Archive for June, 2011

China 2011

June 26, 2011

Another beautiful day in Beijing – this much clear weather is rare…

“Tour packages to red tourism spots have become increasingly popular this year. The whole market has been stimulated by the enthusiasm to commemorate the Party’s birthday.”

Guo Yi, China Comfort Travel

“The promotion of red tourism will become more of a market role than a government role.”

Song Ziqian, senior policy researcher, China Tourism Academy

These are quotes from two articles in the China Daily this morning, part of the continuing coverage of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Community Party. They are striking in two ways: first, they conflate and confound the old distinction between communism and capitalism as the difference between a planned economy and a free market economy. Both quotes note how “red tourism” – tourists seeking out important sites in the 20th century history of the Communist Party – has become an important and growing segment of the free market economy.

The first article discusses how cultural heritage tourism is a growing phenomenon in many countries, which means that tourism to sites associated with pivotal CCP events like the Long March of 1934-36 is a type of heritage tourism, just as Americans would visit Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon or Gettysburg or other places central to the founding of the nation. A tourist is shown wearing a mock Red Army uniform posing next to a weaver’s loom in Yan’an in Shaanxi. How is that different from dressing up as a cowboy in Tombstone or Ben Franklin in Philadelphia? From a national tourism point of view, they are parallel activities. From an economic point of view, they are identical activities.

So, I was first struck by the marvelous mixing up of capitalism and communism implicit in “red tourism”. The second thing that struck me was the history and its timing, because I met again last night with my Global Heritage Fund friends Han Li, Firth Griffith and Will Shaw. We were talking about the history of the Community Party and how this could provide opportunities to promote certain heritage sites that GHF may want to get involved in. My instinctive response was very positive, not simply because the Party has power and influence and it would be good to choose sites associated with their history. That fact has the same importance as the idea of getting banks to connect to the Chinese banking history in Pingyao detailed in my last blog.

No, the reason I instinctively saw the promotion of Party history as a positive was exactly the same point made in the quotes in this morning’s paper: I saw this history as trending; hitting a point of popularity because it was far enough in the past to become nostalgic. Nostalgia is a distortion of history, often a kind of cleansing of history that sieves out the unpleasant memories in favor of the warm and fuzzy. Nostalgia was active when Williamsburg opened in the 1930s and is still active today. Just as certain architectural styles only become popular after a certain amount of time has elapsed – witness the slow adoption of Victorian by the preservation movement in the 1960s and 70s – historical periods only become nostalgic and subject to tourism appropriation after their elements of active agency have ended. Old-style Chinese communism ended in the late 1970s, and the majority of Chinese have no personal memory of it. Hence, it can be nostalgic.

As I have noted in a whole bunch of blog entries about Mid-Century Modernism, there is a generational aspect to what become heritage, whether it is historical or architectural. The impulse to preserve is often attendant with obsolescence: when a technology, building style, or historical period loses active agency, it becomes a potential subject for preservation.

we swam in the water cube (above), ran along the Great Wall, and bicycled down from the wall area – sort of a Beijing Ironman!

All of the pictures you see in this blog were taken with the same camera, which Felicity and I bought in 2004 and is the only digital camera I have ever owned. I was slow to adopt digital, just as I was slow to adopt cell phones and digital music. Some of this Luddite tendency is actually visible in blog entries from four or five years ago. I recall my cousin Andy saying about digital cameras “That train has left the station.” And he was right. But two years ago I had an 18-year old freshman student at SAIC who started collecting film cameras – he has at least two dozen. As soon as the technology became obsolete, there was a huge desire – especially on the part of those who did not live through it – to preserve it.

The generational challenge is exacerbated by the accumulation of capital by an older generation, especially if that capital is not directed to the exploitation of the growing market segments. That is, in fine, the point of the quotes above and the point of my discussions with my Global Heritage Fund friends. We can recognize the emerging market segments and trends in heritage conservation and heritage tourism. Can we find the capital needed to catalyze those emerging markets? Or will the Chinese beat us to it?


