WBEZ | architecture http://www.wbez.org/tags/architecture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Union Station to get a facelift http://www.wbez.org/news/union-station-get-facelift-111491 <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/Union%20Station%20stairs.jpg" title="The staircase at Union Station will get an upgrade as part of $12 million in renovations. (WBEZ/Greta Johnsen)" /></div><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-union-station-funding-met-20150128-story.html">last week</a> that Chicago&rsquo;s landmark Union Station will be getting some repairs, thanks to $12 million from the station&rsquo;s owner, Amtrak. Emanuel said the station hasn&rsquo;t been keeping up with a changing transit system.</p><p>&ldquo;Union Station, given it&rsquo;s the third busiest rail hub, is actually fighting below its weight class,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The renovations are being called a &lsquo;first step&rsquo; toward expanding and modernizing the historic building. There is a <a href="http://www.unionstationmp.com/">Master Plan</a> for the whole structure &mdash; $500 million worth &mdash; but that&rsquo;s a long-term project.</p><p>I asked <a href="http://twitter.com/leebey">Chicago architecture critic Lee Bey</a> to show me around Union Station.</p><p>&ldquo;It isn&rsquo;t enough to get as far as you&rsquo;d want to in a building like that, but it&rsquo;s a good first step,&rdquo; Bey said about the $12 million in upgrades. &ldquo;And spent the right way it&rsquo;ll bring a bang that&rsquo;s quick and visible, and will then allow transportation officials to be able to rally other money and other assistance to it over time. And time is of the essence.&rdquo;</p><p>He says beneath the crowded concourse and the dirty platforms that annoy many commuters, Union Station is still a work of art. Especially if you enter through the Great Hall on the east side 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/Union%20Station%20Great%20Hall.jpg" title="Union Station's Great Hall. (WBEZ/Greta Johnsen)" /></div><p>Sunlight streams in from huge windows high above us.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re like a king,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;You come in and you&rsquo;re greeted by marble and beautiful columns and this grand space on the inside&hellip; you know, just to ride a train.&rdquo;</p><p>The area is simple and massive, almost like a museum or an elegant old theater.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m really impressed about in this building&hellip; is the volume,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;The volume of the interior. And how few spaces there and in the city or any place where you can walk into a space like this&hellip; there&rsquo;s enough foresight by Amtrak and ownership to just let this space be what it needs to be. And that&rsquo;s beautiful.&rdquo;Like the Great Hall itself, train travel has a nostalgic sensibility.</p><p>Places like Union Station were often travelers&rsquo; first impression of Chicago as they arrived, or the last thing they saw as they left.</p><p>We stand under a coffered ceiling, looking up at a marble staircase with gilded handrails.</p><p>Yep, that staircase.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QJpRSf4q-hI?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s the staircase where the gangster bloodbath from <em>The Untouchables</em> was filmed.</p><p>It still makes a nice photo, but the stone stairs are worn deeply in the center from nearly a century of travelers&rsquo; shoes. Pieces are gouged out.</p><p>Fixing this staircase is part of the $12 million of repairs, along with the limestone facade out front.</p><p>The money is also meant for better, more energy-efficient doors and a more spacious passenger waiting area.</p><p>Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says Union Station sees about 300 trains a day, which is the same number that came through in the 1940s and 50s. More than 100,000 people move through Union Station every weekday.</p><p>The difference is, more than ever before, they&rsquo;re commuters rather than long distance travelers.</p><p>&ldquo;The crowds are sort of begging for this building to be more than just a place where you get off trains,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;To make this more useful again, you&rsquo;ll have to do the cosmetic fixes, of course. But you&rsquo;ll also have to put spaces in here that do what the old spaces did &mdash; give you that embrace when you come in or that kiss goodbye.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Greta Johnsen reports and anchors weekends on WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/gretamjohnsen">@gretamjohnsen</a>. </em></p></p> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 11:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/union-station-get-facelift-111491 When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 <p><div><p>In 2013 Curious City took on a high-minded question from Minneapolis resident Andrew Wambach.</p><p>Wambach, now 30, had just moved to Minnesota and already missed the Chicago skyline. He wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper?</em></p><p>The last supertall skyscraper in Chicago was the Trump Tower, built in 2009. Before that the city hadn&rsquo;t reached such heights since 1990&rsquo;s Two Prudential Plaza, 16 years after the Willis (Sears) Tower became the world&rsquo;s tallest building. While the U.S. may be the birthplace of the form, for a while skyscraper construction had slowed at home &mdash; and soared abroad.