CategoryReal Estate

Listening to Jeanne Gang

Buy the book, Reveal.

Jeanne Gang is Chicago’s “in-house” starchitect. Sure we’ve got Adrian Smith (Burj Khalifa), but he’s jumping around the world while Jeanne (like Jeanie) has been maintaining Chicago’s status as a city with architectural and design marvels.

Architecture critic Lynn Becker calls her part of the Chicago “third school”:

Gang, Garofalo, Ronan, and other local rising stars are on the verge of defining a third Chicago school of architecture, following in the footsteps of Sullivan, Burnham, and Root in the 19th century and Mies van der Rohe in the 20th. This new school won’t be characterized by the kind of uniform visual style that marked the architecture of Mies or Frank Lloyd Wright, but by diversity, changeability, and an intellectual restlessness that compulsively tests accepted wisdom. (From the Chicago Reader)

People around here know her for the Aqua Tower (see my dramatic photos) and J.C. Gabel and her talked a lot about it at a recent book release party in the Stop Smiling storefront at 1371 N Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. But enough about that tower, I’d rather mention something else.

In the photo above you see a model of interior of a University of Chicago study room. Think about all the dramatic films that take place in heralded college campuses: the study room in the library is a big hall with desks in neat rows for quiet, private research. But more often students must work in groups and need closed off spaces to avoid disturbing others. So Studio Gang Architects envisioned little cubicle rooms and built the 3D model of the study room and then threw in an ice cube tray to represent the cubicles.

Said Gang about the ice cube tray, and I’m paraphrasing, “Our studio, like many others, has a 3D printer so we can quickly create models of our work. But all the models end up looking the same. We just wanted to envision it differently.”

One of the coolest parts of the evening was when this self-identified substitute teacher (in above photo) stood up to talk about one of his students, an 8th grader who has a knack for drawing and 3D computer design. Someone at the school asked the student to design a new campus building. The teacher was concerned about the student’s design being stolen or ripped off and wanted advice on how he can protect his work. Jeanne laughed and said she didn’t think she would be asked to talk about copyright laws tonight. She then said that the student should continue his passion for drawing and that manual drawing was a dying but still revered skill. Jeanne agreed to meet with the student and teacher afterwards to take a look at his drawing. (I saw the drawing on paper the student made as well as the version he drew in Google SketchUp – very impressive.)

Buy the book, Reveal.

October Chicago roundup

As much as I try to write about national or international news and events, I can’t keep the Chicago in me suppressed.

Pedestrian safety at Grant Park

Award winning Chicago Tribune writer, Blair Kamin, takes up a cause leading to construction (he won a journalism award from ASCE Wednesday night – not his first engineering award). In 2009, after the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago opened, along with Renzo Piano’s bridge over Monroe, people started jaywalking more frequently. Blair pointed out how the bridge made the walk across Monroe too distant and inconvenient (agreed) and how the crest of the small hill on Monroe made it so car drivers (naturally driving fast on a four lane street) would not see pedestrians crossing here. CDOT spokesperson Brian Steele said they would investigate it and come up with some options. Eventually some signs and curb cuts were installed, but that wasn’t good enough.

Jaywalkers, they! Photo taken before pedestrian safety measures installed. By Andrew Ciscel.

Now, Blair reports, CDOT has installed a pedestrian refuge island and push button-activated flashing lights. Even still, it’s not the best. Blair is advocating for a clear and simple sign that says, according to new state law, “Stop for pedestrians.”

Here’s to hoping that Blair will take up some new causes, like bicycling perhaps. I wrote to him asking him to help me with the Dominick’s bike parking issue, but a well-worded email and letter to the CEO solved that. But I support Blair’s continued case for this street, including making this block car-free. It carries 13,500 cars per day, while Jackson Boulevard to the south carries 7,900. I think the surrounding streets can absorb the additional traffic while some of it will just disappear.

Chicago skyline on pause

Medill reports that there are now 2,500 vacant condos and apartments (rental condos) downtown. (Does that seem like a lot to you?) The Chicago Spire is the “big deal” building that’s not going to happen.

All that remains is a very large (and deep) hole. Photo by Duane Rapp.

Getting into real estate

I’m loving Curbed Chicago. It’s all about real estate, but it’s not just about transactions or what’s for sale. They post a lot of good links about neighborhood drama and events, and even link back to Steven can plan.

I’m not a “real estate person” but I didn’t know how exciting it can be. And real estate has EVERYTHING to do with transportation. The existing of buildings and the need to go from one to another causes transportation. A UIC professor told the class, “Nowhere does transportation happen for transportation’s sake.” – Professor Joe DiJohn.

And I’ve been dealing with property owners to arrange for the installation of bike parking. The zoning code requires bike parking at new developments but only when car parking is required. I want to change that.

This one house, facing Lawndale Avenue, seems to be one of the only occupied structures in this stalled subdivision in West Elsdon. Photo by Eric Rogers.

Apple adding Genius Bar capacity to Chicago

Speaking of new developments… The “Apple Store Lincoln Park” opens on Saturday, October 23, 2010, at 10 AM. In the most congested shopping district of Chicago I can think of – it truly sucks to bike on North Avenue through here, but people do it. (North Michigan Avenue is only pedestrian congested – car and bus traffic actually does move most of the time.) There’s no Apple Store parking garage, but I imagine they could have secured the always empty spaces in the parking garage connected to the Borders across the street. Even so, I don’t believe the zoning code would then require bike parking.

Looking east at the Apple Store, with a wall around it, showing the Borders. The often empty parking lot is behind Borders. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

I’m hoping that Apple says, “there’s one more thing,” and provides well-designed bike racks (by Jonathan Ive, fingers crossed!) in the new plaza they built between the store and the CTA Red Line station they paid to have renovated.

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