Friday, March 26, 2010

Irish American (Architect) Month

Not sure if you saw our St. Paddy's Day homage to James Hoban, the architect of The White House, but some astute readers of that article pointed out a few other Irish American architects of note.  Let's take a quick look at one:

Louis Henry Sullivan
Sullivan truly is a big name in the architecture world, as was pointed out by an Inside the Brackets reader on the Hoban article.  I think the reason he didn't pop up in my initial research is that he was born in America (not Ireland) of an Irish-born father and Swiss-born mother.  But, hey, that still counts as Irish in our book, especially in March.

Sullivan is considered to have invented the modern skyscraper, was a member of the First Chicago School, and left a tremendous architectural impact there and across the US.  His modernist, forward-looking ideals clashed with Daniel Burnham frequently and publicly, such as at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the most famous American (but not Irish) architect of the 20th Century, worked under Sullivan and was heavily influenced by him.  Interestingly, the end of Sullivan's career did not produce the fruits his earlier successes would imply.  Nevertheless, Louis Sullivan is a great Irish American architect.

Check out these pictures of the Carson Pirie Scott Building, a fine example of Sullivan's dazzling use of metal ornament.

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?
Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:
Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wrightwood Crossing Progress and Press

Wrightwood Crossing, a G.Corp Development project designed by [1016] Architecture recently appeared on McGraw Hill's Midwest Construction News page. This project is an example of sustainable infill development in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.

For full article with rendering image by Studio2a, click here.

Check out this video for a cold and windy walk-by video showing some construction progress.

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?
Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:
Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

Saturday, March 13, 2010

America's First "Green" House

By Presidential Proclamation 8479 , March is once again Irish-American Heritage Month. President Obama calls "...upon all Americans to observe this month by celebrating the contributions of Irish American[s] to our Nation with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Given [1016] Architecture's reasons for strong Irish pride (some percentage of actual bloodline, as well as a Notre Dame education), Inside the Brackets wants to fulfill its civic duty by focusing some attention on high-flying Irish-American Architects.

Drumroll, Please!
Admittedly, it took a bit of Google exploration to find a list of architects that could fit the bill, but Inside the Brackets is quite happy to re-remember this bit of Irish-American history.  Irish Architect James Hoban won the contest for the design of the White House (in 1792).

Okay, so this design award isn't exactly "current events," but I dare say you don't always read about the best designs in Arch Record (though, as of this writing, there is a feature of the restoration of beautiful Neues Museum on the homepage).

The Award
In a review process which may have seemed as arbitrary and brief as any experienced in architecture school, George Washington breezed into town on July 16, 1792 and selected Hoban's design for the new Presidential Mansion over several other competitors, including an anonymous submission by Andrew Jackson.

Modifications to the competition entry, shown right, were made, including those requested by Washington and repairs and additions after the 1815 fire.

All in all, Inside the Brackets thinks that the end result is something of which all Americans, Irish or not, can be proud.
The Result
Without Irish American James Hoban, you might not recognize any of these images:

Do our readers know of any other great Irish-American architects?

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?
Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:
Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

This Old House's Nod to Northwest Chicago

Northwest Chicago Neighborhood North Mayfair was recently selected by This Old House as one of the Top Ten "Old House" Neighborhoods in America. Called out specifically as one of the "Best Place for Bungalows and First-Time Buyers, parts of North Mayfair were recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Check out the full This Old House feature here.

If you are interested in fixer-upper opportunities in Chicago, or otherwise, check out these other Inside the Bracket articles.

What's it look like in North Mayfair?

Where is North Mayfair?

View Mayfair, IL 60630 in a larger map

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?

Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:

Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

Friday, March 12, 2010

[1016] Principal adds Property Management Credential

[1016] Principal Josh Canale has added the Certified Residential Property Management (CRPM) designation to his real estate credentials. This designation, awarded by Chicago Association of Realtors®, is the latest indication of [1016]'s continued effort to provide its clients architectural services backed by real estate market knowledge and practice.

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?

Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:

Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

Monday, March 8, 2010

Authentic Places Under Fire? What should be done?

Considering [1016] Architecture's motto "Improving within Authentic Environments," I was excited to learn of a new book, in the vein of Jane Jacobs, entitled Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. After all, the success of my small business depends, in part, on the awareness of and demand for authentic places.

I learned of the book in a recent radio interview (linked below) with Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City. For reasons stated above, I applaud her exploration and promotion of authenticity as an extremely desirable characteristic for neighborhoods, cities, etc.

Having come to this conclusion on my own, however, I was disappointed at the lack of hard conclusions drawn in the interview in regards to how ongoing development and revitalization should take place.

