Legendary Landmarks Celebration

Since 2006, Landmarks Illinois has honored individuals, families and corporations at its annual fundraiser, the Legendary Landmarks Celebration. This year’s event will be held Thursday, March 7, 2019 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.

Landmarks Illinois is honoring Wintrust and Murphy Development Group as 2019 Corporate Legendary Landmarks and civic leaders Judith & Raymond McCaskey as 2019 Legendary Landmarks.

"Landmarks Illinois carefully curates honorees named Legendary Landmarks based on the significance and longevity of the designee's cultural, philanthropic and corporate contributions to Chicago and beyond," said Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO. "Our 2019 Legendary Landmarks have personal and meaningful connections to historic preservation among their many stellar achievements, and we are proud to illuminate these individuals and corporations as Legendary Landmarks."

Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization advocating for the preservation and reuse of historic and architecturally significant properties throughout the state.

Plan To Restore Congress Theater Approved

Three years ago, I shared that BTL Architects would be part of a project to restore the Congress Theater in Logan Square. Last week the Chicago Plan Commission gave the project the green light. The $69 million renovation project includes a seven-story, 72-unit residential building that the developer said was essential to the success of the overall project.

The Congress Theater, built in 1926, is noted for hosting musical acts such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.

In a Chicago Tribune story that featured several photos of the building as it exists today, it was noted that the project’s delay was partly caused by the death of one of the developer’s partners. Watch this site for progress on the project and a revised opening date.

Bringing the Uptown Back to Life


Last December, my blog asked the question “Can the Uptown be saved?” Earlier this month, that question was answered when the city’s Community Development Commission signed off on a $75 million plan to renovate the 93-year-old Uptown Theatre.

In a statement, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said “The restored building will be the centerpiece of the new, revitalized entertainment district that will attract hundreds of thousands of show-goers while promoting continued economic growth for the surrounding neighborhood.”

The City of Chicago has worked to protect and preserve the Spanish Revival-style building for several decades. In 1991, it was designated a City of Chicago landmark to preserve its exterior and interior from alteration or demolition. The plan calls for exterior work to repair the building’s masonry and terra cotta and improve marquees and related signage, among other repairs and improvements. Interior improvements will include new elevators and concession stations, new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life-safety systems. Restored decorative finishes, new seats and a reconfigured first-floor will increase total capacity from approximately 4,100 to 5,800 people.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the lead architects of the restoration will be the Lamar Johnson Collaborative.

“We are more than excited,” said George Halik, a principal at Lamar Johnson, noting that he'd been working on the Uptown project for more than 10 years under various different plans. “This plan is the right way to go. We’re working with the parameters of the existing building. And we’re putting the money where it will be of most use, both structurally and visually.”

Block Club Chicago posted some amazing photographs of the interior of the grand movie palace, portraying the size and scope of the work ahead. If all goes as planned, the restoration will begin in August 2019.

Chicago Exhibition Space Celebrates Architecture and Socially Engaged Art

Le Corbusier and Ando

Le Corbusier and Ando

Wrightwood 659, a new exhibition space in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, opened earlier this month. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando transformed a 1920s building with his signature concrete forms and poetic treatment of natural light. According to their website, Wrightwood 659 will be devoted to exhibitions of architecture and socially engaged art. Lisa Cavanaugh, Director of Wrightwood 659, states

“We are delighted to be opening a new space for art in Chicago, one conducive to quiet reflection and thoughtful engagement, while also provoking activism on behalf of a more just society. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Wrightwood 659.”

The inaugural exhibition, Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture, on view October 12–December 15, 2018, will explore French architect Le Corbusier’s important influence on Ando. Curbed Chicago covered the opening of the new space and their story includes several wonderful photographs by Esto Photography’s Jeff Goldberg.

In a city filled with many internationally regarded art institutions, Wrightwood 659 aims for more “intimate experiences of art and architecture,” the venue said in a statement. Wrightwood won’t own a collection, but it plans to host exhibitions that focus on socially engaged art and explorations in architecture and design. 

Celebrating Chicago Architecture Center

The Chicago Architecture Center, formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation, has had a very busy month. Just before Labor Day, doors opened on its new location at 111 East Wacker Drive, a building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. As reported by The Architects Newspaper the Center’s spaces are designed to expand and contract with current and future exhibits.

“Exhibits are readable and tangible, but are also adaptable and future-forward, with enough variety in content to appeal both to visitors who know everything about architecture and those who know nothing at all.”

Shortly after the opening, they announced the neighborhoods and sites for next month’s Open House Chicago - a free public festival on October 13/14, 2018 that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago. Now in its eighth year, the event will include the Chicago neighborhoods of Beverly, Morgan Park and Austin for the first time.

The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin offered his list of the 10 must-see buildings including Lake Point Tower, the Wintrust Bank Building at 231 S. LaSalle, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park. Open House Chicago is a great opportunity to learn the stories of Chicago’s buildings and experience the rich and diverse cultures of our community.