Chicago Architecture Biennial Announces Initial List of 2019 Participants

Earlier this month the Chicago Architecture Biennial announced the first group of contributors to the 2019 edition, titled …and other such stories. The biennial will form an expansive and multi-faceted exploration of the field of architecture and the built environment globally.

The first 51 contributors — spanning the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia — form an initial, representative group, and include an early selection of ambitious commissioned projects. These projects will address key questions about the implications of architecture as it relates to land, memory, rights, and civic participation, and are particularly inspired by the history and conditions of the City of Chicago.

Biennial Executive Director Todd Palmer said of the list: "We are thrilled to be partner with such a diverse and insightful group of contributors and tell important stories about who we are, and who we may become."

Over the coming months, the Biennial will announce the full list of contributors and key programming for this year’s edition of the Biennial. You can learn more here.

Chicago's 7 Most Endangered Buildings

The James R. Thompson Center and Chicago’s Roman Catholic churches are among Preservation Chicago’s 2019 list of the 7 Most Endangered Buildings. The annual list, just announced at an event at the Chicago Architecture Center, identifies architecturally significant structures that preservationists hope to save from the wrecking ball.

This year marks the 17th year the organization has compiled this list in an effort to draw the public’s attention to threatened elements of Chicago’s built environment.

This is the third time the James R. Thompson Center/State of Illinois Building, Plaza and Atrium has made the list. Preservation Chicago notes that since the Thompson Center was built in 1985, the building’s design and engineering challenges of the space have been a contentious topic for the city. However, it is an iconic representation of Post-Modern design by world-renowned architect Helmut Jahn and is worthy of preservation.

Many of Chicago’s Roman Catholic churches were designed by some of America’s greatest architects and most recognized architectural firms. The church buildings which have made the list are both gateways and landmarks in their communities; more than religious centers, but also community centers.

Throughout its history, Preservation Chicago has remained an organization committed to the idea that all preservation is local. You can learn more about the organization and the rest of this year’s list here.

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

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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.