Dumb Down

Well, the Public Building Commission is taking bids (RFQ actually) to demolish ALL of the Michael Reese campus for the Olympic Village, now that the IOC committee has been shown a lovely vision of loveliness that could only come from renderings and never from reality. This means not only the recently documented eight buildings by Walter Gropius (the only ones in Illinois) but also the Schmidt, Garden and Martin building that was shown as being preserved in the plans for the village. This is dumb, and both Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago have said so.
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I would like to have the Olympics in Chicago. I am proud of Chicago because it has always innovated in architecture and planning. Why stop now?
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It’s not that you have to save everything. It is NEVER that. It’s that you have to at least look at the more sustainable, more energy-savvy option of saving things. You have to do your homework. Can these buildings be rehabilitated as the Olympic Village? Do they have the lovely lake views shown to the IOC? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Maybe they can be rehabilitated efficiently, maybe not. WE DON’T KNOW. And with this call for demolition, WE WILL NEVER KNOW.
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Why – at the moment when you are about to stride onto the world stage as a player – would you pull a punk move like this? Jim Peters, President of Landmarks Illinois, called the demolition without reuse study “premature” and “foolhardy”. I think it also hurts the bid. The rest of the world knows about this architecture.

To learn more about the Gropius buildings, see this Monday’s presentation by Grahm Balkany at 5:30 PM at the Haefele showroom, 154 W. Hubbard in Chicago – registration required – check http://www.savemrh.com/ for updates.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Now the city is saying again they will save the Schmidt Garden building (first one pictured). They are saying the others are not feasible to save. Could be. Could not be. Will they prove it?

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: See Blair Kamin in the Chicago Tribune on this issue today. He makes the point about the Private Pavilion (second image above) which looks like it could easily be re-used for exactly the purposes needed. Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether or not it is?

One of the links talks about the LEED rating plans for the new Olympic Village. Will that offset the amount of debris and dust and waste created by demolishing a dozen multistory buildings? Or we will just skip that analysis as well?

THURSDAY UPDATE: Don’t miss Lynn Becker’s excellent article on this in the current Chicago Reader.

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