Sep, 28, 2011,
9:56 AM

Goldberg on Mies

Geoff Goldberg, AIA, shares his thoughts on Mies in celebration of two current exhibitions about Bertrand Goldberg, Geoff’s father. He designed Marina City, a.k.a. the corncobs, and made a definitive mark on mid-century design.

Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention is at the Art Institute of Chicago through January 15, 2012. The other show, Bertrand Goldberg: Reflections, is free to the public at The Arts Club of Chicago through January 13, 2012. It was designed by Geoff and fellow architect John Vinci, FAIA, and features Bertrand’s personal collection of art as well as his designs of furniture, jewelry and buildings.

Here’s Geoff’s answers to our standard survey:

1. Describe Mies in a nutshell (remember, less is more).

Mies as the Buddha of architecture. Often mute, puzzling, quizzical, serious and caring.

2. Does Mies help you or haunt you?

Mies both helps and haunts. One is left with the feeling of never having done enough, good enough, studied enough. That said, he still propels me to deep and serious approach to the work, things that should never fade away. So haunt or help? Both, together.

3. Why do Mies’ simplicity and clarity generate such controversey?

The simplicity is a myth. There is nothing simple about Mies or his work. It is minimal, it can be seen as austere, but it is more appropriately read as subtle an nuanced. It does not promote itself in the commercial marketplace, and bluntly speaking, he probably never really was truly interested in that realm, all protests to the contrary.

4. If Mies could come to dinner at your house, what would you serve? And what would you want to discuss?

First thought is a nice dinner, not too fancy, but a well-set table, and a nice wine. But one can also imagine a picnic on a wood table with a dark German beer. We’d talk about nature in Germany, the Black Forest and the landscape, and how the differences with America impacted his thinking. All the while, I’d be thinking of Lily Reich, and wondering what she would have added to the conversation and to Mies’ thinking.

P.S. Geoff recommends this site for a comprehensive history of his father’s life.

Photo by hao$ via Flickr

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Sep, 27, 2011,
10:12 AM

Flamingo plopped onto Federal Plaza

When I was a graduate student in downtown Chicago I would often walk by Federal Plaza, on the corner of Dearborn and Adams, usually finding the plaza teeming with business people.  My eye was initially drawn to Alexander Calder’s monumental sculpture Flamingo, which sits in the plaza. At the time, this sculpture from 1974 seemed to me to be quintessential “plop art”. 

 The idea behind plop art came from Miwon Kwon’s One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. She explains in her book that “Initially, from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s, public art was dominated by the art-in-public-places paradigm- modernist abstract sculptures that were often enlarged relics of works normally found in museums and galleries. These art works were usually signature pieces from internationally established male artists (favored artists who received the most prominent commissions during this period include Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder). In and of themselves, they had no distinctive qualities to render them ‘public’ except perhaps their size and scale.” (60) Kwon, arguing the merits of site-specific works, believed these works to be “plopped” onto public spaces without any thought given to the sculpture’s interaction with the surrounding area.

Going back to the modernist plaza, though, I began to notice the relationship between the curvilinear bright sculpture and the rigorous grid-like buildings. Both the buildings and the sculpture were made of steel and shared basic design principles, such as the importance of the structure versus ornamentation. The sculpture’s graceful curves help break up the buildings’ angles, giving the eye a rest and providing the plaza with additional dynamism. The colors, Mies’s black and Calder’s red, complement each other and again add to the perceived vitality of the plaza. I observed pedestrians walking underneath and around the sculpture; touching the material, while gazing up at the surrounding buildings. Flamingo did interact with its surroundings, both with the architecture and with the people frequenting the area. Suddenly, I realized that Calder’s work was not plop art after all. Instead, it seems like the perfect modernist complement to Mies Van der Rohe’s creation.

Guest Contributor Claudia Mooney, Chipstone Foundation Assistant Curator and New Media Manager/Milwaukee Art Museum Adjunct Curator of Decorative Arts

Photo by MARIA from Flickr

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Sep, 22, 2011,
1:31 PM

Genius and the IIT gang

IIT students will work with architects Chris Lee and 2011 genius-grant winner Jeanne Gang, who have been appointed by the City of Chicago to make the city’s river more attractive.

Gang and Lee will work with IIT students to design boathouses for the Chicago River. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s crew hopes more attention to the river will improve clean-up efforts.

And if there’s anything IIT students can do, it’s create attention-worthy structures! We’ll keep you posted on the progress.

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Sep, 20, 2011,
12:01 PM

EU Prize exhibition comes to Chicago

October 25 through November 11, 2011
Opening night celebration: October 25, 6 p.m.
Instituto Cervantes
31 W. Ohio St., Chicago

The Neues Museum in Berlin by David Chipperfield Architects in collaboration with Julian Harrap won the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture this year, and now you can see an exhibition featuring details of the work at the Instituto Cervantes in downtown Chicago.

The opening night, October 25, includes a lecture by Ramon Bosch and Bet Capdeferro, who were selected for the Emerging Architect Special Mention. We’ll update you with more special events in connection with the exhibition as we learn of them.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Mies van der Rohe Foundation of Barcelona, Spain, which grants the EU Prize every two years to acknowledge and reward quality architectural production in Europe.

Photo: Audringje

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