Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Photo of the Week: Diversey Cheaters

(Bartholomew Photo)

Big deal up here on Diversey last week as the vans, trucks and crew rolled in for a day of filming portions of what will become the latest Ron Howard movie.  We watched the action take place in front of the Goethe statue from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.  I walked down to the statue with my camera, but a muscular security guy told me not to use it.  What he actually said was, "I would appreciate it if you would not take any pictures."  I was so taken with the civility of his request that I kept the cap on my photographer's rights and went back up to the condo where I took the pictures anyway.

The working title of the film is Cheaters, and it features Vince Vaughn, who discovers that his best friend's wife, played by Winona Ryder, is having an affair.  The central conflict seems to center around the question "To tell or not to tell?"

In the photo above, Mr. Howard, holding what appears to be the script, steps out from under an umbrella after conferring with Ms. Ryder.  The "scene" must have lasted all of five seconds and consisted of Ms. Ryder's character standing on the sidewalk alongside Cannon Drive, talking on a cell phone.  There were easily a dozen takes before Mr. Howard called it a day.

The morning's activity consisted of filming two young women on bicycles as they pedaled around the gravel in front of the Goethe statue while various passers-by walked to and fro.  Diversey from the Inner Drive to Sheridan was filled with semis, and the "base camp" for the crew took up much of the parking lot at Diversey Harbor.

This may be one of the few films that I see when it comes out.  I'd like to find out if the five second-section I watched actually makes it into the final cut.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Photo of the Week: Those Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Bartholomew Photo

Adelor, the 15-year-old male lion at Lincoln Park Zoo, settles in for the long days of summer.  The majestic beast would be nearing the end of his days in the wild where competition for survival gets tough at his age.  But at the zoo he could be around for another half-decade or so.  

The Kovler Lion House at Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago landmark, an impressive melding of classical and Prairie School designs.  The architect was Dwight Perkins, who had quite an impact on Chicago public buildings in the early part of the twentieth century.  I'll be sharing some significant Perkins-designed buildings in the near future. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Lily Pool

If there is an intersection in the city where there are more cars running red lights than the intersection of Fullerton and Cannon Drive at the north entrance to Lincoln Park Zoo, I'd like to hear about it.  On a sunny weekend, the place is jammed with joggers, bikers, roller bladers, families headed for the zoo, and impatient motorists.  

More than once, I've watched the crossing guards simply give up and return to the sidewalk with their hands on their hips, watching chaos beyond their control.  It's a good case study for those who have Palinized themselves into believing that the less government intervention in our daily lives, the better we all will be.

Steps away from the mayhem, though, there is a half-hidden entrance to a place of quiet and meditative peacefulness.  Once you pass into the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, all the noise fades away and you are alone in the quiet of your own thoughts.

The north entrance to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (Bartholomew Photo)

Sally A. Kitt Chappell describes the entrance to the Lily Pool in Chicago's Urban Nature, writing "Handsome as the pool's Prairie School gateway is, it scarcely prepares you for the vista that opens beyond.  The clear waters of the lagoon sparkle, golden light filters through the leafy canopy overhead; the reflections and shadows of the trees dapple surfaces everywhere -- especially enlivening the stratified limestone of the edges, pathways, and the cascade."

The Lily Pool, looking south from Fullerton entrance (Bartholomew Photo)

Alfred Caldwell's design for the garden is as much geology lesson as it is nature walk.  Limestone ledges throughout the space speak of a time when an inland sea covered the midwest.  When it receded, great layers of limestone were left behind.

The Lily Pond's limestone strata with flowering crab (Bartholomew Photo)

Then the glaciers came and went, scouring the landscape, piling rock upon rock, their meltwaters cutting through the limestone and forming pools.  The "river" that flows through the garden mimics the glacial waters that cut their way through the limestone remnants of the ancient seas.  A "waterfall" on the northwestern end of the site serves as the river's source.

The headwaters (Bartholomew Photo)

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Self-Reliance, "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."  The Prairie style pavilion reminds me of that observation.

The pavilion is both apart and a part of its surroundings.  A city of nearly three million people lies only yards away.  Yet, here, in a natural environment that denies that fact, civilization exists in the form of the low pavilion which hugs the limestone outcropping on which it stands and makes the tall birch tree behind it seem even more grand.  

 Alfred Caldwell's pavilion with white birch (Bartholomew Photo)

In the midst of the crowded city the pavilion allows the individual to become a part of nature and keep the independence of solitude.  

Toward the south end of the Lily Pool, there is the council ring, homage to Caldwell's mentor, Jens Jensen, one of those larger-than-life figures who designed Lincoln, Columbus and Douglas Parks in Chicago, helped to preserve the Indiana Dunes and almost single-handedly changed the focus of landscape design in the United States to a more naturalistic approach.

In his interview as part of the Oral Histories Project at the Art Institute of Chicago, Caldwell told of the origin of the council ring.  "Jensen invented it," Caldwell said. "This is how. He stayed over in one of his very wealthy client’s mansions. In the morning the servants led him to a table and he had his breakfast. He looked and he said they had wine glasses and a tray up above. It was part of the equipment at the dining room table. He looked at them, and the wine glasses were arranged around in a circle. He thought that was a fantastic form, the circle of water glasses. You’d see the bottom of it and then the top like this. He said, 'That goes around, and around, and around like that. I thought we could make that in a garden, that would be a wonderful place for people to gather, sit around and have a fire in the middle. Finally I got firmly in my mind the idea of making the council rings. I just loved it, I love to make them.'" 