Pingyao 2011

June 23, 2011

My Pingyao visit for Global Heritage Fund was excellent, thanks to the extremely talented Han Li, who runs the China program for GHF, Board member Firth Griffith (and family!) and consultant Will Shaw. There has been significant progress in our work in Pingyao, the most notable example of which is the restoration of 12 Mijia Xiang, a courtyard that is now home to GHF offices and a community auditorium.

Every Friday this room hosts a presentation on local Pingyao culture, including the local dialect, which like many indigenous cultural expressions, is in danger of being lost. The building thus preserves both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, making it a model of contemporary heritage conservation. 12 Mijie Xiang had been converted to a school at one point, and Han has preserved a section of the schoolyard mural to capture that history as a palimpsest.

The restoration removed an intrusive modern 2-story cement structure and replaced it with a yaodong, the traditional parabolic arched vault structure that serves as the innermost courtyard structure, providing natural heating and cooling. The yaodong was well documented and thus follows appropriate standards for reconstruction of missing elements, but the ease with which it could be achieved is testament to the survival of these construction techniques within the Pingyao community.

In addition to this physical conservation project, GHF has partnered with Tongji University, which completed a very detailed conservation plan for the city, that incorporates not only conservation of important buildings and streetscapes but also deals with the essential issues of waste and water management, transportation and other elements essential to the success of heritage conservation as a development modality. Preserving historic buildings is not a challenge to development: it is a kind of development, and it is inherently a more sustainable development model because it incorporates those aspects of a community’s history which the community has determined are central to its identity.

That is not to say that Pingyao does not have challenges. It was full of domestic tourists during my visit, as well as a fair amount of international tourists, although the infrastructure is like Dali, sort of designed for a backpacker tourist and lacking some of the niceties that even such touristic sites as Lijiang have procured, like ATMs.

Pingyao is actually exquisitely poised to take advantage of new tourism: it lies halfway between Beijing and Xi’an, popular sites that my Art Institute tours always include. Moreover, a new high-speed rail line is opening up, so it will only be a couple hours from either city. The city boasts several good temples, and the Shuanglin Temple 6km out of town has some of the best surviving sculpture – dating back to Ming and earlier – of any temple in China.

gotta love the thousand-armed Guanyin

The wall itself is fantastic, circumscribing the entire old town with dozens of gate houses and six major gates. Pingyao had a wall dating back more than two thousand years, although the current one is largely Ming, but it has another heritage that offers a unique way to combine the past and the future into a development scheme. Pingyao was the center of the financial industry in China beginning in the early 19th century as local merchants, tired of the hassle of lugging tons of precious metals from place to place in their commercial networks, developed a draft transfer system that allowed their distant offices to secure funds without worrying about banditry and other losses. In a sense, it is the foundation of banking, and it would be great if some of China’s great banks saw the opportunity to restore some buildings and recapture their history here. You can visit the Rishengchang museum, one of the bigger houses. Here are some pictures of it from my visit three years ago.

I also toured the next physical conservation project GHF has planned, also with the assistance of Tongji, which provided incredibly detailed research on the history, current occupants, ownership, condition and historic significance of Fanjia Jie, a street where the extended Fan clan lived in a series of courtyard houses. Two houses, which have survived as Class I historic buildings, are to be rehabilitated for the families which live there. The larger plan envisions restoring the entire street. But it won’t be a museum, because that ISN’T what preservation and conservation is about. It will be a living place that will be attractive to tourists because it is authentic, because it is historic and because it is contemporary. Here is one of the courtyards we are going to restore, and then some views of the street and architectural details.