</p><p>But that may be changing. In December 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted plans for a new tower in the Lakeshore East neighborhood that &mdash; if all goes according to plan &mdash; could reach 1,150 feet into the air by 2018. In 2013, New York City&rsquo;s One World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet. Even Wambach&rsquo;s Minneapolis had been considering a proposal to construct an 80-story skyscraper. That project, <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/289597641.html#" target="_blank">rejected by the city</a>, would have been the state&#39;s tallest building, but would have been just shy of meeting supertall status.</p><p>Wherever they are, massive developments are difficult to design and build. But when they do happen, it&rsquo;s generally because two important factors came together to make building up pay off: egos and economics.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">But first, just how tall is that?</span></p><p>Andrew didn&rsquo;t know this when he asked the question, but &ldquo;supertall&rdquo; is an objective term. Chicago&rsquo;s own Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the authority on such matters. They deem any building over 300 meters, or 984 feet, &ldquo;supertall.&rdquo; (<a href="http://www.ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/Criteria/HeightCalculator/tabid/1007/language/en-GB/Default.aspx" target="_blank">For a rough measurement</a>, that&rsquo;s about 75 stories.) Six buildings in Chicago qualify: The Trump Tower, Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, AT&amp;T Corporate Center, and Two Prudential Plaza.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CTBUH_Tallest20in2020_Poster.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FutureTallest20-2.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 620px;" title="For context, here's a diagram of the predicted world's 20 tallest buildings in the year 2014. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)" /></a></div><p>Walk into any major architectural office and you&rsquo;ll see plenty of renderings pinned to the wall, showing buildings reaching great heights. It&rsquo;s just that they&rsquo;re in Jeddah, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Beijing &mdash; not Chicago.</p><p>In 2011 CTBUH even had to add a new category of tall building to reflect the explosive growth of tall buildings in recent years; so-called &ldquo;megatall&rdquo; buildings stand at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall. There are only two complete megatall buildings: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Royal Hotel Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. When the Shanghai Tower opens in April of 2015, it will be the third, at 632 meters (2,074 feet) tall.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicago&rsquo;s latest contender</span></p><p>&ldquo;If there was a great location, a great site, a developer that really had the willpower to pull something off, it certainly could happen,&rdquo; said Rafael Carreira, a principal with <a href="http://tjbc.com/" target="_blank">The John Buck Company</a>. &ldquo;But the larger a project gets, the harder it is to finance, the harder it is to pre-sell or premarket ... and those are factors that make these supertalls hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wanda%20courtesy%20city%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A rendering of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)" />Supertalls can be risky investments. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/skyscrapers-that-predicted-financial-crises-2014-4#!GoEAm" target="_blank">Some economists even think bombastic skyscraper booms are an omen of economic collapse</a>.) But as one developer put it, the profession attracts risk-takers.</p><p>&ldquo;Where a normal person might be apprehensive,&rdquo; said Sean Linnane, &nbsp;a senior vice president for Magellan Development Group, &ldquo;developers are excited.&rdquo;</p><p>At the moment the most likely candidate for Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall is an 88-story, $900 million development proposed for<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/375+E+Upper+Wacker+Dr,+Chicago,+IL+60601/@41.8878616,-87.6209235,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca900a2e77d:0x32e4f52fba2475d3" target="_blank"> 375 E. Wacker Dr., in the city&rsquo;s Lakeshore East neighborhood</a>. It would be 1,150 feet (350 meters) tall, and its developers &mdash; Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group and local firm Magellan &mdash; hope to have it open in 2018. They&rsquo;ve hired two local design firms to sculpt the structure, which would become the city&rsquo;s third tallest building: Studio Gang Architects and bKL Architecture.</p><p>Lead designer Jeanne Gang&rsquo;s other <a href="http://www.studiogang.net/work/2004/aqua-tower" target="_blank">notable projects include the Aqua Tower</a> &mdash; a high-rise with undulating balconies that mimic wave patterns when viewed from an angle &mdash; and the lyrical WMS Boathouses at Clark Park. bKL designed the first tower in the Wolf Point development and a 45-story tower at 200 N. Michigan Ave., both of which are currently under construction.