Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Goff’

Iannelli Studio, Park Ridge

December 29, 2010

There is a movement afoot to try and save the Alfonso Iannelli studio in Park Ridge. This blog covered the unfortunate demolition of one of the five Cedar Court houses designed in 1923 by Barry Byrne and Alfonso Iannelli in the suburb where Iannelli lived and worked for 50 years. His work with Byrne alone is phenomenal – I have just published an article in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians “Barry Byrne: Expressing the Modern” which details the highlights of their half-century partnership and details their 1924 visit to the modernists of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Here is one of the Felicity Rich photos from the article:

That is the John F. Kenna Apartments, a Chicago Landmark built in 1916. Yes, that’s right, 1916. This work anticipates the International Style a decade before it begins, as the inimitable Sam Guard told me more than once. Mostly they are known for their work on Catholic churches, like Christ the King in Cork, Ireland (1928-31), the only Prairie School building ever built in Europe. Another Felicity Rich photo:

The issue in Park Ridge now is the altered studio buildings Iannelli worked in, buildings that housed such incredible designers as Annette Cremin (Byrne), Edgar Miller (subject of a great new book by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams), Bruce Goff, Ruth Blackwell, Margaret Iannelli, and many more. The story is best told by those closest to it in this blog.
Park Ridge, like River Forest, is feeling the effects of not having a strong landmarks protection policy, and this issue adds to the weight of those irrevocable decisions which may lead to the creation of same. Here’s hoping.

Thanks to Pauline Saliga at Society of Architectural Historians for providing the link to my current article on Byrne and Iannelli in JSAH online!

JANUARY 22 UPDATE: Here is the letter I sent to the planners in Park Ridge opposing the zoning change, which is likely to be decided in early February:

I am writing in opposition to the proposed zoning (Map Amendment)change from B-1 to R-4 at this property being presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission this February. This change would allow for the demolition of the Iannelli Studios and the construction of multi-family residences.
Alfonso Iannelli’s contributions to Chicago from the Century of Progress through the Prudential Building make this site worth saving, but the story is much larger. The Iannelli Studios have cultural and historical significance that reaches worldwide.
I recently wrote an article on the 1924 trip to Europe undertaken by Alfonso Iannelli and his architect collaborator Barry Byrne. An on-line version of my article is available for free for a short time at
During that trip, Iannelli and Byrne developed lasting connections to the most important modernist artists and architects in Europe. If you do research at the Netherlands Architectural Institute in Rotterdam, or the Bauhaus Archiv in Germany, you find reference to Park Ridge, Illinois in the form of letters to and from the Iannelli Studios throughout the 1920s. There are few sites in Park Ridge that have this level of international significance,
Nationally, the Iannelli Studios hosted such important artists as Edgar Miller, Bruce Goff, John Lloyd Wright, Ruth Blackwell, R. Harold Zook, Annette Cremin Byrne, Oliver Rush and many others. I have lectured on Byrne and Iannelli’s important church designs in Racine, Kansas City, Tulsa and many other locations over the last decade. A revolution in the decorative and liturgical arts took place at this location, and despite some alteration over time, it retains this significance and grants Park Ridge a rare level of historic and cultural importance.


Vincent L. Michael, PhD


SIX YEARS LATER:  The Studios are preserved an a wonderful addition to Park Ridge.  They have Edgar Miller’s Madonna statue that Iannelli designed and once stood atop the doorway at Byrne’s 1919 Immaculata High School in Chicago.  I was there Sunday for Ricbard Cahan’s talk about his new Louis Sullivan book.




October 29, 2008

This isn’t Larry Clark’s Tulsa, although the few denizens of the windswept downtown recall the subjects of that epochal photography book. This is the Tulsa of historic preservationists and architectural historians, and five days there produced a herd of precious insights, small delights and the occasional belly laugh. It was here we had the National Preservation Conference and it was here we sampled the felicities of architectural child prodigy Bruce Goff and I praised the preservation of Barry Byrne’s Christ the King church which had an integrity and vibrancy exceeding most of the sites I saw. We danced to Asleep At The Wheel, as some Oklahoman was when they named a chain of gas station mini-marts “Kum ‘n Go.”

Again I got to join the Saturday architectural excursion with the cool kids – Brad White, Will Tippens, Shannon Wasielewski, Jack Rubens – who have allowed me to come along on their Saturday excursios before – notably 2006 to Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater. This time we had Joel Burns(Fort Worth), Dan Everhart(Boise), and Rob Saarnio(Hawaii). Rob has been on other trips and Joel may have too – I missed last year’s adventure across the Wisconsin border to score cheese curds. Our secret ingredient this year was Sam’s List – a list prepared by Sam Guard, one of Chicago’s best-kept architectural secrets and a friend for the last decade or so. Bartlesville became more than Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower (although that alone is worth the trip) with Sam’s list.

We saw the 1961 Frischette House, an in-line ranch by Goff that Sam had ranked the highest, with a roof ridge skylight running the length of the house from the porte cochere to the two-level living room. The exterior is a series of blocks that suggest the rooms within and the owner described its tintinnabulations in thunderous weather she somehow let us in and somehow we went in.

We found a fabulous streamline Deco 1939 High School in Bartlesville, and Goff’s playful Play Tower.

The highlight was the “tree that escaped the forest,” the Price Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only highrise, half apartments and half office and the luxuriance of its detailing in both material (copper) and design (horizontal louvers for the residential side, vertical for the office) made it a wonder – the usuall cramped Wrightian spaces (especially the elevator) and the typical modernist disdain for client needs, but absolutely drop-dead gorgeous from the leaky butted glass corners to the triangular garbage cans and drain grates. This is a good building, and the planned Zaha Hadid addition is unnecessary (the intro video runs the animation fly-through three times too many.

We saw the Redeemer Lutheran Sunday School, bejeweled with sharp massive boulders of glass, cutworthy cullets that made it seem like a child’s art classroom project, but it has the repose of great architecture despite its frivolity because somehow Goff makes it sincere and engaging. Somehow. That is the word for Goff – somehow. You can’t make sense of it by describing it because only he could make sense of it by building it.

Encountering the Conner House in Dewey was like finding a Ferrari in a yard full of abandoned school buses – a regular town with regular, banal houses and then a shallow-peaked ranch composed of diamonds with massive beams extending over the driveway suspended from Goffian masts. Rolf told me today this building is for sale.

The day ended among the bison and bluestem of the Great Tallgrass Prairie and the complete but nearly empty historic town of Pawhuska. Physical pleasures may Kum-‘n-Go but architecture – thanks to preservation – is a lasting passion.