Daley Center Picasso’s 50th birthday

On August 15, 1967, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley famously remarked “what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow" as he unveiled an untitled monumental sculpture by Pablo Picasso at Daley Plaza. This month the city will mark this popular public art piece's 50th birthday.

The finished sculpture was executed from Picasso's 42-inch steel model and is 50 feet high and weighs 162 tons. The Picasso was certainly subject of some controversy in its first years. On August 25, 1967, Time Magazine reported: "Right up to the moment that the billowing blue percale veil covering Pablo Picasso's 50-ft. sculpture came tumbling down last week in Chicago, the debate continued. Was it a bird, a woman, an Afghan hound, a Barbary ape, a cruel hoax, a Communist plot, or Superman?" Nevertheless, Chicago also received many expressions of congratulations on its important acquisition and Time praised the city's "vigor and vision" and described the Chicago Picasso as "one of the most magnificent windfalls in its history."

Curbed Chicago reports that Picasso’s big birthday party will run from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 8 at Daley Plaza. Admission is free to the public.

Film Challenge Bringing Architectural Stories to Life

The American Institute of Architect’s third annual I Look Up Film Challenge is inviting architects and filmmakers to collaborate in bringing architectural stories to life. This year’s challenge calls for films that highlight projects and architects that are helping to change communities for the better. This year's campaign hopes to shine a light on the powerful social impact of architects and their work.

A short documentary film on the positive changes in Midtown, a neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, launches the 2017 Challenge and introduces this year's theme, Blueprint for Better. Duvall Decker, a Jackson architecture firm, worked alongside residents and community leaders to transform a struggling area into an example of healthy community revitalization. Architect Roy Decker, AIA opens the film saying: "Architecture, at its best, is practiced when it is in service to a community or a larger goal - a public benefit of some kind."

The film ends with the quote: "This world is a gift. If you're going to build, you should build well." Entries are due next month and public voting will run from 8/21/17 to 10/06/17. To learn more, visit ilookup.org

The Other Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 - 1969) in S.R. Crown Hall at IIT College of Architecture PHOTO: Hedrich Blessing

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 - 1969) in S.R. Crown Hall at IIT College of Architecture PHOTO: Hedrich Blessing

A few years ago, BTLA had the opportunity to work on the iconic Farnsworth House, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (images in our portfolio). So we were particularly pleased to hear that Elmhurst Art Museum plans to unveil the original facade of the other Mies-designed home in Chicago's suburbs - McCormick House (which has been obscured by an addition connecting it to the museum). The iconic facade of this historically significant building will be visible for the first time in 20 years as part of Elmhurst Art Museum’s 20th anniversary celebration.

The Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin wrote about the project in this article a few days ago, as did Architectural Digest, discussing the history of the building and the effort to bring it back to life. The McCormick House was moved from its original site in Elmhurst in 1994. In 1997, a design by Chicago architects DeStefano + Partners (now Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture) made it possible for the house to be incorporated into the then-new museum. Here's a video, featuring Avram Lothan, discussing Mies and the McCormick House: 

 “The decision to connect the house to the museum in 1997 was with Mies’ idea of universal space in mind,” says Executive Director Jenny Gibbs. “The museum has since evolved its thinking and I am thrilled to lead the charge in unveiling our hidden treasure.”

According to museum staff, Heritage Architecture Studio will be working with Elmhurst Art Museum Executive Director Jenny Gibbs to oversee the work of Berglund Construction to be completed in 2017. Barry Bergdoll (architecture and design curator at MoMA) is advising on the project and curating a long-term exhibition, Mies In Chicago which will open in 2018.

This Place Matters

May is Historic Preservation Month and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently running a national social media campaign that encourages people to celebrate and share the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities. The Trust is encouraging individuals to post pictures of meaningful place on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. using the hashtag #ThisPlaceMatters.

Through this effort, the Trust hopes to encourage and inspire an ongoing dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives. They plan to spotlight their favorites at  @SavingPlaces on Instagram and Twitter. They have even created a toolkit for anyone interested in creating a campaign to save an individual's favorite places.

Earth Day 2017

April 22 is Earth Day, the annual effort to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The date was originally chosen (47 years ago) in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what the organizer conceived as an "environmental teach-in" for students. Today the event is global, and various sectors use the occasion to mark their commitment to a healthy planet - including architects!

Thanks to the work of organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, the AIA and others, building owners and architects are finding ways to design, build, restore and maintain structures that allow people, communities, and our planet to thrive. Today seems like an appropriate time to share a portion of AIA's statement on sustainability:

What is sustainability? 

Sustainability is about positioning current and future generations for prosperity by reducing buildings’ impact on the environment, restoring our natural resources and creating safe and vibrant communities.  When architecture is sustainable, it performs to its highest design potential: producing not consuming; providing resilient structures and communities that withstand the onslaughts of both natural and man-made disasters; and fostering opportunities for health and well-being. 

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability is a key element of the architecture profession’s approach to design in the 21st century as it tackles the compounding global challenges of resource availability, water quality and increasing pollution. It is part of an architect’s approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Community sustainability goals are fulfilled in large part by an architect’s ability to create practical solutions to the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and the pursuit of more connected, healthier communities.

To read more about the AIA's commitment to sustainability, click here. Of course, I'm happy to chat about the topic with you at any time.