Nov, 11, 2011,
11:52 AM

What would Hamlet say?

The upkeep of the Mies’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in D.C. has become too expensive for the city library to not consider leaving the building. So the Urban Land Institute has organized a weeklong meeting, beginning Sunday, for urban planners and librarians to develop recommendations for its use and upkeep.

This isn’t the first time D.C.’s only Mies building has come into question. In 2006, then-Mayor Tony Williams tried to move the library out of the original building, but he was stalled by a committee within D.C.’s council.

This building carries considerable historic significance: It is Mies’ last completed building. Whether it will retain its originally intended use is the question, and how it can be sufficiently restored is the mystery.

So in the spirit of architectural restoration and literary adoration, we pose this question: What would Hamlet say? This is what we’ve channeled.

To leave or not to leave: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind for a community to suffer

The expensive upkeep of a Mies landmark,

Or to move the MLK namesake library,

And by doing so, possibly ending public access to a Mies treasure? To leave: to restore;

No more; and by a leave to say we end for the public

The hardship of $16,000 replacement windows

That Mies buildings can be heir to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To leave: to restore;

No more: to save taxpayer money: ay, there’s the rub;

Photo by cliff1066 via Flickr

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Nov, 8, 2011,
11:37 AM

Helmut Jahn this Friday

Helmut Jahn will speak at the Instituto Cervantes at 6 p.m. this Friday. This special lecture, free to the public, closes the exhibition of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture/Mies van der Rohe Award 2011. Reserve your space now by calling 312.335.1996 or via

The Mies Society is a fan of his partly because his office generously helped plan the May 2012 Mies Society tour of Brno, Czech Republic as well as Berlin, Dresden, and Potsdam, Germany. Join us. Details are here, and contact Rebecca Wright of R. Crusoe at 888-490-8005 or for reservations.

Helmut Jahn was born in Germany and graduated from the Technische Hochschule in Munich. He came to the United States for graduate studies in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Now president and chief executive officer at Murphy/Jahn, his work has been commissioned throughout the United States, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Photo by Lee Bey

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Nov, 4, 2011,
4:09 PM

Re-adapting a Mies Building

While “Incubator South” does not bear a glamorous name the way some of other Mies’ buildings do (Seagram Building in New York comes to mind), what happens inside is intriguing.

Next Friday, the re-adaptation of this Mies Illionois Institute of Technology Main Campus building will be recognized with a Merit Award by the Association of Licensed Architects. Its turn from midcentury study space to current-day tech incubator is a worthy example of adaptive reuse of a Mies building.

 Incubator South is now part of University Technology Park at IIT, Chicago’s premier research facility for tech start-ups. It features wet and dry labs as well as offices hosting everything from software companies to soft matter research.

The ALA will recognize the work at its annual awards dinner on Friday, November 11 at Medinah Country Club in Deerfield, Ill.

Photo by Illinois Tech via Flickr

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Nov, 3, 2011,
12:04 PM

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

The Eames chair evokes the dynamism of The Jetsons cartoons and the bright comfort of robins’ eggs. It’s an icon of modern furniture. And it begins with a love story.

That story is told in the documentary, “Eames: The Architect and the Painter,” showing this weekend and November 13 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago’s Loop (and narrated by the ubiquitous art-world random James Franco).

 Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988) Eames met at Cranbrook Academy, where Ray helped Charles and Eero Saarinen prepare designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Furniture Competition.” Their use of curved, molded plywood earned honors and marked the beginning of an influential body of work across film, architecture and even advertising campaigns.

Charles had an interest in engineering and architecture (he was kicked out of Washington University for being a Frank Lloyd Wright fan), and Ray studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before going to Cranbrook Academy.

The Eames House, which they built and lived in, solves problems familiar to today’s designers:

·         How to integrate the home in nature (it was built in a meadow)

·         How to maximize volume from few materials (that sounds Miesian to us)

·         How to make a home that serves a life of work (their art supplies remain at the preserved home)

 “Eventually, everything connects,” Charles Eames, the chair’s co-creator is known to have said. This documentary connects their ambitious range of works to their extraordinary partnership.

(Note to members of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Landmarks Illinois: your admission is a discounted $7 to the Monday show).  

Photo by 13aat via Flickr

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