The plan also includes new green space and a community crafts center. Pingyao is known for elaborate paper cutting known as jianzi and GHF has also done wood block printing workshops, along with building conservation workshops for the locals. In fact, the plan reminds me of our brief in Lima, Peru (see last five blogs) to incorporate gardens (the productive type) into courtyard houses there. Hopefully the project will inspire others (like banks) to rehabilitate other portions of the city in a similar way, using the best 21st century heritage conservation planning, which is not limited to tangible heritage and is not about the past, but the future. In fact, the motto above 12 Mijie Xiang is Yi Li Ming, a merchants motto which signifies that business and profit must be done for the greater good. That is a definition of sustainable development: development that provides equally for current and future generations in economic, social and environmental terms. It is a great model for conservation in China.

Lima Day 5

June 12, 2011

Today we found two more huacas and lots of nice buildings and parks, mostly in the swank San Isidro neighborhood, which is next to Miraflores. We started by getting into the concrete parabolic church we saw yesterday (see post below from yesterday) then we wandered along Avenida Camino Real (so I had Tennessee Williams on the brain) and saw this lovely highrise with hanging gardens terraces (and attendant brick issues)

It was Douglas and Erika and I again, walking about 8 km before lunch and another 3-4 after. We found one more cool cantilever building before….

we stumbled on Huaca Huallamarca, a much smaller huaca and made with roughly rounded adobe bricks, simpler than our elaborate friend from yesterday.

The huaca had a lot of lights and I dreamed about having a cocktail party on one of the roofs around the huaca when it was lit up at night, which must be a sight to see…

Here you can see the rounded bricks. This one also dates from the first half of the first millenium, and then was used as a cemetery by the Wari, not unlike Huaca Paclluna from yesterday.

Lotsa embassies in these nice quiet neighborhoods, even more quiet because it was Sunday. We wandered over to Lince to the Parque Mariscal Castilla, which had both an oncological installation and an ecological installation…

Oh, that reminds me: latest trend: modern dance in the parks, in large groups. This is like tai chi used to be in the old days, or ballroom dance at 6 AM in Chinese cities a decade ago. The ones by the Oncological institute (next to the ecological pond) were a bit more hip-hop.

We then wandered in search of lunch, but thanks to modernist planning, we were esconced in miles of residential, which made for some felicitous architectural encounters, like….this Tudor

This fire academy in appropriately fire engine red..

Colonial, Renaissance, Deco – something for everyone….

And these buildings with typical Lima balconies, the first I saw outside the Cercado…

Then some Ceviche for lunch

Then through this cool section of San Isidro that is all organized around parks, sort of modernist superblock planning except the parks are public and usually have some playground equipment and a statue or two. And they are surrounded by lovely buildings. So here are some examples from our walk:

I loved these modernist ones near Parque Pio XII (despite how I might feel about him…)

Shoot, Arquitectonica was even doing one.

These park developments were quite fascinating and Douglas and I are thinking about making them part of the students’ study. Fascinating investigations into urbanism, architecture, scale, use and so forth are possible. Sometimes there are blank walls that support urban environments, and sometimes they don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all, and perhaps there is no rule that admits no exception. At any rate, this city is a good place to ask those questions.

this one totally made me think Mies in Krefeld

what if liebeskind did a park?

cool canted cantilevers on angamos oeste

Is that gorgeous or what?!

One hour until departure. Pero yo regreso….

Lima Day 4

June 12, 2011

Only a half day of work today, and most of it wasn’t me, but Frances and Douglas working with Nicholas designing a small demonstration urban agricultural installation for Parque La Muralla. This afternoon Douglas and I went with Erika (SAIC alum and translator) for a walk through Miraflores, the neighborhood we are staying in. Despite its relative safety, EVERYTHING is gated and security camera-ed and barbed wire-d.

We went to Huaca Pucllana, one of many ancient pyramids that dot the city. This was built by the Lima culture sometime in the first half of the first millenium AD and then occupied by the Wari, who came from Ayacucho, long before the Inca (who came from Cuzco).

