Saturday, January 30, 2010

Volunteers needed at the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

Join the Wright Team
Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust seeks Volunteers for Wright’s Robie House and Home and Studio

(Oak Park, IL) – The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust is seeking volunteers to assist at both Wright’s Robie House in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park. A two week spring volunteer training session at Robie House begins February 23 and at the Home and Studio March 9. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Preservation Trust before the two week training begins.

Volunteers enjoy membership benefits, invitations to exclusive events such as excursions to art and architectural attractions and exclusive educational opportunities like architectural-based lectures, a monthly newsletter and discounts in the museum shops. Wright’s Robie House and the Home and Studio offer docents a fascinating and rewarding environment where they can develop new skills and create great new friendships.

Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust by February 15 to receive pre-course materials. For more information about the Trust, the museums sites and volunteer opportunities please visit or call 708.725.3818.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Architecture for Humanity - Chicago Competition: Street Furniture

The Chicago Chapter of Architecture for Humanity is happy to announce a public competition to design street furniture!

The Problem:
The fabric of any city has underutilized and neglected spaces. These vacant pieces of the city are often intended for development at some point in the future but currently sit empty and unused. Left unattended, they can become dangerous and unwelcoming areas along the streetscape. Through small acts of community we can repurpose these empty spaces and imagine for ourselves a better streetscape.

The Challenge:
Design one or more pieces of "street furniture" that can be easily distributed to vacant sites and parks throughout the city for two months during the summer. Your goal: to initiate a dialogue about how we use our space and encourage community participation in the decisions that affect our civic life. As such, these installations are intended to be temporary and inexpensive. Designers should consider what will happen to the materials at the end of the two month time period.

Designs will be due no later than 5p, Friday, February 26th via email to
Winners, decided by a jury, will be announced at the March chapter meeting (Tuesday, March 16th, 6:30p). Winning designers will have at least one piece (potentially more) of their street furniture built and distributed to a park space in the spring for a period of two months. Best of luck to any of you who are interested! If you have questions, please direct them to Kathryn McRay or Laura Bowe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

AIA Chicago Chapter Bridge Program Comes to a Close

I wrote briefly of the Bridge Program in the past but haven't elaborated on it much. The intent was to pair Fellows of the AIA with emerging professionals to provide valuable mentorship. Upon its conception the mission was extended to include a community outreach project.

The bucolic setting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Frank J. Baker House.

Last Sunday the mentors and mentees were graciously invited by Walter Sobel, FAIA to his Frank Lloyd Wright designed Frank J. Baker house in Winnetka. Mr. Sobel, now in his 90's (this blog reported him to be 95 in 2008, although he doesn't look a day over 88 to me) shared some of his stories with us too. Aside from some physical ailments — he used a walker to get around — he seemed to be in good health with his mental faculties in check. Which lead me to thinking we ought to have a system in place to keep retired architects engaged with the profession. Here's a guy with 70-plus years of experience and no outlet for sharing them.

Note the bare essentials in the foreground.

Which brings me back to the bridge program. Over the last several months we mentees have been narrowing down and refining our ideas for what our community outreach project will be. The mentors dropped in from time-to-time to mingle and offer input. In the end we presented two proposals to the AIA Board of Directors who then agreed to foot the bill for us to attend the AIA Holiday Party.

The Mentor Mentee Mingle

The two programs we decided upon are a Community Interface Committee (CIC) and a group dedicated to working with a local church on a structure to support their efforts in urban farming. Here is the mission statement for the CIC:
The Community Interface Committee is dedicated to increasing the visibility and participation of architects within community groups and non-profit organizations.
The Committee will act as:
1. A network and forum for exchange of knowledge related to public interest work.
2. A point of contact for community groups and non profit groups that seek solutions.
3. A liaison between the AIA and established pro-bono design groups
4. Support for architects’ involvement in civic activities
And an interesting Matrix comparing the proposed services with those provided by local and national for-profit and not-for profit entities:

The inaugural meeting for the CIC will be on Feb. 23rd at the chapter offices of AIA Chicago. I'll keep you posted on the urban farming structure project.

