Jan, 30, 2012,
11:58 AM

Navy Pier redesign finalists

Crown Hall will play host to an exhibit of Navy Pier redesign concepts during the month of February. As Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary approaches in 2016, Pier officials seek to redevelop the site’s public space to reinvigorate tourism. The Navy Pier competition began in September, drawing worldwide interest, and has winnowed down to five selected finalist teams, which include IIT College of Architecture Assistant Professor Marshall Brown, Studio Associate Professor Martin Felsen, and Adjunct Professor Terry Guen as contributors.

The finalists will present their complete visions at the Museum of Contemporary Art on January 31 – February 1. A free exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as well as satellite exhibits around the city, including at IIT’s Crown Hall, will allow the public to take part in the process. The winning design will be chosen at the end of February.

Navy Pier Exhibit
Crown Hall, Lower Core
3360 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60616

Exhibit is free and open to the public. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am – 6:30 pm

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Jan, 27, 2012,
3:32 PM

Recommended Viewing: Eames

Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s engaging documentary, Eames: The Architect and the Painter, came out on DVD late last month.  It tells the story of how the married couple, Charles and Ray Eames, famously revolutionized mid-twentieth century design.  Originally, Charles studied architecture and Ray studied painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, before moving to Southern California and founding their acclaimed design studio at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice. Their motto of “the best for the most for the least” informed a multi-faceted career that ranged from furniture design to filmmaking to visual communication.

Cohn and Jersey primarily use archival footage and interviews with former employees of the Eames Office, architecture and design critics, and family members to present the couple’s life and work spanning nearly four decades. The film begins with the object that launched and sustained their career—the Eames Chair.  It details the molded plywood chair’s first appearance at the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition through its continued production and sale at Herman Miller. Although Charles and his colleague Eero Saarinen designed a prototype in 1940, “the chair of the century” did not emerge until Charles and Ray’s experiments in building wooden splints and stretchers for soldiers in World War II.

The documentary also highlights the Eameses’ short films, exhibitions designed for museums and government agencies, and architectural works.  In addition to their furniture, the couple remains known for their own home in Pacific Palisades, which was part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. Their Case Study House #8 is a landmark of mid-century modern architecture that successfully stated “an idea rather than a fixed architectural pattern” and functioned as a comfortable living space.  All in all, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a delightful introduction to the extraordinary collaboration of Charles and Ray Eames, revealing how two very different artists created a singular form of American modernism.

This entry was contributed by Candace Wirt, a freelance film critic who contributes to Cine-File and MUBI.

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Jan, 25, 2012,
4:10 PM

Hair Affair

Get ready to celebrate Mies van der Rohe’s 126th birthday this year.

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 6 p.m. we’ll celebrate the architects’ influence on the most influential hairstylist of the 21st century, Vidal Sassoon. Like Mies, in the mid-20th century Sassoon focused on structure and simplicity to achieve a look that is both unique and ubiquitous. In fact, Mies inspired him.

The party will have prizes, surprises, and martinis. We promise more details on this hair-raising event, so keep in touch.

Mies van der Rohe Society members should look for this (pictured) invitation in their mailboxes next month. If you would like an invitation, please send an email or mailbox address to miesmembership@iit.edu. Or register here by Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Admission is $50 per person, and an admission plus Mies van der Rohe Society membership is $126 per person. The event benefits the maintenance and restoration of the Mies-designed Illinois Institute of Technology campus, a historic landmark.

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Jan, 17, 2012,
3:25 PM

Three Blind Mies at IIT

On the Mies-designed campus of Illinois Institute of Technology, Hermann Hall looks like it might have been designed by the famous architect. But it was actually built three years after Mies left IIT by Walter Netsch. Netsch worked for the iconic firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which Frank Lloyd Wright dubbed the “Three Blind Mies.” Wright criticized SOM for adopting Mies’s aesthetic but failed to execute it as well as the original—a common critique of Mies’ imitators.

An example of this is seen in the steel girders placed on top Hermann Hall. They appear to be in tribute to Crown Hall, but unlike Mies’s masterpiece, Hermann Hall’s provide no structural support (just as in another SOM building, Galvin Library).

Even so, Hermann Hall is a favorite on campus, containing the Bog (IIT’s own bar, grill, and bowling alley) and featuring lovely landscaping on the south wall. And while SOM may have earned itself an embarrassing nickname, the firm has also received great critical acclaim in its 75-year history (which you can read about, and look through, here).

Of course, if you’re craving original Mies campus buildings, taking one of our daily tours of IIT’s Main Campus is more likely to satisfy than frustrate a discerning mid-century palette. 

Hermann Hall by kid_goulache via Flickr

Hermann Hall by iitundergrad via Flickr

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