This is what it looks like when you encounter it, just a big mud hill in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. But then you see the unmistakable signs of anastylosis….

Turns out this vertical brick construction is fairly unique, and an amazing amount of it has been subject to anastylosis since its was “uncovered” and protected from the motocross enthusiasts 30 years ago in 1981. It is hard to imagine how long it took to put it back together.

It is an impressive pyramid, and the selective reconstruction works pretty well. You can even see places where the original construction survived, which is fairly distinct from the reconstruction, as shown here:

There is a large plaza on one side of the pyramid which was used for a market in the prehistoric area and weddings and other events in the modern era. Here you can see evidence of wedge-shaped columns of vertical bricks that act like a sort of PreColumbian Warren truss for the long span of the adobe walls. This is the sort of thing us architecture geeks go for big time….

Of course one of the great advantages of adobe construction, and of this vertical brick system is its resistance to seismic events, which happen A LOT around here. But this stuff has been sitting pretty for over 1,500 years. In terms of the reconstruction (which I suppose is not strictly speaking anastylosis, since they apparently made some new mud bricks), I was interested to see this series of grid lines laid out in string for a section that was to be rebuilt…

Now, I am also interested in how historic and archaeological sites are interpreted, and this one combined several methods, including a live guide (they don’t let you go on your own for obvious reasons) as well as a limited amount of signage, especially up top where they have excavated and recreated Wari tombs.

Down in the ground level area they have full-scale figures to interpret both the construction of the site by laborers and the ritual use of the site (lotsa human sacrifice as you might expect).

The guide on the right is real. Whatever that means. Since this huaca, like so many in Lima, is right smack in the middle of town, there are cool views to new construction from the ancient reconstruction, creating a nice palimpsest (yes, I went there!) of building techniques over time.

They also have a section where they show local plants like cotton and corn and sweet potato and local fauna like llama and alpaca, well, just because, you know…

Okay, back to architectural geekitude. So, we are on top of the huaca and we see the COOLEST parabolic concrete arch 1960s church in the distance. It is super high modern but then it has these singular fussy volutes just stuck on it in the barest gesture to the Baroque flavor of the place…

So of course we have to go see it, which is well worth the trip. There are a few other fussy details, like the hopeless lannon-stone style cladding on the lower portion, but the parabolic vaults are FANTASTIC and dig those circular piercings on the front!

Great stuff, despite the dischordant little volutes and the spiked cross on top, reminiscent of every house in the city…


So then we headed for the coast, scooting down Avenida Santa Cruz, where we encountered a Ralph Rapson wannabe screen facade decorating a concrete shed, made with oddly oxidized steel supporting a moderately able arrangement of two-by-fours.

This was followed quickly by what Erika correctly termed a Mondrian, done in a nice convex plan that somehow recalled the 1980s despite the palette.

One of the surprising things down here is actually the economy. They are building buildings like crazy and there are tons of help wanted signs everywhere. Like, not what we have at home in our portion of America.
It seems all of the houses along the coast have been replaced in the last couple of weeks by new highrises….

This super skinny example combines some 60s fetishistic detailing with the ubiquitous post-1995 half-a-shallow-arch roof (what do we call those and why have they never appeared before and are we tired of them already?)

But you can still find a few houses, like this Spanish Colonial, which for once makes a lot of sense, since Peru was once a Spanish colony.

Or this Tudor. Now, I kind of like Tudor, and we did see a fair number of sort of indigenous local fachwerkbau in the Cercado, but I have NEVER seen anyone go so Tudor with a garage door as this.

And then there is the Parque de Amor, which is not only easy to translate, but has a HUGE sculpture that makes the name of the park quite apparent without words at all (although not nearly as explicit as the museum of ceramics, which goes WAY beyond the kiss and embrace)

For more, scroll back to the last three days in Peru. Lotsa pictures.

