Sharp Building 2009

December 26, 2009 Chicago Buildings, Interpretation Comments (2) 2201

Most people think of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as the institution that resided above and below the museum it gave birth to over a century ago. Yet for over 30 years the school has had its own building and in the last 20 years the School has grown even more, filling five different buildings in the Loop and occupying space in even more.
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Roger Brown Study Collection

December 15, 2009 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Interpretation, Vision and Style Comments (1) 1908

I have blogged several times about Hull House and its approaches to interpretation of historic sites – in fact, “Hull House Again” is my most-visited blog post. I have also blogged about the Gaylord Building on several occasions, where I served as Chair of the Site Council for six years. Another role of mine this decade has been as a member of the Roger Brown Study Collection Steering Committee, involved in the preservation, interpretation and educational implementation of the property and collection at 1926 N. Halsted in Chicago. Continue Reading

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Making the past visible

February 11, 2009 Chicago Buildings, Interpretation Comments (0) 1152

My Research Studio class is looking at historic sites and how we mark them. This has been an interest of mine over the last decade, brought on by my experiences writing tour guides, being a tour guide and most of all, trying to explain the history of place to people. My graduate seminar is looking at the same issue, and I will report on that later this semester, but yesterday my First Year students and I took a tour of Lincoln Park and found lots of signs worth looking at, including a new project by Pamela Bannos called “Hidden Truths” which focuses on the fact that the southernmost 60 acres or so of Lincoln Park was once the city cemetery. Continue Reading

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what’s going on

September 13, 2008 Chicago Buildings, Interpretation Comments (0) 1102

busy busy September. I had the honor of being one of the four keynote speakers at the Know Your Chicago Symposium on Wednesday and had the opportunity to discuss the history and future of historic preservation in Chicago before a large and appreciative audience. Next week is the Traditional Building Show and the History of Chicago Preservation Symposium on Saturday and the following week I have two tours to LaSalle, a Gaylord Building meeting and a speech for a preservation conference out in Wayne, Illinois. Right now I am out in Oxbow with my first year class and it has been raining all day, the distant northern edge of the hurricane hitting Texas. Actually the rain just stopped.

This week, my First Year Program Residential College Research Studio I class, which I call If These Streets Could Talk, took a walk through the Loop in the morning, visiting the pedway and the Field Building and the Miro and the Federal Plaza farmer’s market and then we had our orientation to the Burnham and Ryerson library. After lunch we walked west on Randolph to the Haymarket, to visit the statue put there in 2004 to commemorate the Haymarket Tragedy, which was once known at the Haymarket Riot, an 1886 clash between anarchist labor leaders and police that led to a trial where several anarchists were convicted based on their beliefs not their actions. Continue Reading

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Three Years

August 30, 2008 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1110

For the first time in almost four years I am teaching a Research Studio in the First Year Program at the School called If These Streets Could Talk where we deal with history in the streets. We did a mini-tour during orientation Monday along the Chicago River, which is overloaded with plaques and historical markers and such. We saw the Chicago Vietnam memorial, which follows the nearly obligatory black-slab-incised-with-names format established by Maya Lin with her epochal memorial on the Mall in Washington. This design has not only been copied in nearly every city, state and county in the nation, it has also impacted memorials to other conflicts. Funny thing is that I can remember when the design was so controversial and reviled that they had to add a realistic figure sculpture of soldiers in Vietnam to the memorial, and then another. People couldn’t get past the typical narrative sculpture, the general on the horse or whatever. But then the reality of the place sunk in much as the design sinks into the Mall, an amazing, haptic experience of the nation’s most visible wound. For two decades it has basically been the best, most beloved, most interactive war memorial ever. Continue Reading

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The Michael Phelps of Preservation

August 14, 2008 Chicago Buildings, Vision and Style Comments (0) 1208

Charlie Pipal, architect and preservationist and tour guide, has done it again and I told him he was like Michael Phelps. Only instead of collecting Olympic medals in swimming, Charlie collects Charles Peterson prizes, the nation’s big award for measured drawings of historic buildings. Charlie correctly notes that it is the students who deserve the honors, since they did the drawing. But he has brought home five of these babies in eight years of teaching, so no matter how you slice it, he has it going on.

