Happy New Year




Farwell Building_PetersS

Originally uploaded by vincusses.

Well, it’s a good day for global warming in Chicago – our 25th consecutive day of above-normal temperature. I went downtown with only a blazer on January 3 – amazing. Haven’t used the long underwear in five years. Sure, I miss skiing, but this is a good spot to be on the globe during an emission-enhanced climate shift.

So, how does 2007 look for landmarks? Not that it is hard to top 2006 – if less than three Louis Sullivan buildings burn down this year, we are ahead. Hell, there are only 20 left out of the 135 he designed in Chicago. Still, 2007 may start off on the wrong foot tomorrow if the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approves another skin job on North Michigan Avenue.

The Farwell Building is one of a small handful of Art Deco landmarks left on North Michigan Avenue, part of the old Terra Museum. A clodlike developer, noting the building’s landmark status, is proposing to do to the Farwell what John Buck (not Joe Buck, although there is a physical resemblance) did to the McGraw-Hill Building ten years ago.

It goes like this – you take the whole thing down, numbering the bits like Abu Simbel, put up a new building, and then reclad it with the old skin. The McGraw-Hill, at 16 stories, was the largest example of this sort of preservation travesty, and we hate to admit it, but it looks pretty good. The Farwell can’t look as good – a good chunk of its footprint will be taken up by a new residential highrise that will loom over and well into the Farwell Frankenstein. Moreover, the Farwell is already a landmark – McGraw-Hill wasn’t.

Landmarks Illinois (I’m on the Board) sat down with the architect a year ago and heard about the desperate condition of the roof and roof facades. This was a gambit to get preservationists to go along with the skin job. It failed, and the actual plan makes it look even sillier – the problem for the developer’s dreadnought is not the skin but the bones – the structure is in the way of the parking garage, of the construction staging – of everything. Sure, the façade needed repair and/or replacement – not the structure.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks should have made the developer go through the economic hardship process before approving taxidermy on this scale. I would have paid to see that hearing – the pathos and poverty of a project that’s already a third sold without city approval.

Lynn Becker rants off the rails on this one at http://lynnbecker.com/repeat/farwell/farwell.htm

Damn, my blog is tame….

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