Lo siento, mañana tenemos a regresar a Chicago, pero tengo tiempo por un otro viaje en la ciudad de los reyes, Lima de Peru.

Lima Day 3

June 11, 2011

Day 3 in Lima was quite exhausting because we started by getting up at 5 AM to go to the farthest side of town (Comas) to join the Mayor as she started a project to plant 40,000 trees in the city. Here is SAIC’s Frances Whitehead, the leader of our Peru project, talking with Mayor Susanna Villaran. You can also see our main partners, Gunther Merzthal to the left and Anna Zuchetti to the right.

We got a chance to introduce the Mayor to our proposed collaboration, helping bring urban agriculture into the center of the city, the World Heritage area, while also supporting local community development. The ceremony included of course schoolchildren and the tree planting itself.

We then met with the Instituto Catastral, essentially a mapping agency that is developing a very impressive geographic database for the city, that will include not only aerial photos, lot sizes, but also condition assessments, historic status and other valuable information. We then returned to Barrios Altos, the section of the World Heritage area that is a bit of a rough inner-city neighborhood, to identify a half dozen possible projects for our students to work on. I was especially interested in buildings that had been carved out as parking in the rear, not because I liked that, but because it offers more opportunities for urban agriculture without removing any historic fabric (because it has already been removed!)

This second one is actually outside Barrios Altos in the central area.

There are a lot of beautiful facades in the area, and this is the more commercial section of the larger Barrios Altos neighborhood, so much of the ground floors are given over to shops.

Despite the deterioration in this area, you still see some of the famous Lima wooden balconies, including these two on Ayacucho, the second of which is an open balcony, the first such I saw.

Here is a classic heritage conservation/historic preservation situation: We found this lovely building which is a facade barely surviving, in the center area, with a huge space behind. The great irony here is that the building is actually owned by a finance ministry, which apparently does not have the resources to restore it.

Back to Barrios Altos. We needed to identify a half dozen possible projects, but we found about 27! Lots of great buildings: here are a few more:

Okay, can’t resist. Some of our group did not like this bit of total Corbu Brutalism but the archigeeks did….

Lima Day 2

June 10, 2011

Today we met with Arquitecto José Rodriguez Cárdenas, who is in charge of the Historic Center of Lima, to discuss possible projects in the World Heritage center of Lima. Now, most tourists see only the historic center, which includes the Cathedral and those lovely old buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas

Turns out, most of the square was actually built in the 20th century, as we learned, although the feeling is of course from an earlier era. I was also surprised to find that many of the older buildings we saw within the World Heritage district were actually from the 1920s despite their obvious Baroque Colonial influences

If you look closely at the above detail, you note that despite the Baroque organization and basic forms, that much of the detail is actually inspired by local Inka traditions, which only begin to be appreciated in the 1920s. Now, we did find a nice stretch of Deco buildings, I would suspect actually from the 1930s. These are also in Barrios Altos, an area we hope to find some project sites in.

One of the peculiar advantages of Lima as a site for architecture is that it is in the rain shadow of the Andes, which means it basically doesn’t rain. Hence, flat roofs aren’t a problem. In fact, the traditional ornament of the rich overwrought Baroque buildings that characterized the Colonial and neoColonial periods often has trouble staying clean because their is no rain to rinse it off.

Barrios Altos is considered a somewhat rough neighborhood, so despite the World Heritage status there are many buildings which are in rough shape, which translates into potential projects to design, repurpose or add new elements, including not only building elements but urban agriculture, which is where our project began.

Building on Ancash in Barrios Altos

Hard to do a green roof when there is no roof. This is actually a frequent condition, historic buildings that have become merely facades, with the interiors hollowed out in one way or another, usually as homes to more families than should live in such tight quarters, with barely a roof over their heads, or none at all.

note the bamboo lathe. Second floor only – first is adobe
These buildings are actually courtyards, strikingly reminiscent of the sites we deal with in Weishan, Yunnan, at least in volume. Wooden houses with somewhat ornamental facades but usually much more richness and space on the inside than the outside. And where there are courtyards, there is potential for urban agriculture. But it isn’t happening yet. What you do get a lot of are parking lots behind these facades.

