Posts Tagged ‘Society of Architectural Historians’

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:

Stunning.
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 http://jsah.ucpress.jstor.org.
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.

Sincerely,

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.

 

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SAH in Chicago!

April 19, 2010

Well, it is finally here after years of planning. The Society of Architectural Historians, an international organization promoting the study of the built environment, is having its 63rd Annual Meeting in Chicago this week. I have the honor of being Local Chair and I am excited to welcome so many friends and colleagues to a city whose architecture has always been central to its identity.

Over 500 architectural historians from everywhere will be here, and many are taking tours of every kind of local landmark from the Gold Coast to the Farnsworth House; from Oak Park to Hyde Park; from the Reliance and Rookery and Marquette and Monadbock Buildings of the Loop to the grand mansions of the North Shore. I have Terry Tatum to thank for coordinating a dizzing array of tours led by local experts, and Sally Kalmbach for coordinating a medium-sized army of volunteers manning all of the scholarly paper sessions on Thursday through Saturday, as well as tours and special events. THANK YOU!

We kick it off with two all-day symposia on Wednesday – one on Historic Preservation, coordinated by Jim Peters of Landmarks Illinois and featuring the challenging topic of preserving public housing, including discussion of our efforts to create a public housing museum in Chicago. The other symposia focuses on landscape architecture and the direction of scholarship in this growing field. Wednesday evening one of my mentors, Robert Bruegmann, opens the conference with “Chicago: First City of American Architecture” although I can almost guarantee the talk itself will dissect that title.

The sessions proper kick off on Thursday with topics ranging from sustainabilities and superblocks to ancient Rome and Gothic in Latin America. Thursday evening we have the awards ceremony and a presentation by Alice Friedman, and Friday and Saturday morning we have more sessions, following by a day and a half of tours. Saturday night we are having a large benefit in the Gold Coast and the whole affair promises to be a whirlwind, especially for us locals pulled in a hundred directions. I presented a paper on Barry Byrne at the SAH Conference in Richmond, Virginia in 2002 and absolutely loved the event – took a fantastic tour of modernism and the recent past, saw the Jeffersonian rigour of the state capitol and the Victorian industry of Shockoe Slip, so this is a great honor to be welcoming the same scholarly crowd to the city I have never left.

APRIL 21 UPDATE:

Opening Day at SAH went well – saw my dear friends, session chairs from the panel I was on in ’02- Victoria Young and Christine Madrid French. Jim Peters set up a FANTASTIC Historic Preservation colloquium with three excellent speakers on the preservation of public housing. Elizabeth Milnarik gave a nicely illustrated, reasonably detailed history of public housing in America and Europe. Europe, never uncomfortable with the concept of a public realm, leapt into public housing after World War I, whereas America was still in the “philanthropy plus 5 percent” mode whereby a few wealthy individuals like Julius Rosenwald and Marshall Field created affordable housing via a limited profit private market.

Even in the great government era of the New Deal, Harold Ickes did not propose government built housing right away but eventually it happened – a series of low-rise projects that in many ways thrived for much longer than the 1950s-1960s segregated highrises we all remember. Mike Jackson spoke about preservation of public housing, including an award-winning 2006 project in Danville, IL that used the preservation tax credits AND secured LEED Gold status. He also noted – check this out – that ONE-QUARTER of the preservation tax credit projects in Illinois involve affordable housing. TAKE THAT, all you “either-or” folks. Finally, Sunny Fischer led her discussion of the National Public Housing Museum she has been spearheading with moving tales of her own – largely positive – experiences growing up in public housing in New York. She said the message she received as a child was simple: “my city, my government wanted us to make it.”

The public housing museum has an exhibit in the Merchandise Mart you can see right now. The Colloquium was followed by a tour of several sites, including the museum’s future home on Taylor Street in a one of the Jane Addams Homes built by the fed 70 years ago; the still-to-be-redeveloped and hopefully preserved Lathrop Homes, and several other sites.

The evening featured a very entertaining business meeting and powerpoint on SAH achievements by President Dietrich Neumann, and of course Bob Bruegmann, who asked whether Chicago was the first city of architecture and detailed a great variety of publications about Chicago architecture over the last century, giving us a nuanced picture of Chicago’s dominant narrative; its counter-narratives, and even its ongoing practice, that like all “Facts” serves narratives, counternarratives, ideologues and iconoclasts equally. Then he left it for us to decide whether Chicago really was the first city of architecture, but in a sense it was clear from the list that this is a city that tells itself stories about its architecture and has done so for at least four generations, embedding the concept of architectural distinction in its civic character. Whether Chicago is the first city of architecture may not be determinable, but it is a certainty that the first thing Chicago does is tell the world and itself about its architecture, and these narratives counter or canonical, have brought architects here to practice from all over the world for over a century. And this week they bring over 500 architectural historians.

September 25 UPDATE

And now it is finally over. Other highlights from SAH: Thursday night’s plenary speech by Alice Friedman at the Murphy Auditorium, which deftly combined the evolution of the discipline with her own pathbreaking investigations into the gendered nature of architecture and remained a rousing paean within and without that most deserving critique. I got to see far fewer paper sessions than I wanted, but each left me wanting more: I loved the discussion following “Counter-Histories of Sustainability” on Thursday, which revisited the 1960s and 1970s attempts at systems-based architecture, but goshdarnit aesthetics always creeps in. It seems every attempt at modernity and the discarding of traditional aesthetics ends up becoming aesthetic – or does it? It did strike me that the 1970s anti-aesthetic architectural ecologists were at least concerned with process and results: something the product-based LEED system may never get too. It was also fitting that the discussion was taking place more or less on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Saturday I was focused on getting the tours up and out, with some glitches but the weather could have been worse. Saturday night was the SAH benefit, honoring the Chicago 7 – those 1970s rebels who upturned the Modernist Miesian apple cart – and Chicago Women in Architecture. It was a fantastic event in the Merchandise Mart, and I got to chat with many great Chicago architectural and preservation people, including the incomparable John Bryan, who so graciously endowed the Chair I hold, Gunny Harboe, Jim Peters and David Bahlman, who made the trip from his new digs in Connecticut. Geoffrey Baer of Channel 11 was the MC and gave me a very kind shout-out during the proceedings. We shuttled some more tours off this morning and I met one of them to tour the River Forest Women’s Club this afternoon, that stellar story of a 10 Most Endangered (2005) building that within three years became the Preservation Project of the Year (2008) thanks to Paul and Ellen Coffey. They met all of the preservation standards in spades, and made it more environmentally friendly as well, putting in a geothermal system and cutting its heating costs by four-fifths. Preservation is Sustainability. And it often looks pretty darn good.