Monday, August 31, 2009

Pecha Kucha Chicago - Tomorrow!

What?!! September already?! Start it off (or end summer) with a bang.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 1st, I'll be presenting at the 11th installment of the Chicago Pecha Kucha Night. The other presenters and the batting order have been established and can be found on the website. As a reminder, the chances of it selling out are pretty good. 21 and over, doors at 6pm, show at 8:20pm. Buy tickets in advance or at the door. See you there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rebuilding Together This Saturday

From Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago:

Please join us at the Park National Bank at 11 W. Madison St. in Oak Park at 8:30 am this Saturday morning, August 29th.

Driving Directions: The bank is easily accessible by exiting I-290 at Austin Blvd (Exit 23A). Travel north 5 blocks and turn Left on Madison Ave. The bank and parking lot are on the south side of the street. (Please park in the gravel lot near the bank, not the paved lot). We will be meeting on the 2nd floor.

Public Transit Direction: Take the Green Line to the Austin stop. We will be happy to arrange to pick you up from the train. Please let me know if you would like a ride.
Let me know if you will not be bringing a vehicle so I can make sure each team has a car.

If you are new to house selection or would like a refresher, take a look at our new training presentations attached. There is one presentation for skilled volunteers who will be reviewing repairs (workscope training) and one presentation for volunteers who will be interviewing the homeowner and checking documents (interviewer training).

Please contact Andrea, if you would like to sign up for this Saturday or any other upcoming Saturdays

Andrea Fritsch
Program Manager
Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago
PO Box 641250, Chicago, IL 60664
P: (312)201-1188
F: (312)977-3805

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night Chicago Volume 11

Next Tuesday, September 1st, I'll be presenting at the 11th installment of the Chicago Pecha Kucha Night. I'll be talking about, what else, my blog and volunteering in Chicago in an architectural capacity. It hasn't been at its usual venue, Martyrs', for some time so the chances of it selling out are pretty good. 21 and over, doors at 6pm, show at 8:20pm. Buy tickets in advance or at the door. See you there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Legends South: The Results

A cook-out after party. Announcements are being made in the background honoring all of the volunteers.

Remember when I posted about the
Legends South Design Charette I attended back in July? The wrap-up party was last week and I had the opportunity to check out the new digs.

The barbeque zone.

This in-laid tile was just one of the details I was pleasantly surprised to find.

This was the first time I had seen the results of a charette I was a part of with Archi-teasures and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the quality impressive but many of the things we had discussed at the charette were implemented here at the site.

The adults hang-out on the west open area, the kids on the east.

Here's a quick run-down of the site: there are several apartment buildings arranged around a parking lot. The lot had an open green space on each side. Young children would play on one side and older kids would hang-out on the other. When people barbequed and hung-out, there would be nowhere to sit so they would sit on the steps of the back porches. This made it difficult to get down and out the back, especially as one of my team members described, while trying to get out with a bicycle.

The table and benches in the foreground are made of concrete in-laid with ceramic tile. They sit on substantial steel legs.

So a couple of tables of teams at the charette focused on the same site and proposed some of the same solutions. Permanent barbeques were installed on a concrete slab. Permanent tables and benches were also installed. On the other side a sort of playground was set-up consisting of a concrete water monster, stainless steel tusks and benches sized for children.

The childrens' side includes a concrete water monster, benches and a stainless steel tusk.

This development is on the former site of some of the infamous Robert Taylor Homes. So far it looks like a great improvement. I saw a wonderful sense of community and neighbor involvement.

Monkeying around on a stainless steel tusk.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's Better Than the Chicago Air and Water Show?

The week-long practice session leading up to it. Don't beleive me? Try being on the 40th floor of an office building when an F-16 flashes her underbelly at you a hundred yards out. Imagine being in an urban area as dense as the Loop with fighter jets weaving in and out between buildings. The show is this weekend, but for me the preview is the real show.

GCC Arrives at Critical Community Meeting

Michael Reese Hospital addressed by committee "ad nauseam".

Words spoken by the moderator of the community meeting last night. While many questions were asked about preserving MRH, they received the same response, "we have committed to preserving the only landmarked building on the site" built in 1909 and not a Gropius. Which is why the questions were asked more than once.

Lots of haters, few supports, all had their own agenda.

Frustrating as it was, the Gropius in Chicago Coalition was offered a private audience by the committee at which time it broke up into several groups where GCC members peppered them with questions. I could only be in one discussion at a time, that helmed by Cassandra Francis of Chicago 2016.

