Legendary Landmarks

Landmarks Illinois will host its 13th annual Legendary Landmarks Celebration next month. Each year, the event honors civic and cultural leaders who are making an impact on Chicago and Illinois - and this year's honorees are:

  • Berglund Construction
  • Daniel Levin, Founder and Chairman of The Habitat Company
  • Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President

“These exceptional leaders have devoted their careers to investing in the people and places that make Chicago one of the world’s great cities,” said Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO. “Thanks to the ongoing work of our 2018 Legendary Landmarks Honorees, Chicagoans have attractive, safe and authentic places to live and work and distinct places to enjoy together.

Click here to learn more about this event or the important work of the honorees and Landmarks Illinois.

The Illusion of Architectural Permanence

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Earlier this month, The Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin wrote a thoughtful column about the newspaper's upcoming move from the iconic building bearing its name: The Tribune Tower. He reminds readers about a quote by 19th-century English architecture critic John Ruskin that is featured in the building's lobby floor:

“Therefore when we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for and let us think as we lay stone on stone that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred.”

But as Kamin points out, buildings are commodities and the companies that create them rarely stay in them - and he raises the question if the building's new owners can "Change the use but maintain the character."

I often talk about my belief that every building has a story to tell. The Tribune Tower, completed in 1925, speaks volumes. As an example, the tower features carved images of Robin Hood and a howling dog near the main entrance to commemorate the architects, John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood. The top of the tower is designed after the Tour de beurre (″butter tower″) of the Rouen Cathedral in France. But perhaps more fittingly, the historical fragments embedded in the building's facade (collected from sites like The Parthenon and the Berlin Wall) remind us that nothing, in fact, lasts forever.

The newspaper's relocation and the Tribune Tower's conversion to a mixed used development seems to underscore the impermanence of a seemingly permanent structure. But with care and attention, the neo-Gothic structure at 435 N. Michigan will grace the Chicago cityscape for years to come. Like many of Chicago's landmarks, we hope the Tribune Tower has another durable, sustainable chapter in its ongoing story.

Can The Uptown Be Saved?

Earlier this year Preservation Chicago joined the effort to save a Chicago landmark - the Uptown Theatre.  The organization has asked those concerned with historic preservation, neighborhood vitality and the economic future of the city to sign and promote the “Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Restore the Uptown!” petition.

The Uptown is often described as a massive, ornate "movie palace" located in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. It opened its doors on August 18, 1925. With 4,381 seats, the Uptown's interior volume is said to be larger than any other movie palace in the United States, including Radio City Music Hall in New York. It has been closed to regular audiences since 1981 and preservationists are concerned that something needs to be done now to prevent permanent ruin. "If this isn't resolved soon, this building will continue to deteriorate," says Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

An article by Mark Guarino in last week's Crain's Chicago Business details plans that have yet to materialize. There are certainly barriers to it's restoration, but many are still working to overcome those barriers - including Friends of the Uptown. As Ald. James Cappleman, 46th Ward is quoted: "I believe that next chapter of the story of this great theater will be written very soon, and there has never been a better time for this project to move forward." We will see what 2018 brings.

BTLA's Work Recognized By Design Evanston

BTL Architect principal Delph Gustitus (pictured left) with Northwestern University's Manager of Construction Projects, Dick Painter (pictured right) at Design Evanston's 2017 Awards Ceremony, November 2, 2017.

BTL Architect principal Delph Gustitus (pictured left) with Northwestern University's Manager of Construction Projects, Dick Painter (pictured right) at Design Evanston's 2017 Awards Ceremony, November 2, 2017.

Last week, BTL Architects was recognized by Design Evanston at an awards ceremony for our work to restore 720 University Place at Northwestern University. Design Evanston is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit advocacy organization promoting good design in Evanston, Illinois. Annually they recognize professionals and projects that exemplify good design. Here is an excerpt from the awards program detail:

This project involved the restoration of the building enclosure. The building was built in the 1890’s, originally as a school of music with a performance hall. Years of deferred maintenance and atmospheric soiling had taken its toll on the exterior. The Owner stated a goal of restoring the exterior to its original condition as closely as possible. A detailed examination and assessment of the exterior was performed to determine the scope of repairs. The 12,000 square feet of exterior wall surface includes two brick colors and sizes, cut limestone sills, painted wood windows and trim, a rough-cut structural stone masonry base, clay tile roof, and copper downspouts.

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A combination of historic masonry techniques, reclaimed materials, and more modern materials and methods were used to restore the exterior to its original splendor. All masonry was cleaned with products and methods selected during extensive sampling. Old mortars were removed by mechanical wet grinding. Three different new mortars colors were used with an historic beaded joint profile. Deteriorated wood components were replaced with reclaimed old growth lumber fashioned in profiles to match the original components. High performance paint products were used in colors selected to match the historic appearance from historic photos.

More images of this project are included in our portfolio. For a full listing of Design Evanston's 2017 honorees, click here.

World Architecture Day

World Architecture Day, celebrated on the first Monday of every October, was set up in 2005 by the International Union Of Architects (UIA) to show appreciation for the work architects do and to celebrate some of the great global architectural works, network and increase collective responsibility to create better future in our lives.

This year, the UIA representing more than 1 million architects worldwide, selected the theme of the World Architecture Day 2017 as "Climate Change Action!".

The American Institute of Architects asserts that "architects play a vital role in combating climate change. Buildings are major producers of carbon, so climate change poses both major obstacles and opportunities for the profession." Following the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, the UIA has called upon all architects and architecture organizations in the world to mobilize efforts to respond. Learn more here. Happy World Architecture Day.