Tagarchitecture

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.

Livable cities in Russia

When you blog, you “meet” a lot of interesting people around the world. Russian blogger Vladimir Zlokazov writes LiveStreets in both Russian and English. Although he doesn’t translate everything into English, what he does is high quality and methodically written.

His latest English article is a critique of a developer’s plan for a neighborhood in Yekaterinburg, population 1,293,537.

Academichesky – is promoted by the developer (Renova Stroygroup) as a project that utilizes the most innovative practices in architecture and urban planning. However the first built blocks clearly show that advertisment promises are not always consistent with the reality.

He offers suggestions for curb radius, intersection design, bicycle paths through intersections, appropriate locations for parking spaces (stay off the sidewalk!) and curb cuts. The draw for his particular critique are the beautiful 3D architectural renderings to show the suggested solutions in place.

“In places where pedestrian and bicycle crossings are located afar from the intersections additional measures should be taken to make them clearly visible for motorists. Such as using coloured asphalt for instance.”

Olgivanna Lloyd Wright had the right idea

According to my tour guide at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, it was Frank Lloyd Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, who suggested that he open a studio in a warmer state as a place to spend winter. (His winter studio is in Spring Green, Wisconsin.)

Looking north at the studio (left) and dorms (above).

Our wonderful tour guide. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

See more photos of my Thanksgiving trip to Arizona, including to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Metra 35th St. station surely won’t win any design awards

UPDATE 04-07-11: The station opened on April 3, 2011. Blair Kamin explains why it doesn’t look as good as originally designed:

It didn’t have to be this way. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with a promising design for the station, one that justified the demolition of a Mies-designed brick hut that reportedly served as the entrance to an underground testing facility for explosives during the Cold War.

But then, things went seriously off the rails.

This new Metra commuter/regional rail station at 35th Street and Wentworth/Federal won’t win any design awards. Neither will the Lovana S. “Lou” Jones/Bronzeville Station stand out for having such a generic design.

The station under construction as of October 3, 2010.

Artist’s renderings of the station and street-level plaza, looking northwest. Left photo from Metra’s website and right photo from Singh & Associates’s website.

The amount of visible concrete used in the stairs and ramps construction (one complete set on either side of the tracks) is fitting if you consider the station’s surroundings: a 12-lane highway (the Dan Ryan, I90/94), thousands of surface auto parking spaces to the west (for the White Sox stadium), and an empty lot.

But what if we looked for design inspiration from the east?

Imagine a station shelter modeled after the sound mitigation “tube” over the Illinois Institute of Technology McCormick-Tribune Campus Center a few blocks away at State Street designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Photos above taken by Steven Crane.

Throw in some curves like the Canary Wharf stations on the Jubilee and Docklands Light Railway lines.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station by stephenk1977.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Jubilee Underground Line station by Payton Chung.

Companies involved:

Open letter to Blair Kamin about Safeway and Dominick’s

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic wrote about the new LEED-certified Dominick’s* (Safeway) grocery store in Lincoln Square at Lincoln and Berwyn. This store features copious bike parking of a decent quality and design (see photo below).

In February 2009, I wrote a letter to the General Manager at their 3145 S Ashland store (read my letter). Someone at the company promptly made a request to the City of Chicago in March 2009 for a bike rack. The request was denied because the store is too far away from the nearest public right-of-way.

The following is my letter to Blair Kamin, John Hilkevitch (Tribune transportation writer), and the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd.

Dear Blair,

I would like your help in getting better accommodations for bike riders at a local Dominick’s.

I read your article about the new, LEED-certified Dominick’s in Lincoln Square with copious bike parking available. (This should help with the potential auto parking issues you identified by encouraging people to bike to the store.)

The Dominick’s nearest me, at 3145 S Ashland, underwent major renovation in 2008 and 2009. People who ride their bicycles to the store (myself included) locked them to the shopping cart guard rails that were removed during renovation.

Bike parking was not included in this renovation.

LEED certification shouldn’t be the only impetus for installing bike parking. Currently it only gains the development 1 point and more than 40 are needed (more for Bronze, Gold, Silver, or Platinum). Installing bike parking should be an economic decision.

A single bike rack (holding two bikes) will cost less than $300 and require no maintenance for at least 5 years (some bike racks installed by the City are over 10 years old and look/work fine). A car parking space costs $1,000 per year to maintain.

We currently lock to garbage bins in a sheltered area near the store entrance. I ask that Dominick’s install real bike parking here in 2010. If they do, I’ll then ask them to work on the bike parking situations at their other stores (like the store at 1340 S Canal).

Thank you for your attention to bicycle infrastructure matters in Chicago.

Steven Vance
http://www.stevevance.net

P.S. The Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland also has the unfortunate situation of being in a strip mall far away from any public roads. This precludes the City from installing bike racks; the nearest public space is more than 50 feet away.

Jewel…you’re up next!

The bike parking area at the new Dominick’s grocery store in Lincoln Square. Sure beats locking to a garbage bin at the Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland in Bridgeport. That store underwent renovation in 2008 and 2009.

What bike parking at 3145 S Ashland looks like.

*The store is not yet LEED certified. Blair reports it’s expected to receive a Silver rating.

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