She was well-spoken and seemingly well-informed. She insisted the Olympic Village is already crammed onto the site and no space could possibly be given up for any reason. She said she has met with the top architecture and preservation firms in the city on the matter and not one has said the buildings are worth saving nor that it would be possible to share the site between the Olympic Village and any potential Gropius buildings. We were told she met with 3 firms today on the subject and came to the same conclusion and says she asked them if they could be quoted but was refused permission.

Grahm Balkhany disagrees with Chicago 2016's assessment:

... which is common lip service in this matter. They are proposing 21 identical 12 story buildings on parking podia, all crammed onto the south portion of the site. How is this good site or neighborhood planning?

Mr. Balkhany claims the IOC is flexible in its requirements and Chicago 2016 is simply showing them what it wants with the intent of modifying it once the bid is awarded. These claims counter those of Ms. Francis who insisted the IOC requirements are stringent and that the Olympic Village as it is planned now only just meets those requirements.

One of Mr. Balkhany's chief criticisms is the 12 story height limit and suggests that limit may be malleable. Increasing the heights of some of the buildings would free up land for the Gropius buildings to remain, not to mention improve views to the lake making these post Olympics market-rate apartments more marketable.

Mr. Balkhany is also peeved at the parking podiums being proposed, likening them to the parking podium blight of River North. He claims other architects have proposals in the works but he too has been sworn to secrecy. I'm not sure what all the covertness is about but he suggests Ms. Francis is open to reviewing these proposals.

They better hurry and get them to her, demolition has begun and time is running out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Volunteers needed at Wright’s Home and Studio and Robie House

From the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust:

Volunteer at the remarkable Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park or at Wright’s icon of modern architecture, Robie House, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Photo courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

Fall volunteer training at the Home and Studio begins Tuesday, September 15 and at Wright’s Robie House Tuesday, October 6. Volunteers enjoy membership benefits, invitations to special events, educational opportunities and great new friendships. Volunteering at our world-class museum sites is a fascinating and rewarding experience as our volunteers explore widespread interests and develop new skills.

Photo by Don Kalec

Support an appreciation of architecture, design and the legacy of Wright while engaging in educational and aesthetic experiences with people from around the world. Visit or call 708.848.1976 for more information.

In College, I held a stint working for the Facilities Manager of the Architecture Department. The school owned the Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, MI and we were responsible for some minor maintenance and setup and breakdown of events and studios they would hold there.

It was in a beautiful setting, a creek had run through the site and under part of the building. It had been dry for some time as the adjacent area was built up. What was interesting to me was the living quarters looked out onto the creek. This valued view was in contrast to the tight quarters and extremely narrow and low corridor leading to it which also contained pipes and conduit. You had to access this corridor through a tight winding stair and I remember one day seeing a tuft of hair embedded in some of the detailing that was projecting out in the Wrightian style; someone had hit their head and it looked very painful.

Don't let this deter you,
volunteer today!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rebuilding Together Volunteer Opportunity

A call for volunteers from Rebuilding Together:

We are pleased to announce the new neighborhood for National Rebuilding Day 2010 has arrived along with the hot weather!

This year's House Selection will begin on Saturday, August 22nd in a section of the North Austin neighborhood. Identifying homes that are appropriate for our program is a very important step in making National Rebuilding Day a success. We would greatly appreciate your help this year interviewing potential applicants and assessing the repairs needed at each home.

Previews take place on Saturday mornings from 8:30 am to noon. We meet at the Park National Bank at 11 W. Madison St. in Oak Park (accessible by car and Green Line train).
Please use the links below to sign-up on-line or email me the dates you would like to participate!

Returning House Selection Volunteer Sign-up

New House Selection Volunteer Sign-up

If you have not volunteered for house selection before and would like more information please contact
Andrea. The county neighborhood has not yet been determined. We hope to announce the neighborhood in a few weeks.

Save Walter Gropius

The Gropius in Chicago Coalition needs more bodies. Tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 11th at 6pm, the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee is hosting a community meeting at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Avenue. The GCC indicates this may be the last opportunity to voice concern over the demolition of Michael Reese Hospital in a forum within that community.

A recent discovery made by Grahm Balkany indicates Gropius acted as a design architect to at least 8 of the 29 buildings on the 37 acre MRH site as well as the master plan. The design decisions were given to local architects of record to be drawn up while Gropius remained on board to ensure the designs maintained their original integrity. Gropius' involvement with MRH has rarely been documented and he has no other projects in Illinois.

Unfortunately, the site is slated for demolition to make way for the Olympic Village. The demolition contract was awarded several months ago and demolition of the landscaping has begun.

Gropius founded the Bauhaus school and worked under Peter Behrens with fellow colleagues Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. He was Chairman of the Architecture Department at Harvard University until he retired from the position in 1952.

To voice your concern that an architectural legacy will be erased forever,
show up.