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 façade 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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Photo of the Week: Welcome Home, Mr. President

Bartholomew Photo

We have been running to and from the windows since last Thursday, reacting to the sound of helicopter rotors as the President came and left his hometown this Memorial Day weekend.

We watched the helicopters come by our condo Thursday evening, then return to O'Hare, flying west into the setting sun.  Early Friday morning I saw them swing by again on their way to pick the Commander-in-Chief up for his trip to Louisiana.  Back they came that night.  Their final trip was this afternoon as they took President Obama back to O'Hare for the return to the nation's capital.

In addition to watching the comings and goings from the air, I also got to sit in traffic on Lake Shore Drive, about a quarter mile from McCormick Place, as the motorcade dropped the President off at the landing site.  Traffic was stopped in both directions, so I had a chance to listen to sports radio for 15 minutes, sitting in the sunlight at the beginning of a beautiful day with the car's engine off and the windows rolled down.

It couldn't have been much of a vacation for him.  He spent most of Friday on the Gulf coast, observing the increasingly alarming environmental disaster that is reaching the end of its second month.  Today he ended up in the middle of a severe thunderstorm at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, standing in the middle of a downpour, urging people who had waited for hours for the ceremony to take to their cars for their own safety.

Still, for us Chicagoans, it was great to have him back in town.  We all stood a little taller this weekend.  We know who we are . . . we know who he is . . . and we know what we can all become if we can just start looking around for someone we can help rather than spending our time and energy, trying to find someone whom we can blame.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trump This

Bartholomew Photo

I had a chance last night to take a tour of the only unsold penthouse atop Trump Tower -- 14,000 square feet of space with 360 degrees of Chicago 90 or so floors below, on the other side of the 14-foot high, floor-to-ceiling windows.

Someone with 30 million or so bucks is going to be very, very happy with the digs.

Say what you want about the developer, Trump is a good neighbor.  It takes the dazzling white brilliance of the Wrigley building to the east and the black-tie formality of Mies van der Rohe's final commercial design and comes up with a glitzy silver facade.  

The mass of the building is lifted 40 feet above the ground to allow the site to run in subtle terraces down to the river. Despite its 92 stories, it sits parallel to the river, observes the city's strict street grid, and somehow manages to preserve unobstructed views up and down the river.

But that's not all.  Its setbacks -- the points where the building becomes more slender -- are designed to pay homage to its three most famous neighbors.  Level 16, where the first setback occurs at 216 feet, matches the height of the body of the Wrigley Building's roofline.  The second setback, which occurs at the 29th level of 396 feet, matches the top of Marina City.  And Level 51 at 659 feet matches the height of Mies van der Rohe's IBM Building, now 320 North Wabash.

It's a brilliant and empathetic design, one just now beginning to be softened even more by a  Hoerr Schaudt landscape design of plantings native to the tower's river site.

But, my oh my oh my, that penthouse!  I went home to my 1150 square foot condo, feeling   like a staff member of Jimmy Carter's White House when the Great Communicator strode in.  The "sauna," adjacent to the "workout room," both of them overlooking Grant Park with views all the way to Indiana, is bigger than the living area of most downtown condos.

Here are just a few of the pictures I took as the sun went down on a beautiful spring night.

Quite a night.  Quite a building.  Quite a city.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Photo of the Week: Wood Gull

Location:  Merchandise Mart, River Promenade
Sculptor:  Minna Harkavy
Installed:  1953

The gull rests on the head of Robert Elkington Wood as his bust, commissioned by Joseph P. Kennedy, stands at the east end of the Merchandising Hall of Fame along the Chicago River.  In 1945 Kennedy bought the building, which cost close to 40 million bucks to construct in 1930, for 13 million.  When the Kennedy's unloaded the building in 1998, they got close to 550 million for the thing.

Wood graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1900.  He served in the Philippines during the Philippine insurrection and for ten years in the Panama Canal zone during construction of the canal.  He was named Quartermaster General of the Army toward the end of World War I.

In 1919 Mr. Wood turned from the military to merchandising, taking a position as the general merchandise manager before being named vice-president.  He left Montgomery Ward in 1924 to take a position with Sears and Roebuck and Co. as the vice-president in charge of its factory operations.

In this capacity Mr. Wood initiated a program to open Sears retail stores outside of major cities, and the success of this expansion program brought Wood the presidency of Sears in January of 1928.  In 1939 he was named chairman, and he continued to direct Sears throughout World War II.

From 1945 to 1953, based on a program that Mr. Wood had assembled during the war, Sears spent more than $300 million on additional stores.  Sears went form being the largest mail-order business in the world -- but one primarily serving the rural population -- to the world's largest merchandiser.  Wood also created the All State Insurance Company as a subsidiary of Sears.

Mr. Wood retired from Sears in 1954, but remained an honorary chairman of the board.  he died in 1969 at this home in Lake Forest, Illinois.  He was 90-years-old.

The gull in the photograph chose Wood's bust over the busts of seven other giants of the merchandising world, lined up on the south side of the Merchandise Mart, in what David Letterman once referred to as the Pez Hall of Fame.  The other honorees are:  Julius Rosenwald, Frank Woolworth, Marshall Field, John Wanamaker, George Hartford, Edward Filene and Montgomery Ward.

Minna Harkavy, the sculptor, was born in Estonia and came to the United States with her family around 1900, where she settled in New York City.  She taught sculpture in a studio set up in her penthouse atop the Ansonia Hotel, a hotel on Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets.  At one time or another residents of the hotel included Babe Ruth, Arturo Toscanini, Enrico Caruso, Igor Stravinsky, and Theodore Dreiser.  