The award also makes me look good because it brings honor (and cash) to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Program. This year we got Third Prize for drawings of the Greenstone Church in Pullman, the project of the Fall 2007 Physical Documentation class. Kudos to: Shannon Berner, Christine Bernick, Vicki Birenberg, Katy Gallagher, Jennifer Harrman, Katie McManus, Mary Ottoson, Amy Porter, Molly Sargent, Emily Spreng, Sherine Sublette and Nivine Tawancy! Charlie taught an extra HABS documentation class this year based (for the first time) entirely in CAD, and did the incomparable Chicago Athletic Association building. Kudos to: Weston Davey, Mary Ottoson, Mira Patel, Jennifer Reep, Benjamin Roberts, Molly Sargent, Nicole Seguin, Nicola Spasoff, Emily Spreng and Rebecca Young. We got an Honorable Mention for that, equaling the award Charlie’s classes secured in 2006, 2003 and 2004. Here is a photo of the students and Charlie receiving last year’s honor from Walker Johnson, FAIA. Continue Reading

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January 4, 2008 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Vision and Style Comments (0) 2025

What will 2008 bring for preservation? More nasty facade projects? Fewer teardowns thanks to the meltdown of the housing market? I welcome your input and will share with you the SAIC HPRES plans for 2008, which are shaping up:

First, I am off to India along with some of our other faculty for a preservation (building conservation) conference in Ahmedabad in two weeks – less than two weeks actually. I will give a keynote on Preservation in the U.S. and present case studies of green preservation (River Forest Women’s Club) and design issues (Milton Historical Society).

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance and a number of organizations are planning events, including the exciting new exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, curated by SAIC alum Kate Keleman called Do We Dare Squander Chicago’s Great Architectural Heritage? I am also moderating a panel of community preservationists in April on the subject, and we just started talking about a symposium in September on the history of preservation in Chicago. The City will kick off with some lectures this Spring, including a big name (pending) in May for Great Places and Spaces. Continue Reading

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SAIC MSHP Faculty In The News

October 25, 2007 Blog Comments (0) 1070

Well, Charlie Pipal our redoubtable Professor of Physical Documentation (that is not an official title but an earned one) has just returned from New Orleans where he picked up SAIC’s Honorable Mention for the Charles Peterson Prize, the nation’s award for best measured drawings. This is the third (!) time one of Charlie’s classes has won this award in seven tries, in competition against the nation’s top architectural schools.

Neal Vogel, our intrepid faculty member who brings students to real job sites and shows them how restoration REALLY happens, is on the cover of the Your Place section of the Tribune today, in the midst of a wonderfully refreshing Mary Beth Klatt article on restoring old windows. Neal is prominent in the feature, which for a change presents window restoration in a positive light, giving the lie to the new window industry marketing hype, Which. Is. All. Crap.

More news will be coming soon as we are gathering together a newsletter for mailing this semester. I’ve added Lee Bey’s link (his photography rocks) on the right, and of course you should join Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust (also at right). And the comments feature is working again – spam and all.

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House Interventions

October 8, 2006 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Interpretation Comments (0) 1352

Friday night I went to see Rebecca Keller’s installation at the Glessner House on Prairie Avenue. The H.H. Richardson masterpiece is considered the progenitor of the modern house, and the interior features furnishings and art – 80% of which the Glessner’s actually had in the house. This makes it a step above the average house museum, which has “period” furnishings and is sort of an artificial time capsule.

Glessner House is a real time capsule, but that is also problematic, as Keller’s installation shows. She specifically attacked the idea of domestic service that made large 19th century houses practical, and also the issues of immmigration and gender, since most of the house servants were “Bridgets” – young Irish women. Continue Reading

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Going Gothic?

September 1, 2005 Vision and Style Comments Off on Going Gothic? 1198

Several alert historic preservation alumni sent me this clipping a couple of weeks ago. Turns out the house that Grant Wood used in his famous painting “American Gothic” is threatened with demolition, according to Harry Mount, a writer in Eldon. Not only is the little white cottage with the big Gothic window is empty, boarded-up, and being offered by the State Historical Society for $250 a month, but there is little interest. One neighbor wanted to tear it down in the 1960s but balked at the $200 purchase price. Continue Reading

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