Alfred Caldwell's tribute to Jens Jensen, the council ring (Bartholomew Photo)

At various times in his long career Alfred Caldwell worked with and for the great names in twentieth century architecture and design -- Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Jens Jensen, Ludwig Hilberseimer, and Craig Ellwood.  

Dennis Domer in Alfred Caldwell:  The Life and Work of a Prairie School Landscape Architect has appraised these relationships, both personal and professional, writing, ". . . all of them recognized his great understanding of nature, his superb drawing ability, knowledge of construction, experience in building, and capacity to envision vast open spaces.  At one time or another, they all sought to bring him into their employ or under their influence, and they fought to keep him. . . Caldwell was the hidden glue that sustained modern design, and he has never gotten his due."

 The Pavilion, Looking North (Bartholomew Photo)

Head on over to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond sometime soon.  Leave the city behind.  And find one of those rare places that contains the hidden glue that will ultimately sustain us.

Photo of the Week: Hawks Win!

Bartholomew Photo

On the night before the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup with an unbelievable overtime goal by Patrick Kane, the Unitrin Building at 1 East Wacker Drive sends out its message of support.

According to the Chicago Architecture Foundation this building was once the tallest marble-clad building in the world at 522 feet.  Only Water Tower Place outshines Unitrin in this category today.  At one time the Aon Cener on Randolph Street held the prize, but it lost its marbles in the early 1990's in a fa├žade replacement of historic proportions.  

Alfred P. Shaw was the principal designer of Unitrin.  Shaw also was responsible for the design of the Civic Opera Building, the Merchandise Mart, and 135 South LaSalle, originally the Field Building, while working for Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.

Of course, everyone knows that 1961 was the year that the Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup.  Unitrin had not been built . . . it was completed in 1962.  Even more amazing is that virtually every building on the south side of the Chicago River from the lake to Wolf Point, where the Main Stem meets the North and South branches, has been built since 1961.

The only buildings that predate that championship season are (1) 333 North Michigan; (2) 360 North Michigan; (3) Mather Tower at 75 East Wacker; (4) Hotel 71 at 71 East Wacker; (5) 35 East Wacker, originally the Jewelers' Building; (6) the LaSalle-Wacker Building at 221 North LaSalle; and (7) the Builders' Building at 222 North LaSalle.

It's an amazing tribute to the developers and designers who, over the past half-century, have transformed this magnificent city into the tree-lined showplace that it is today.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Photo of the Week: Sunrise

Bartholomew Photo

On the Sunday morning before Memorial Day, with Lake Shore Drive closed in preparation for the annual Bike the Drive, the sun rises over Lake Michigan.

And this, too, is Chicago.

I see the sun come up on the miracle of a new day, and I think of the words by which the late John Wooden lived his life . . .

Be true to yourself.  Make each day a masterpiece.  Help others. Drink deeply from good books.  Make friendship a fine art.  Build a shelter against a rainy day.

That part about making each day a masterpiece . . . that's a good idea.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Indian Land Dancing

Bartholomew Photo

My daughter and I had a grand time last Sunday, participating in Chicago's annual Bike the Drive.  It was a glorious day in the city, warm with little breeze, and I don't think there is a better way to see how beautiful this city really is than cruising down the middle of Lake Shore Drive on a bicycle.

There is much to take in, grand vistas and hidden gems.  We discovered one of the latter when we passed under the Foster Avenue viaduct at the north turnaround.  I would guess that most people don't even know that Indian Land Dancing, which stretches the whole length of the underpass on both sides, is even there.  Most of those who do pass by it are in cars, coming off or entering Lake Shore Drive, and, I would guess, move east or west without paying it much attention.

Bartholomew Photo

Dedicated on August 22, 2009 and based loosely on a poem by E. Donald Eddy Two-Rivers, the mosaic or bricolage (something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available) is a shimmering surprise, responding to the poem's themes of childhood freedom found in verses like this one:  

Events spiral to memories,
linking lives to time and history.
Culprit children frenzied with imagination
stir small hands to mock battle,
moments in a green galaxy
of ferns and cedars and green pine trees.

Public Art Group artists Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne and Cynthia Weiss worked with native American artists from several tribes to develop the themes and images used in the mosaic. 

Bartholomew Photo

Formed in 1971, the Chicago Public Art Group adopted a mission "to unite artists and communities in partnership to produce quality public art and to extend and transform the tradition of collaborative, community involved, public artwork."  

According to its website (www.cpag.net), the organization (1) organizes the design of public art projects in partnership with communities, maintaining a high level of artistic quality; (2) introduces creative skills to children and adults; (3) trains and educates professional artists in the process of creating community responsive art projects; and (4) educates communities to the social and aesthetic possibilities of collaborative public art.

CPAG projects are all over the city, ranging from Life is Beautiful at 7464 North Sheridan Road to the Garfield Park Conservatory mosaics at, located at the elevated station at Central Park and Lake Street to History of the Packinghouse Worker, a mural at 4859 South Wabash.  There are dozens of these lovely projects all over the city.  Look for them.

Life Is Beautiful (7464 North Sheridan Road)
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

Garfield Conservatory Mosaic 
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

History of the Packinghouse Worker (4859 South Wabash)
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

One of the many things that separates urban living from life outside the city is the element of surprise.  There are more surprises in store, on a daily basis, for the person who chooses to live in an urban environment.  Chicago is fortunate because, in many cases, those surprises involve an unexpected work of art.  Such surprises make a city human.  More than that they make a city fun.

Bartholomew Photo