</p><p>Their preliminary designs for what&rsquo;s being called Wanda Vista show a cluster of three towers stepping down in height as they go east, each terminating in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/green-roofs-check-101677">green roof</a>. The glassy high-rises, which are expected to house a five-star hotel, for-sale residential units and retail space, look like stacks of frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. The middle tower would meet the ground with a soaring glass atrium looking north over the Chicago River, while the structure itself would straddle North Field Boulevard running to the south.</p><p>So what are its prospect? Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there won&rsquo;t be any public funding involved, the project still needs city approval because its proposed height would exceed the maximum allowed in in the area&rsquo;s master plan.</p><p>Arguably more important is the economic challenge. Downtown Chicago is in the middle of a residential and hotel boom that signals high demand, but could mean the market is nearing saturation. Still, Sean Linnane of Magellan Development Group is confident they&rsquo;ll deliver on this supertall order.</p><p>&ldquo;The timing is right for this project. We&rsquo;re coming out of the doldrums we&#39;ve been in since arguably 2007,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s not like our Chinese partners said, &lsquo;Let&#39;s come to the U.S. and do a supertall.&rsquo; They were just trying to find a great investment opportunity to make their splash in the United States. And it&#39;s a credit to Chicago that they chose our development.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s market is warming up, but China&rsquo;s is burning across its borders. Wanda is owned by Wang Jianlin, the richest man in mainland China. Like many Chinese developers, he&rsquo;s looking for new markets overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s crazy what&#39;s going on in China right now. There&#39;s just been explosive growth,&rdquo; Linnane says. &ldquo;They&#39;re looking all over the place, not just the U.S. It&#39;s a way to sustain their growth. They look at the U.S. as a very mature market.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zOBXrWDC28PlZhqn_-F8bid5QLCQrKVDN2cKc47P9lw/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Renderings of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)</span></span></em></p><p>That explosive growth has gone on for a long time, but lately <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/china-property-prices-idUSL3N0SJ1DE20141024" target="_blank">Chinese home prices have slipped</a>. Tom Kerwin, principal of bKL Architecture, says the U.S. real estate market is a relatively stable place for global developers to invest.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&#39;s a shift because, for one, the Chinese property market is down significantly. So these companies that develop as their core business are looking for other places to export their expertise in addition to their capital. You&#39;re seeing many Chinese developers coming to the U.S., and the biggest of the biggest are coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not just Wanda.&rdquo;</p><p>Other major Chinese developers such as Greenland Group and ECADI have made their first U.S. moves in New York City and Los Angeles, but Wanda&rsquo;s debut is in Chicago. That&rsquo;s a vote of confidence in the city&rsquo;s real estate market, and it mirrors a larger trend: <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2015/The-New-China-Pipeline/" target="_blank">Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese purchased $22 billion of U.S. residential property &mdash; the highest volume for any non-domestic group</a>.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s not the only Chinese developer interested in Chicago. In 2014 Beijing&rsquo;s Cinda International Holdings Limited <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcole/2014/03/16/chinese-investors-discover-chicago-real-estate/" target="_blank">teamed up with Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group to buy the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Dr. for $304 million</a>. That&rsquo;s the seventh tallest building in Chicago to date, a mere seven meters (23 feet) short of supertall status.</p><p>If it comes to fruition, the Wanda project could signal a new era of tall building investment in Chicago, says CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.</p><p>&ldquo;Whilst New York is awash with foreign investment, especially from China, this is one of the first major skyscraper investments from overseas we have seen in Chicago during the current wave, which is sweeping the world,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;Chicago will likely never accommodate the World&rsquo;s tallest building again, but it is a proud skyscraper city, as well as a major economic hub, and it is likely that we will see other supertall buildings proposed and built in the coming years &ndash; especially residential supertalls.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What about other recent contenders to be Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old%20post%20office%20wikimedia%20commons%20brianbobcat.jpg" title="The Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago has been in redevelopment limbo since it closed in 1996. Previous plans included the construction of a 120-story building in its place. (Wikimedia Commons/Brianbobcat)" /></p><p>In 2013 Chicago City Council approved the first part of an audacious redevelopment plan for the massive Old Main Post Office downtown, which has loomed vacant over the Eisenhower Expressway since 1996. The plans came from British developer Bill Davies&rsquo; International Property Developers and local architects Antunovich Associates. They called first for a rehab of the existing 2.7 million square foot post office and the construction of a 1,000-foot tower, to be followed in a later phase by a 2,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.