I took this photo February 2nd, 2020, and processed it in my digital darkroom a few hours later.
While I think this is a perfectly serviceable photograph, I’m not sure I’d add it to my portfolio. I enjoyed good light, I had the proper lens to capture a decent angle on a modestly interesting and historically significant building, but to me, this illustrates a flaw in letting an algorithm define what is an “excellent” image.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the pat on the back of being included in Flickr Explore, there is certainly a dopamine rush of pleasure when the positive attention of social media suddenly converges on my art.
But if I look at the photos I’ve worked on in the last year, this particular one would not be in my own selection of top ten images to hang in a gallery show or sell prints of.
Am I wrong?
18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6
Before Frank Lloyd Wright became an internationally-recognized name in the world of design, the architect spent many years in Oak Park, Illinois, designing homes for Chicago-area residents. Wright got his start working for the famed Sullivan & Adler firm from 1888 to 1893, and it was under the tutelage of Louis Sullivan specifically that Wright began to explore the elements that would eventually lead to the Prairie School movement. For the rest of the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century, Wright continued to live and work in Oak Park and designed dozens of structures here.
Oak Park’s federally designated Frank Lloyd Wright/Prairie School of Architecture Historic District boasts the world’s largest collection of Wright-designed homes, and by studying his work in Oak Park, we can get a good read on the architect’s evolution.
For fans looking to explore on their own, here’s a rundown of the 25 buildings in Oak Park that were designed or remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright. Map points are listed by direction, starting from the north and heading south.
Commissioned by the congregation of Oak Park Unity Church in 1905, Wright’s Unity Temple is the greatest public building of the architect’s Chicago years. Wright’s family on his mother’s side were Welsh Unitarians, and his uncle Jenkin Lloyd Jones was a distinguished Unitarian preacher with a parish on Chicago’s south side where Wright and his wife Catherine were married. Wright identified with the rational humanism of Unitarianism, particularly as influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendentalism, uniting all beings as one with the divine presence.
The design he submitted to the congregation broke with almost every existing convention for traditional Western ecclesiastic architecture. On the novel choice of construction material Wright states, “There was only one material to choose—as church funds were $45,000. Concrete was cheap.” Wright’s bold concept for the building enabled a series of concrete forms to be repeated multiple times.
In harmony with Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture, the concrete was left uncovered by plaster, brick, or stone. Wright’s sensitive handling of materials was a defining feature of his architecture from early in his career. “Bring out the nature of the materials,” Wright insisted in his seminal essay In the Cause of Architecture, “let their nature intimately into your scheme. Reveal the nature of wood, plaster, brick, or stone in your designs, they are all by nature friendly and beautiful. No treatment can be really a matter of fine art when those natural characteristics are, or their nature is, outraged or neglected.”
I had read about Unity Temple long ago, but had forgotten until I walked up to it, and was amazed.
An Aura Of Sacred Mystery
For The Worship Of God And The Service Of Man
I took other photos of Unity Temple, but haven’t yet processed them.
Remnants of A Holinger & Company Safe
Lake Street, looks to be under reconstruction. There’s a story here for sure.
Circa 1950, Julian moved his family to the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, becoming the first African-American family to reside there. Although some residents welcomed them into the community, there was also opposition. Before they even moved in, on Thanksgiving Day, 1950, their home was fire-bombed. Later, after they moved in, the house was attacked with dynamite on June 12, 1951. The attacks galvanized the community, and a community group was formed to support the Julians. Julian’s son later recounted that during these times, he and his father often kept watch over the family’s property by sitting in a tree with a shotgun.
In 1953, Julian founded his own research firm, Julian Laboratories, Inc. He brought many of his best chemists, including African-Americans and women, from Glidden to his own company. Julian won a contract to provide Upjohn with $2 million worth of progesterone (equivalent to $17 million today).
To compete against Syntex, he would have to use the same Mexican yam, obtained from the Mexican barbasco trade, as his starting material. Julian used his own money and borrowed from friends to build a processing plant in Mexico, but he could not get a permit from the government to harvest the yams.
Abraham Zlotnik, a former Jewish University of Vienna classmate whom Julian had helped escape from the Holocaust, led a search to find a new source of the yam in Guatemala for the company.