So while those programs continue and carry on the legacy of the Bridge Program, it officially came to a close with the reception at Mr. Sobel's house. It was great to have some of the mentors out including Steve Burns, Dirk Lohan, Tod Desmarais, Peter Exley and his wife Sharon, Louis Garapolo, John Nelson, Jack Train, Dan Wheeler and AIA Chicago Chapter President Walter Street and AIA Illinois Delegate Laura Fisher.

Story time with host Walter Sobel, FAIA.

My thanks to the Sobels, the mentors that dedicated their time throughout the Program and attended the reception, and the AIA Chicago Chapter for taking on the initiative, lead by Matt Dumich, Mark Schwamel and Brett Taylor. It sounds like the Program has gotten other chapters to take notice.

Wright's typical Cathedral-like spaces following a low-ceiling entrance.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Help Haiti

One morning, years ago, I was lying in bed in-between that time when you wake up and that time when you actually get up. As I lied there, I heard what sounded like a vehicle approaching. It got closer and closer and changed from a humming noise that a car would make to that of a truck. As it got louder, the windows began to rattle like an old, single-pane bay window would when a truck drives by (I used to live on a quite street in a small town). The sound went from that similar to a truck engine and rumbling to that of a train that seemed as if it was going to ride right through the room where I was sleeping.

I had always thought of an earthquake as moving the ground underneath oneself in a side-to-side motion. Instead, it took the bed I was lying in and threw it in the air over and over again until it was over, and just as quickly roared away. It lasted only a few seconds, but it felt much longer. Luckily, everyone was okay and there was little damage to buildings.

That earthquake registered a 4.2 and I can't imagine experiencing the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that has devastated Haiti. As a reminder, the earthquake that rocked Haiti was one thousand times stronger than the one I experienced.

There has been plenty of response from the architectural community. I had thought there wouldn't be much immediate need for our services until the debris was cleared. However, in speaking with Walter Street, President of the Chicago Chapter AIA, there are opportunities to get involved in very early preliminary planning process. He recommended clicking the banner on AIA National's website.

Other responses, to name a few, include those from Architecture for Humanity, Article 25, and Emergency Architects Australia, who says its Canadian arm of the charity has an extensive relationship with Haiti and is mobilizing its efforts.

Not an architect or can't contribute services or labor, you can donate funds to Architecture for Humanity's Haitian relief effort, 10% of the proceeds for the Chicago Chapter's fundraiser tomorrow are going toward that same fund. You may also donate to the Red Cross, as recommended by many, including the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Architecture for Humanity - Chicago Holiday Hangover Fundraiser and Party

From Architecture for Humanity:

Architecture for Humanity - Chicago's first annual holiday fundraiser and party is tomorrow, today is the last day to RSVP and secure your tickets early!

We are pleased to invite you to celebrate the past two years of work we've accomplished as a chapter and to usher in an exciting new year. We will have images of past projects, food and beverages, a silent auction (cash or check only!), and we will be on hand to talk about all of the interesting projects coming up in 2010. Included in the nights events will be the launch of our new logo, the result of this past fall's public competition! If you have a colleague or friend who would be interested in joining the AfH - Chicago chapter or wants to learn more about the types of projects that we work on please invite them to join us at the Holiday Hangover party on January 19th.

When: Tuesday, January 19th 6-9p
Where: Steelcase Showroom, Merchandise Mart - Suite 300

Tickets are $25 before the event and $35 at the door. All proceeds will fund upcoming projects in 2010, 10% of which will be directed to efforts in rebuilding Haiti!

Please RSVP.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Greenbuild Call for Proposals

Greenbuild's International Conference and Expo will be in Chicago this year in November but their call for proposals are due this Friday, Jan. 15th. Here is a link to videos of past presenters.

Monday, January 11, 2010

AIA Associate News Article

The AIA Associate News has posted an article I was asked to write for them here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Saturdays in the Studio - Portfolio Workshop

The next workshop will take place at Harold Washington College and will concentrate on mentoring high school students through graphic design basics, Photoshop and Illustrator. Please contact Krisann with your interest.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rebuilding Together: Bodies Needed

Home previews in Chicago are complete but more needs to be done in Berwyn. If you want to get involved but transportation is an issue, speak up. The people at Rebuilding Together are always willing to accommodate. Bodies are needed for the following Saturdays:

Jan. 9th
Jan. 16th
Jan. 23rd
As usual, contact Andrea Fritsch.