You also get a fair amount of deterioration, not from rain, but from termite-like insects, who are doing a number on this edificio historico near the central market in Barrios Altos:

The ones that have been restored look great. Here is a nice group along Plaza Italia in Barrios Altos, before the neighborhood gets even rougher.

Just around the corner is this police building, which is a weird combination of sort of LaDouxian Mannerism and Art Deco.

And then of course there are more of the famous Lima Balconies. They even had an “Adopt a Balcony” program that led to many of these wooden wonders being preserved. Here are a few from Barrios Altos, followed by the longest one in town, close to the Plaza de Armas.

We learned a lot about the urban plan of Lima, which began as a royal city, a kind of walled treasury that had no industry to speak of. Huge religious foundations were and are a key part of the city, although many were lost with the redevelopment of the city after the demolition of the walls around 1870 and the creation of radial Parisian-style avenues that eliminated the impression of the city’s feudal origins. Large monastic and convent complexes survive – it seems there is another Baroque church around every corner, although this convent was converted into a shopping center, which is actually a really interesting architectural encounter, at the edge of Barrios Altos on Ucayali:

Our host Gunther Merzthal has been amazingly generous with his time, gracious and intelligent and turns out to be a brilliant networker as well. We didn’t get to see the Mayor today, but we hope to tomorrow. More view of old Lima:

What? You didn’t think Lima had a Chinatown? Every city has a Chinatown. Actually there is a fascinating history of ethnic diversity in Peru, and the Chinese and Japanese are a big part of it. One final view of old Lima to join the promise of “hasta mañana…”

Lima Day 1

June 9, 2011

Our first day in Lima, Peru was a full one – 9 to 5, most of that in the offices of the Municipality, looking at their new city planning efforts, largely in the realm of greening the city and providing more opportunities for urban agriculture, under the leadership of our colleagues Gunther Merzthal and Anna Zuchetti. The project began with my SAIC colleague Frances Whitehead, who came here last January to work on urban agriculture projects. When she discovered that the center of Lima – an area known as the “Cercado” for the now-vanished city wall – is a World Heritage Site, she brought me into the project along with Douglas Pancoast of our Architecture Interior Architecture and Designed Objects program. Part of the Cercado is of course the Plaza de Armas, which is spectacular in that distinctively Colonial Baroque style found throughout the Spanish Americas.

Archbsihop’s Palace, Plaza de Armas

Detail, Palacio de Gobierno

Detail, Archbishop’s Palace

Palacio de Gobierno
The most distinctive feature of Lima architecture is the balcony, these wonderful wooden structures, many of which have been restored in the central area.

We spent a good part of the afternoon in the Cercado, which is largely a poor inner-city area once you get a few blocks away from the banks and the plazas. Much of the area is fairly dangerous, and beyond the historic buildings we visited sites that are prime for new huertas, or agricultural park areas the city hopes to develop. Many of these communities are “gated” in a de facto way, due to the high crime conditions.

Here is one of the huerta sites, with a view to an even more impoverished squatter development on the hill in the background. This is in Casa 4, one of six districts in the Cercado.

Here is another park in Casa 6, an area that runs along the river. It is about to be completed.

And here is the very unfortunate condition of the river along the edge of the park.

One of the nicest parks is the Parque La Muralla, which is centered along the archaeological ruins of the original city wall, which stood for some 200 years (1670-1870, roughly). The park includes an excellent museum of the history of the wall and the city.