Ms. Harkavy was best known for her oversized sculptures of heads or figures in stone, bronze or clay.  Wood's bust is quite exceptional in her work since most of her sculptures depicted subjects that reflected her social and political views, views that were decidedly different than Mr. Wood's. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nebát se a nekrást: Thomas Mazaryk

Thomas Mazaryk Statute -- University of Chicago (Bartholomew Photo)

Nebát se a nekrást -- do not fear and do not steal -- a good life motto for a hero.  And Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk will always be a hero in Czechoslovakia.

According to the Czechoslovakian legend, deep within a mountain the knights of Blanik sleep, waiting for a leader to summon them and deliver their people from oppressors. That leader came forth in November, 1918 when Thomas Maszryk, a blacksmith who made himself into a world-renowned professor of philosophy, convinced the Allied nations to make Czechoslovakia a sovereign state after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of World War I.  

Thomas Mazaryk (Wikipedia Photo)

Masaryk was elected first president of the new nation in 1918 during a triumphal visit to the University of Chicago, where he had been a faculty member once before in 1902 and 1908.  The Czech Parliament re-elected to the presidency in 1920, 1927 and 1934.  His death in 1937 led Chicagoans of Slovakian descent to search for a way to honor the great hero.

Subscriptions were solicited and $50,000 was collected for a statue to stand on the University of Chicago campus.  The Director of Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, Albin Polasek, who was born in Moravia and who took his formal art training at the Frank Furness designed Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was selected as the sculptor of the equestrian monument.

Albin Polasek (Wikipedia Photo)

Even though the bronze for the work had been purchased, the war effort during World War II delayed the completion of the work.  Finally, on September 14, 1949 The Chicago Tribune announced that the eight-ton statue was on its way to Chicago from New York City, where it had been cast.  The 18-foot high sculpture was disassembled and shipped in three sections.

(Bartholomew Photo)

Two days later the paper reported, "The big equestrian bronze statue to Thomas G. Masaryk, father and first president of Czechoslovakia, was taken back for repairs today to the foundry in Queens borough in which it was made, after one of the three sections fell from a truck bearing it to Chicago."  

Tall statue . . . low bridge.  A chain snapped as the sculpture hit a girder as the truck crossed the Queensboro bridge over the East River, and the huge piece of bronze, including the bodies of both the horse and its rider, hit the deck.  According to The Tribune, "Lamar A. Gano, driver of the truck . . . was given a summons for failing to obtain a permit to transport the statue.  Manhattan bound traffic on the bridge was tied up between 5:30 and 6 p.m. by the mishap.

In today's age of round-the-clock journalism, can you imagine the coverage an overturned Knight of Blanik lying in the middle of the Queensboro bridge, with traffic tied up for miles, would receive?

Portions of the work had to be recast, but the statue finally arrived in Chicago -- by truck -- at the end of November, 1949.  It was mounted on a pedestal at the east end of Midway Plaisance with no fanfare, and It wasn't until 1955 that the monument dedicated on May 29.

(Bartholomew Photo)

More than 2,000 person attended the dedication.  Senator Roman Hruska, Republican senator from Iowa, was the principal speaker.  Senator Everett Dirksen and Mayor Richard J. Daley also contributed remarks.  Hruska said of Masaryk, "We honor him as the philosopher who became a statesman in spite of himself, as the father of a state who was also its simplest citizen, and as an unchallengeably firm democrat who believed in the rule of tolerance."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Photo of the Week: Daphne

(Bartholomew Photo)

Location:  Congress Parkway, just east of Michigan Avenue
Sculptor:  Dessa Kirk
Installed:  December 3, 2008

In the myth of Daphne, Apollo is big-time smitten with the lovely Daphne, who wants to wander the woodlands far more than she wants to mess around with some wooing god.  Still, Apollo chases after her, rather more of a hubba-la-bubbla-boomsky guy looking for a good time than an Olympian.

"I suffer a malady no balm can cure," Apollo shouts after the fleeing maiden.  But Daphne is well aware of what his malady is and wants no part of being the cure.

Losing the foot race, Daphne calls out to her father, Peneus, the god of a thousand rivers, asking him to let the earth swallow her or to change her form.  Instantly, she is transformed into a laurel tree, her femininity enclosed in bark, her feet rooted to the ground.

The myth of Daphne is an important force in Ms. Kirk's work; more of her Daphne sculptures may be seen on the east side of Northerly Island.  She explained in an interview, " My work is often about surrendering or giving up something to get. A lot of times I don't have the answer, but I take a leap of faith of what's good for me, and ask whatever's out there in the sky-- the universe to help me." [Interview with Dessa Kirk by Vittorio Carli.  artInterviews.com]

Ms. Kirk came to study at the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of 18 after attending welding school in Alaska.  She says that she never attended high school, but got her education on the streets.   She said of that time, "I'd see these sad women ride around in fancy Cadilacs. They were being sold to acquire the Cadillac's--which were seen as beautiful. Then at the end of the day, they would be hidden inside, and there was beauty hidden inside the beauty. So I bought a Cadillac, and I decided to deconstruct it and reconstruct the beauty." [Carli]

Daphne stands in a conspicuous location, facing west on Congress with a flag pole directly behind her and Ivan Meštrović's Bowman and Spearman somewhat farther behind her on the right and left.  

Ms. Kirk offers her take on the location in this way . . . "She's striding forward. It's the heart of entering downtown and there's a lot of flowing of traffic, which is like blood, and the water's right behind. So if you look up Congress going east, there's two Indians on each side and, then there's a flagpole in the middle with a triangle. To me it's like the bow of the ship. So I made this woman leaning forward like the bow of the ship leading the way. It speaks a lot about freedom and fearless and free living." [Carli]

Freedom and fearless and free living.  That's a pretty good message to send at the place where Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett envisioned the terminus of the grand entrance to Chicago's downtown.