Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicago - City of architecture

Every time I come to Chicago I think, Oh man, why don't I live here?  Then I remember the horrible winters and my hankering to move to the Midwest dies down -- but doesn't go away completely.  Because just look at that skyline!  Any city with architecture like Chicago's merits special consideration.

In my opinion, Chicago is the best city for architecture in America.  In past visits my attempts to educate myself about that architecture were foiled due to thunderstorms and demanding work schedules, but this time we scheduled an architecture tour first thing -- and everything went perfectly.  At 10am we boarded our boat on the Chicago river; ninety minutes later we disembarked, new-minted experts on the various species of Chicago skyscrapers. 

I don't remember the names of any of the architects (a heresy for sure, because they're all so famous) and the years of construction are muddled in my mind (lots of 1920s and '30s; a surprising number from the 1980s and even the 2000s), but here are some photos and a few snippets of what I do remember:

The Tribune building:  An example of art deco style (note the strong
vertical elements) topped with a gothic "cathedral" with fake (i.e., non-
weight-bearing) flying buttresses.
The building on the left, which I basically missed, was given as an
example of the classical style, with its columns and perfect symmetry
Far left: The four "temples" on the corners used to house water tanks. This building has a
drive-in elevator that enabled a tenant jeweler to drive right into his shop and avoid robbers.
Far right:  The United Airlines building with a modern take of the Parthenon on top.
The "corn cobb" building; designed by architects who didn't believe
in right angles.
Built in the 1980s; the tour guide called this the "grey flannel building".
The two blue/green glass buildings on the left are "contextual" in the
sense that they were designed for that specific location, to mirror the curve of the river
and reflect the colors. The one on the left put all the mechanical apparatus on the bottom floors
(rather than on the roof) to insulate tenants from the noise of passing trains. 
More art deco. A 1920s ordinance required that any tower taller than a certain height not
occupy more than 25% of the plot; hence the lower portions below the tower.
Another building by that guy who didn't believe in right angles.
The building is meant to operate as a self-contained city, with schools and shops and
condos and boat docks below.
Left:  The Willis Tower (nee Sears) formerly the tallest building
in the world. Supposedly built to resemble a stack of cigarettes that
had been partially shaken from their packaging.
Right:  A newer, round building made of Texas pink granite and blue
glass intentionally designed to contrast with the Willis tower.
A moment of sunshine on an otherwise chilly and cloudy morning.
Later in the day, and in keeping with our architectural theme, we ate dinner at Le Cafe des Architectes.  The food was great, and the restaurant surprisingly accommodating of a group of eight with one toddler.  In a stroke of perfection, we had a French waiter who bonded with Rosina (Amanda's French grandmother) over the pleasure of good wine, and who flirted shamelessly with Lois (Amanda's American grandmother) by serenading her with a full-on rendition of "La Vie en Rose" on bended knee.

Tuna tartare with avocado puree, caviar, sturgeon roe and sweet potato chips
Amish chicken ballentine with boursin polenta, black truffle jus and maitake mushrooms
Miniardises consisting of pistachio macaroons, lemon bars,
dark chocolates and marshmallows

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOVE the architecture! Lady