</p><p>The first phase would take eight to 10 years, Joe Antunovich said, while the rest might take 20 years. But first they need to secure financing. The entire project could cost $3.5 billion. It would be an impressive feat, to be sure. But in that amount of time, Shanghai&rsquo;s Pudong district<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600367" target="_blank"> went from mainly farmland to a part of a metropolis with more skyscrapers than New York City</a>.</p><p>In 2014, however, the project&rsquo;s developers <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20141008/CRED03/141009835/old-post-office-owner-plots-next-move-after-breakup-with-sterling-bay" target="_blank">announced they were exploring alternative plans for the property</a>, possibly nixing the 120-story tower.</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/spire%20hole%20flickr%20Marcin%20Wichary.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The ill-fated Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. (Flickr/Marcin Wichary)" /></div><p>If you want to see evidence of the recession&rsquo;s impact on skyscraper construction, you don&rsquo;t need to pore over spreadsheets or the architectural billings index: You just need to go to 400 N. Lake Shore Dr., where you&rsquo;ll find a pit about 100 ft. wide and 80 ft. deep. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-08/what-might-have-been-ill-fated-chicago-spire-101922" target="_blank">The ill-fated Chicago Spire</a> was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. But the twisting 2,000-foot tower failed to attract enough financing and was hit with foreclosure lawsuits. Now it&rsquo;s the most-watched hole in the ground in Chicago real estate.</p><p>In 2013 real estate developer<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/06/24/related-in-deal-to-buy-distressed-debt-on-stalled-chicago-spire-project/" target="_blank"> Related Cos. of New York reportedly entered talks to buy the Spire&#39;s discounted debt</a>, but in November 2014 a U.S. Bankruptcy Court forced the project&rsquo;s original developer, Garrett Kelleher, to hand the 2.2-acre site over. Related <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-spire-1105-biz-20141104-story.html">now controls the real estate</a> and has not yet announced plans for development.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the action has been outside Chicago</span></p><p>There are a few factors behind Asia&rsquo;s building boom that don&rsquo;t quite apply to Chicago. For one thing, said Wood, Chicago just doesn&rsquo;t need to make a statement with its skyline like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did when its Petronas Towers unseated Willis Tower as the world&rsquo;s tallest in 1998.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s driving these tall buildings around the world is attention in a global market and population growth,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;And, on the face of it, we&rsquo;re not seeing any of that in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:23272497~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html?argument=value" target="_blank">The world gains more than 5 million city dwellers every month</a>, and the U.S. accounts for very little of that urbanization. It&rsquo;s happening in places like China, where<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> a government plan to move 250 million people into cities by 2025</a> helps generate huge demand for high-density, supertall buildings.</p><p>But even if Chicago isn&rsquo;t home to many new supertalls, it&rsquo;s still a nerve center of sorts for tall building architecture and engineering.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not many really significant tall buildings that are not happening with some Chicago expertise anywhere in the world &mdash; architectural, engineering, geotechnical, façade &mdash; but some Chicago input,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;However it is fair to say that there has been a major shift in almost all aspects of tall buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If they pull it off, the Wanda Tower will change the Chicago skyline. But in China huge developments happen all the time. One of the tower&rsquo;s architects, bKL Principal Tom Kerwin, says China&rsquo;s economic and demographic booms have made massive projects part of the new urban culture.</p><p>&ldquo;Supertall buildings or large mixed-use complexes are kind of the norm in China,&rdquo; said Kerwin, who has worked on dozens of projects in the U.S. and Asia. &ldquo;The Chinese are very accustomed to these large-scale, multi-use buildings. So for them, it sounds kind of silly to say, but it&#39;s almost commonplace.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to moving to Asia, supertall towers have changed since Chicago&rsquo;s skyline rose decades ago. Tall towers today tend to have more retail and residential space than their counterparts from previous generations. They are often mixed-use &mdash; combining hotel, retail, office and/or residential space in one building &mdash; and use different structural systems, like concrete-steel composites as opposed to just steel. And rather than bearing corporate names such as Chrysler, Sears and Petronas, they&rsquo;re increasingly named to inspire civic pride: say, the Russia Tower or Chicago Spire. Burj Khalifa was originally called Burj Dubai.