Skipping the debate over the definition of 'authentic,' it's easy to describe characteristics of existing authentic places, difficult to describe the forces that made them that way, and nearly impossible to outline a holistic framework for ensuring 1) authentic places stay that way, and 2) new places one day become authentic.

(Full disclosure: As of this date, I have not bought nor read "Naked City" but I plan to do so... perhaps the author's goal of an ambiguous interview?)

The underlying idea presented is that authenticity is good, cool, and desirable, but is also fleeting. For the first three reasons, gentrifiers seek out authentic environments to call their own, change them to meet their needs, and in the process destroy them by displacing what made the neighborhood authentic in the first place ("the contradiction" mentioned below).

In other words, people of a certain demographic, with the most important unifying factor being economic status, discover an interesting neighborhood and label it "hot," which prompts profit-seeking developers and corporations to re-purpose portions of the area to meet the demand$ and expectation$ of the newcomers. The investment necessarily raises prices and reduces diversity.

Like a never ending game of cat chasing mouse: gentrifiers pursue authenticity.

Let us sensibly assume that in pursuit of their ambitions, people (gentrifiers or not) will necessarily continue to reshape the built environment. Further, that authentic areas will continue to be desirable and subject to those changes. So, what's the best way to proceed?

Preserve it and control it?
In the clip below, Ms. Zukin offers government "protection," zoning requirements, and laws to "even the playing field" as mechanisms to shield authenticity from gentrification and to preserve the "right" of people to live in a certain neighborhoods without getting into specifics about how it is done.

While Inside the Brackets certainly agrees that authenticity is to be highly regarded, legislation protecting it necessarily creates winners and losers, thus rendering the playing field tilted regardless. Property ownership and tenancy carry with them many rights defined by law and contracts, however, the "right" to possess a specific place, all external economic forces aside, is not one of them.

Ms. Zukin's acknowledgment of "the contradiction" lived by many urban dwellers applies equally to the idea of the contradiction of regulating authenticity. This seems like an oxymoron, unless we are to assume that legislation is what enabled an area to become authentic in the first place; unlikely considering inhabitants of authentic urban areas are traditionally underrepresented in political power circles.

Picking up the urbanist torch from Jane Jacobs, is no small task. To be certain, the issues surrounding authenticity (and the proposed antagonist "gentrification") are complex, and without universally applicable answers. Perhaps as a sociologist, and not an activist, Ms. Zukin prefers to observe and report rather than proscribe specific solutions. I am hoping that she uses her background in consumer culture to explore the economic drivers of authenticity/gentrification and fill in this gap in Jacobs' planning manifesto. I guess I'll find out when I purchase and read her book.

Design it?
Unfortunately, in the radio interview, and all too often in other discussions about urban planning, only large-scale, high-profile developments like Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards and are cited as examples of gentrification. These projects are atypically large and present the audience with a false choice between NIMBYism (no development) and antiseptic corporate development projects that erase places to create new ones.

The probable goal, even of these evil corporations, is to design and build an authentic place. But attempts at authenticity in one fell swoop, or "authenticity-in-a-box," almost certainly feel sterile and artificial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is economics. The high cost of assembling/entitling/designing/permitting/building entire city blocks at one time is enormous, and recovering that capital plus profit requires a high percentage of gentrifiers amongst the first inhabitants. Oh, chicken or egg!

"A lively city scene is lively largely by virtue of its enormous collection of small elements."
-Jane Jacobs, Death and Life

The majority of urban development is (and should be) implemented on a much smaller scale, orchestrated by local teams of invested professionals and small businesses, appropriately informed by local stakeholders, and executed to the benefit of the majority of those affected. This majority does not preclude a minority of large projects or businesses.

Incremental change can be absorbed without complete destruction of the character of an area and unwanted trends can be identified and mitigated without overbearing regulation. The aggregate result of years of projects thus completed will almost certainly be described as authentic.

See another response to the idea of Authenticity in the Wall Street Journal.
The 'Authentic' City Wrecking Ball by Julia Vitullo-Martin.

The Naked City is available on but wouldn't its author prefer you find it at a local bookstore?

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?
Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:
Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare

[1016] Architecture in Urban Land Magazine

[1016] Principal Andrew Wilson, AIA, LEED AP, was quoted in the Regional Spotlight (Midwest) Section of the Jan/Feb issue of Urban Land Magazine. Urban Land, the main publication for the Urban Land Institute, reaches over 30,000 real estate, development, and design professionals and is considered a leading authority on market trends and conditions.

Check out the article here. (2MB .pdf)

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?
Let us know: Think about it, comment below, then:
Check out [1016] elsewhere on the web: Facebook, eHow, SlideShare