construction now surrounds the site, and it wouldn&rsquo;t be the first time Chicago has demolished a historic building in the name of progress. Gosztyła&rsquo;s question got us talking with people who know the building&rsquo;s history and its potential for redevelopment. The bottom line is that preservationists and county officials seem to agree on this: The building can and should be saved. What remains unclear, however, is just how to do that.</p><p><strong>A landmark on life support</strong></p><p>Before it made medical history, Cook County Hospital was an architectural achievement.</p><p>&ldquo;It is a terra cotta marvel. The building is enormous, at the same time as being very elegant,&rdquo; says Bonnie McDonald, president of <a href="http://www.landmarks.org/" target="_blank">Landmarks Illinois.</a> &ldquo;The mix of brick and terra cotta create a really lovely façade.&rdquo;</p><p>Architect Paul Gerhardt, who designed the building in association with Richard E. Schmidt and Hugh Garden, was known nationally for his hospital designs. Gerhardt also designed Christ&rsquo;s Hospital in Topeka, Kan., as well as Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/michael-reese-hospital" target="_blank"> Michael Reese Hospital</a>. Cook County Hospital is one of the city&rsquo;s best and largest-scale examples of Beaux Arts architecture.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7395_AP03063004261-scr_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 184px; width: 275px;" title="The old Cook County hospital's facade earned the beaux-arts structure landmark status. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)" />Landmarks Illinois&rsquo;<a href="http://landmarks.org/images/COOK_COUNTY%20HOSPITAL.pdf" target="_blank"> reuse plan</a> for the building makes note of its mansard roof, made with green glazed terra cotta, and other ornamental details. But it also calls attention to the steel frame; the widely spaced columns preserve an open floorplan conducive to reuse. The preservation group&rsquo;s analysis called for turning the building into 320 residential units for medical staff, a 95,000 square foot health and wellness center, ground-floor commercial space, and 150 parking spaces.</p><p>&ldquo;Think about a historic building as a space to accommodate whatever need there is in the neighborhood, because they are highly mutable,&rdquo; McDonald said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re able to oftentimes take a modern use and put it into a historic building.&rdquo;</p><p>Their recommendation changed slightly when the county demolished the building&rsquo;s three southern wings in 2008 (they were not original to the building,<a href="http://achicagosojourn.blogspot.com/2008/01/cook-county-hospital.html" target="_blank"> but still considered a loss</a> by preservationists). Like<a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/taxonomy/Capital_Planning/CookCountyHospital_ReuseStudy_1109.pdf" target="_blank"> another study commissioned by the county</a>, they recommended repurposing the building primarily as office space. While the studies concluded modern medical equipment would be too heavy for the building&rsquo;s aging floors, they didn&rsquo;t rule out reuse as a hotel, dormitory, rental housing, senior housing, or educational space.</p><p>&ldquo;Our first and primary goal is to preserve the building,&rdquo; says John Cooke, the County&rsquo;s director of capital planning and policy. But that wasn&rsquo;t always the case. Under Cook County Board President John Stroger&rsquo;s administration, the building&rsquo;s future seemed in doubt. The building closed in 2002, and Stroger called for its demolition while a new hospital bearing his name went up next door. Preservationists and several board members fought the demolition idea, and in 2006 the building landed on the National Register of Historic Places. Four years later the board voted to preserve the old Cook County Hospital building.</p><p><strong>Diagnosis inconclusive</strong></p><p>Until the building is actually occupied again, its future remains uncertain. Cook County officials are waiting for U.S. Equities Realty to recommend future uses and repairs for a slew of county-owned buildings, including the old hospital. Cooke says once the company&rsquo;s report is in, the county will issue a request for proposals to solicit interest from architects and developers &mdash; likely in the spring of 2014.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8681326865_54c377cf65_n.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 275px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="The remaining portions of the old Cook County hospital lie in the Illinois Medical District, on Chicago's West Side. (Flickr/Josh Koonce)" />The two-block long building could be subdivided into three 185-foot sections for phased development, making it less risky from a financial standpoint. And while the county isn&rsquo;t going to sell the site, Cooke says, it&rsquo;s investigating lease arrangements to encourage private development. That could mean a ground lease, whereby the county sets out what uses and spaces it wants; and a developer pays for improvements to the building, provides said space, and pays an annual fee to the county.</p><p>A<a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/taxonomy/Capital_Planning/CookCountyHospital_ReuseStudy_1109.pdf" target="_blank"> Jones Lang LaSalle reuse study</a> puts the cost of reusing the building between $103.9 million and $120 million depending on its use. That could be reduced by as much as $50 million through the use of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611" target="_blank">Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds</a> from the Central West district, the study says. Historical preservation tax credits could also offset 20 percent of the total project cost. By contrast, demolition could cost as much as $13.6 million, in addition to the cost of new construction.</p><p>Is that enough to entice developers? Cooke said the County will find out in 2014. But preservationists are eager to see the mothballed building get another chance at reuse.</p><p>&ldquo;The public cares about what is happening to this important resource,&rdquo; McDonald says. &ldquo;So the sooner that we do something, the more we&rsquo;re going to help the community.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>How daunting can it be?</strong></p><p>Now the question is how (not whether) to resuscitate the building.