</p><p>Brian Lee, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill &mdash; the architectural offices behind thousands of skyscrapers around the world, including four of Chicago&rsquo;s six supertalls &mdash; has seen the effect of these projects first-hand.</p><p>&ldquo;We think that the tall building is not the only kind of building type that should be built, obviously. It has limitations,&rdquo; Lee said, &ldquo;but there&rsquo;s something exhilarating about a tall structure that makes a mark for a city and a region.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A supertall with a Chicago character?</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverpoint-courtesy-hines-and-pickard-chilton.jpg" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="A park plan for the base of the River Point building, connects the property to the Chicago Riverwalk. (Courtesy of Hines and Pickard Chilton)" /></div><p>Our Curious Citizen, Andrew Wambach, raised another interesting question: If skyscrapers are a statement of their city&rsquo;s character, what should influence the design of Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall if it actually comes to be?</p><p>New skyscrapers at Wolf Point, River Point and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; three sites abutting the Chicago River at its confluence downtown &mdash; feature riverwalk connections and landscaped parks at their bases. Two of them actually have broader shoulders, as it were, than footprints. Landscape architect Ted Wolff said the Wolf Point project was the first where he&rsquo;d actually heard an architect tell him to expand his landscaping so far it would hem in the lobby.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andrew wambach photo.jpeg" style="float: right; height: 303px; width: 200px;" title="Our question-asker, Andrew Wambach, is from Minneapolis but moved to Chicago for work between 2011-2013." />They may not be supertalls by the Council on Tall Buildings&rsquo; definition, but projects like these suggest Chicago&rsquo;s architectural legacy may be as much about Millennium Park as it is about Willis Tower.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s plans for a new supertall in Chicago are still preliminary, but its designers and developers have hinted at connections to neighborhood parks and the Chicago Riverwalk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s no secret that the project site is on an important axis for connectivity to the river, the lake, the Lakeshore East park and other internal features of our development,&rdquo; said Magellan&rsquo;s Sean Linnane. &ldquo;Because of its location, by its nature it will have to address those.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, says architect Tom Kerwin, that&rsquo;s the critical challenge a design team faces with any new project &mdash; no matter its size or location.</p><p>&ldquo;In cities around the world, how do you create a prototype where something&#39;s so technically driven and make it of its place, make it part of the city where you&#39;re building it?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It definitely is a challenge. You want buildings to respond to their context, not just in a functional way but in an inspirational or an aesthetic way.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, to bring the skyscraper down to earth.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a writer with WBEZ and Midwest Editor for <a href="http://archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@cementley</a>.</em></p></div><p><em>Correction: This story misstated the reporting year used for the&nbsp;CTBUH graphic that compares supertalls. The graphic represents data gathered up to November 2014.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 Chicago announces plans to build 88-story skyscraper http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-announces-plans-build-88-story-skyscraper-111271 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/14773555050_6126cfb214_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago officials have announced that a Chinese developer is planning to build an 88-story hotel and condominium tower that would be the city&#39;s third tallest building.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an agreement Thursday between the Beijing&#39;s Wanda Group and the Magellan Development Group for a $900 million project to build a downtown high-rise designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. It will be known as Wanda Vista.</p><p>Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and when completed it would be the third tallest structure in Chicago, behind Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel &amp; Tower.</p><p>Emanuel&#39;s office says the project represents the largest real estate investment by a Chinese company in Chicago and will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs</p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-announces-plans-build-88-story-skyscraper-111271 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 its 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 its own entity and the Loop was its 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 its 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 its 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