Nov, 28, 2011,
4:23 PM

Progress in Carr Chapel restoration

Carr Chapel on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus is Mies’ only realized spiritual space. Its simplicity suits the variety of student religious groups that use the space, but it has long been in need of restoration.

Thanks to Mies members, Carr Chapel is closer to its original bright and clean condition.

Below is a brief essay from Dudley Fisher, former employee of the Mies van der Rohe Society, on his recent visit to the Chapel.

Here I am on a cool fall morning walking up to the Chapel’s front door, turning one of my favorite Chapel details, its bronze door handles. I see two familiar faces, Justine Jentes, Mies Society Director and Gunny Harboe, the restoration architect who crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s to make the restoration as complete as possible. Justine and Gunny were about to start the orientation for the Chapel’s restoration to a group of Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents who were anxious to hear about the Chapel’s restoration process. I proudly have a fragile attention span and as Gunny progressed through his PowerPoint presentation, I marvel in the changes I saw in the structure. Gone were much of the scarred brick inside and out, clean was the structure’s roof line, gone was the graffiti that had emblazoned the Chapel’s north elevation during the entire fundraising process. Gunny presented technical image after technical image of how the Chapel was turning into the simple gem it was on that fall Saturday morning. I was in awe of how magnificent details like the wood panels and trim that frame the altar area were perfect, my last recollection was they were beyond repair, oh was I wrong!

It was obvious the work of IIT, the Mies Society and Gunny Harboe had performed was most appreciated. Ironically, at about the end of the lecture, along comes a CAF tour pointing out to visitors what we had been discovering.

If you are in downtown Chicago, please head on down to IIT (it is only a Green Line ride away from the Loop) and enjoy this simple, yet powerful structure.

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Nov, 23, 2011,
1:01 PM

Pure Poetry

In honor of a recent AIA award won by the firm that designed the Poetry Center, check out our video of U.S. poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ daughter, Nora Brooks Bailey, reading her mother’s poems from “In the Mecca.” The book is about the Mecca Flats, which stood where S. R. Crown Hall now stands (on the Main Campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago). Brooks Bailey performed this reading in September inside Mies’ Crown Hall.

Speaking of the Mecca Flats, here’s a video of cultural historian Tim Samuelson discussing the effects of Mecca Flats’ destruction on its community.

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Nov, 22, 2011,
1:16 PM

Watch A Walking Tour of Chicago’s Loop

Architect Bruce Graham was lunching with colleagues in the late 1960s when he suddenly envisioned the unique shape for a skyscraper he had been charged to create. But how to get his companions to visualize it?  As if in a scene of Mad Men, he picked up a fistful of cigarettes and extended some of them from his hand in a staggered profile. And thus the design for Sears (now Willis) Tower was born.  This is just one of the compelling stories that animates Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour. Written and hosted by Geoffrey Baer, this new program traces the fascinating history of downtown Chicago’s rise, fall, and rebirth, revealing the fascinating, fun, and sometimes tragic stories behind the buildings and places that shape our “city-within-a-city.”

Check out WTTW's site to learn more.

Geoffrey Baer, host of Chicago’s Loop: A Walking Tour, a new program on WTTW, a Chicago-based member of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)


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Nov, 18, 2011,
2:53 PM

Oh, the possibilities

A week-long meeting organized by the Urban Land Institute resulted in a few interesting suggestions to maintain the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in D.C. The cost of upkeep has forced community members to consider a new plan. They’ve made the following suggestions:

Include within it a digital fabrication laboratory accessible to the community.

Adaptively re-use the space for residential, office, retail and “show space” (think big, bad dinosaur bones, perhaps).

Share the library space with another organization.

Short-term improvement suggestions include moveable planters, a play space for children, and the addition of sculpture—as well as a display of in-pavement lighting.

No matter the use, funds are desperately needed to restore and maintain this building, the last Mies building built before he died and the only Mies-designed one in D.C.

The report ends with the following quotes and attributes:

“There’s not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library” (Andrew Carnegie)

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (John Lennon)

Stay tuned.

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