Thursday, January 08, 2015

For a Deep-Freeze Day, a Journey to the Rainbow

click images for larger view (Recommended)
That whole winter thing - the cold, the wind, the snow, the slush - OK,  I get it already.  Ça suffit!
What better time to take a quick trip to one of Chicago's architectural jewels, the award-winning David Woodhouse designed beach house at Rainbow Beach, project architect David Poorman, Nayyar and Navvay International, structural engineers.  The same team was also responsible for the larger field house just next door.
Begin with an incredible location,  at 75th Street, cupped into the lakefront at a point where the city and its shoreline has moved several miles east of their downtown boundary, creating a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline in the far distance.  Add the poetic use of the low-cost materials mandated by a constricted budget.  Plexiglas wafers aglow with light, a cross between rippled Pringles and the fronds of an abstracted palm tree, provides the shade.  The steel superstructure, painted a bright silver that glistens in the sun, forms trunks, colonnades, terraces and trellises.  The flourishes soften and extend the aggressive boxiness of the concrete block buildings to which they're attached.
These often commonplace elements are brought together through proportion and placement into an unusually satisfying whole.  That's good architecture.
Just looking at these pictures, I feel the warmth of the sand on my feet and the sun on my face.  I gaze out at the beautiful lake that has cast off its Ice Queen indifference, to refresh the heat of day with its cool, moist breezes.  I can see myself now getting through these next few brutal weeks because, at Rainbow Beach, in a great city at its summer best, life is sweet.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

For the New Year, Trump Tower gives the gift of Opaque

click images for larger view
[update March 6, 2015] Marina City Online is reporting that Valerio Dewalt Train is designing three meeting rooms in the space behind the Trump Riverwalk windows.
For a building with pretensions of class, Trump Tower certainly has a weakness for slumming itself up.  First, less than a year afters its opening, the striking, award-winning original native-plant landscaping  by Hoerr Schaudt was torn out in favor of a generic, gravel striped design that would be more at home in a run-of-the-mill suburban apartment complex. Then, last year, there was the affair of the glowing 20-foot-high letters plastering the name Trump on the building's riverside facade.  While there were those who tried to raise a stink about the sign, I have it from a reliable source (he must be reliable - he has spun hair) that it has already become universally beloved by all of Chicago.
A third desecration, however, has been much less remarked upon.  One of the glories of Trump Tower is the upper walkway that connects the structure's Riverwalk to Wabash Avenue.  It's set between the great stainless steel columns , which frame views of the river and its iconic skyline, and a continuous curving wall of glass.  Though the glass itself was clear, a covering kept what was behind it from view.
That was, until  last year, when I noticed in March that you could suddenly see in all the windows.  It wasn't pretty.
One of the most luxurious buildings in Chicago had decided to put on public display a perfect view of an extended service corridor - raw, unfinished concrete walls, exposed conduit, a storage vault for various ladders, floor mats, furniture, discarded hairpieces.  It was like Trump had taken his reputation for elegance and thrown it into the trash, making the walkway's long window wall a museum of the things respectable buildings kept concealed behind closed doors.  It was kind of shocking to realize that what you had imagined to be prime space behind the handsome windows of a well-traveled walkway was actually a narrow, ungainly strip of leftover square footage.
Simply put, it was an embarrassment and an eyesore.  Was it a deliberate provocation by the Trump, another way of poking his critics in the eye?  Or was it just something that slipped through the cracks, beneath his interest?

And yet, month after month it endured - until just recently.  This weekend I noticed there's finally a new cover-up on the glass.
 Pedestrians can enjoy the walkway without being confronted with what is, architecturally speaking, Trump Tower's underwear.

Happy New Year!


Trumped: An Oasis of Urban Magic Vanishes 

 OD'ed on Outrage: The Donald's Sign is Very Bad. The Circus of Distraction is Worse.