</p><p>Though its presence can be imposing to passersby (including our question-asker, Dorota Gosztyła), the old hospital building isn&rsquo;t too intimidating to architects who specialize in adaptive reuse.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10144070306_d557b76099_b_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 199px; width: 275px;" title="Dorota Gosztyła asked Curious City to look into the future of the old Cook County hospital building. The now-vacant beaux-arts landmark will see its 100th anniversary in 2014. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Joe Antunovich, president of Antunovich Associates, has tackled many such projects. His firm&rsquo;s own office, 224 W. Huron St., occupies the top two floors of a brick building more than 90 years old. In Pittsburgh, the company transformed the dilapidated Armstrong Cork Factory along the Allegheny River into 385 apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;There used to be trees growing out of the windows there. Now, after an adaptive reuse, bringing that beautiful building back, we have 385 apartments there, and now they&rsquo;re the most sought-after apartments in downtown Pittsburgh&rdquo; Antunovich says. &ldquo;So don&rsquo;t tell me that these buildings can&rsquo;t be brought back.&rdquo;</p><p>As for Cook County&rsquo;s old hospital building, he says office space is a strong possibility.</p><p>&ldquo;The old nurses&rsquo; quarters, this old decrepit building, houses the current administration for the state-of-the-art Cook County Hospital system. So if you just swapped that out and cleaned up the old building,&rdquo; Antunovich says, &ldquo;you could have a marvelous front door of the entire Cook County administration.&rdquo;</p><p>Antunovich and others hope any development will celebrate the hospital&rsquo;s history. Gosztyła, our Curious City questioner, suggests a museum dedicated to that purpose. McDonald, of Landmarks Illinois, suggested that a mobile app could spout historical facts to interested visitors.</p><p>One candidate for inclusion is a reference to the old Cook County hospital&rsquo;s role as &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Ellis Island.&rdquo; A quote from Louis Pasteur is inscribed on a hospital wall, evidence of its reputation for welcoming immigrants: &ldquo;One doesn&rsquo;t ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says, You suffer. That is enough for me. You belong to me and I shall help you.&rdquo;</p><p>By spring of next year, Gosztyła and others who wonder about the future of the building could have their answer. It might bring new meaning to those words, &ldquo;I shall help you.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 13:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-iconic-hospital-emerge-life-support-109086 Architecturally-daring Gary church earns a spot on the National Register http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/architecturally-daring-gary-church-earns-spot-national-register-109025 <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/P3252247.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">A modernist Gary church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, capping a year-and-a-half long effort by the congregation to win recognition for its architecturally-daring building.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">St. Augustine&#39;s Episcopal Church at 19th and Ellsworth is Gary&#39;s first postwar National Register listing. The church received word this month from the National Park Service&mdash;keepers of the register&mdash;that the building made the list. Designed by Chicago architect Edward D. Dart and built in 1958 for an African American congregation, the church was cited for having &quot;noteworthy iconic stylistic hallmarks of the modern movement.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Congregation member Paula DeBois led the effort to get the church listed. Dart, a white North Shore architect working with the black professional congregation in Gary is a &quot;<span id="yui_3_2_0_1_1332894466970296">very unique and compelling American story&quot; she said when the campaign began in 2012.</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dart designed about 100 buildings and churches including St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle and <a href="http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/2000/193Mystery.html">First St. Paul&#39;s Evangelical Lutheran Church</a>&nbsp;at&nbsp;1301 N. LaSalle. He was also responsible for scores of modern suburban Chicago homes. Dart was a partner at what was then Loebl Schlossman Dart &amp; Hackl and designing Chicago&#39;s Water Tower Place when he died in 1975 at age 53.</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/P3252317.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">On a tight budget of less than $100,000, Dart gave St. Augustine&#39;s congregation a striking piece of architecture. He used brick, red oak and redwood&mdash;and then there is that remarkable, curved tent-like roof with exposed beams. The National Register listing also gives a nod to Richard Johnson, Sr., who was a member of the congregation and the project&#39;s structural engineer.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P3252256.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000758.pdf">The National Register listing</a> also notes St. Augustine&#39;s is Gary&#39;s only postwar modern church structure. And the recognition shines a little more light on the work of Dart, whose buildings have often been torn down too soon. A 1953 home he designed in Wheaton <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/wheaton/ct-tl-wheaton-demolition-20131028,0,6212173.story">was demolished recently.</a> Dart&#39;s <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/metroblossom/444429813/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1332894474_1">Emmanuel Presbyterian Church</span></a>,<span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1332894474_2"> 1850 S. Racine,</span> was wrecked in 2007.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And his 1972 addition to the Lorado Taft Midway Studio on the University of Chicago campus was razed in 2009 to make way for the Logan Center for the Arts.</div></p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 05:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/architecturally-daring-gary-church-earns-spot-national-register-109025