And it also has a little petting zoo, so I can prove I was in Peru: Here is a llama

Not that you need to go to Peru to see llamas. You can actually see them on the southwest side of Chicago in an oil refinery along the Sanitary and Ship Canal…..

more tomorrow, when we meet the Mayor…

Crunch Time on Prentice

June 1, 2011

Tomorrow, June 2, 2011, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will consider preliminary designation of Prentice Women’s Hospital as a Chicago Landmark. This is the result of a joint efforts by Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (which used a photo of Prentice on its new Financial Assistance publication!) to give the building its day in court, or in the words of Landmarks Illinois Advocacy Director Lisa DiChiera “This building is just too high-profile to let it slip away without a thorough, transparent review of its landmark eligibility.”

It does not look good. Northwestern Hospital has so much clout that the new Mayor (see last post for what he could have done) and even the Alderman – who asked for a 60-day delay on demolition, and even two of the three architects who developed a comprehensive re-use study for the old (1975 is old?) hospital kept their names off of it. This is a lot of clout. The ability to keep this much of the most valuable acreage between Manhattan and San Francisco off of the tax rolls and have the city thank you for it is A LOT of clout.

Not only that, but despite the architectural importance of the building – by Chicago icon Bertrand Goldberg, a singular modernist, a veteran of Mies’ Bauhaus who nonetheless charted a different path both formally and theoretically. This building is one of the first to use computers in the design, to get that stunning 15m-concrete cantilever without breaking the beautiful curving lines. It is like a flower. Like a flower.

There is a generation that does not “get” this architecture, that is concerned that it is only 36 years old, even though that is EXACTLY the age of 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive (Mies van der Rohe) when the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted preliminary determination of eligibility.

The generation that does not “get” it is unfortunately represented in large numbers in the immediate neighborhood, and I am not talking about inpatients but the local neighborhood group, which did NOT ask for its preservation. They are called SOAR (Streeterville Organization of Active Residents) and I am a little surprised because they STOOD WITH US 22 years ago to save the John Hancock Building, which was only 21 years old at the time.

One of the awful ironies of this situation is that NOTHING is going to be put there if Northwestern gets it way and demolishes the building. I don’t know that it will sit vacant for 19 YEARS like Block 37 did, but I can pretty much guarantee a half dozen. They are planning a green, fenced space. No access, no parking. I suppose that turns down the volume on the lost tax revenue issue. Huge net loss for the neighborhood, though.

Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has been great on this issue, as have all three preservation organizations involved. We have gotten support from all around the country, and many are saying that this will be a watershed for the preservation of mid-century Modernism. Maybe now everyone will “get” it, the same way they “got” the Prairie School when the Robie House was saved in 1957, the same was they “got” Victorian architecture when the Jefferson Market Courthouse was preserved in 1967, the same way they “got” vernacular historic districts when Old Town was landmarked in 1977, the same way they “got” the church preservation issue when Holy Family and St. Mary of the Angels were threatened in 1987, the same way they “got” the need for local landmark protection when City Council designated 26 landmarks in 1997, the same way they “got” sustainability as the ultimate preservation modality in 2007.

Some may not “get” the beauty, historical value and urbanistic appeal of this building today. but pretty much everyone will within a decade. I have seen it happen many, many times before, as the above litany illustrates. I am watching the same thing unfold here.

And if it is lost, it will be important to put down the names of those who demolished it and save those names for posterity.

The Moving Finger writes.

WHAT HAPPENED JUNE 2: Northwestern went into talks with the City and promised not to apply for a demolition permit in exchange for the talks, and no preliminary determination from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

JUNE 15 UPDATE: Prentice is named one of the 11 Most Endangered Sites in the U.S. by the National Trust for Historic Preservation! I made the announcement at the Save Prentice Rally today!

We made the announcement in front of a full vacant block. Next to another vacant lot half-a-block large. Would you like Northwestern to create a THIRD vacant block in Streeterville?


Mayor Rahm Emanuel has sided with Northwestern and demolition. So that does it. I will give the Mayor $5 for every job created on that site prior to his next election, not including demolition and landscaping.