Memorial To Soldiers Who Fought in World War I, Oak Park, and River Forest
In the center of Scoville Park.
The CTA’s Green Line runs through Oak Park, several blocks are covered in murals much like the murals at Hubbard Street.
Boeing depends upon taxpayer dollars more than most corporations.
See for instance:
The top welfare recipient of them all is aerospace giant Boeing, which has operations spread all across the country building aircraft and working on numerous Department of Defense projects. The amount of work Boeing does for the federal government no doubt plays a part in the amount of subsidies the company has been able to secure, but Boeing has also played hardball with local jurisdictions to get enormous tax breaks. With more than $13 billion coming in from 148 handouts, Boeing has thoroughly entrenched itself in the interest of the government and taxpayers.
Despite the immense amount of money the company receives, it has still gone on to hold cities hostage in tax negotiations, threatening to remove jobs and open up shop in friendlier climates. In 2013, Boeing secured the highest ever tax break at the state level when it cornered the Washington legislature into ceding to its demands, lest it move its production plants to another part of the country. The legislature granted Boeing its wish, but Boeing went on to announce drastic layoffs anyway, angering many locals.
According to a public notice on the city’s website, the Chicago Avenue Bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River is available to anyone who will remove it at their expense, maintain it, and assume all financial responsibility.
Otherwise, the bridge is expected to be demolished so that a non-movable concrete and steel bridge can be built.
The city is asking interested parties to send a letter by July 13 detailing means of funding, how the bridge will be moved, how quickly it will be moved, and where it will be moved to.
The current bridge at Chicago Avenue, a pony truss bascule bridge, opened to traffic in 1912, replacing a swing bridge that had been there since 1849. It was one of the first of the Chicago River bridges to have an operator house made of concrete and not wood. According to a 1911 report by Chicago Department of Public Works, the city intended to eventually build a subway under Chicago Avenue, and so the Chicago Avenue Bridge was specially designed to accommodate future construction of a double subway tunnel.
Today, with its rusted surfaces, broken lights, and loose wire, the bridge has suffered from lack of regular maintenance, according to Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.
Now Aon’s owner, the New York-based firm of 601W Cos., wants to take advantage of the neighborhood’s newfound popularity with a new observatory that would compete with existing ones at Willis Tower and 875 N. Michigan. But there’s no room inside Aon for an elevator leading to the aerie, so 601W charged Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz with putting one on the outside.
Crafted by principal Martin Wolf, SCB’s plan starts with a wedge-shaped, metal-and-glass entry pavilion that would rise on the southeast corner of Aon Center’s plaza — an appropriately simple form for this simple building. Descending on escalators to below-street passageways, visitors would wend their way to the elevator tower. City officials wisely insisted that the tower rise on the building’s northwest corner (and not on the southeast corner, as originally planned) so it would not disturb the clean lines of Aon’s park-facing side.
If you’re an acrophobe, the high-speed double-deck elevators that shoot up and down the tower won’t be for you. But for those who get a kick out of seeing a city from on high, the elevators could be the ultimate version of those glass-covered cabs that enlivened the hotels of the late Atlanta architect and developer John Portman. Portman’s genius was to make an elevator ride an event, not just a trip in a box.
While the elevator tower will be visible from Michigan Avenue, it promises to be a light and lacy presence rather than a mechanical eyesore. It might even be exciting at night as the cabs of its double-deck elevators create trails of light like comet tails, said Phil Hettema of Pasadena, Calif., the designer of the still-unnamed observatory and the spaces leading to it. The two-level observatory would occupy space above the building’s office floors that was originally devoted to cooling towers.
For those willing to pay more than the price of admission, an internal elevator would transport them from the observatory to the thrill ride, a mechanical-lift contraption called the Sky Summit. Its steel arms would lift a glass-sheathed cab with room for about 20 people nearly 30 feet above the roof, then lower the cab over Aon’s edge, holding it there for about 30 seconds as the floor changed from opaque to transparent to reveal views of Millennium Park far below. Next, the cab would bring everybody back to Aon’s rooftop, presumably glad to be alive. The engineers assure me it’s a tried-and-true system. (Pass the Valium.)
I’ve walked past 110 N Wacker Drive, aka the General Growth Properties building, f/k/a the Morton Salt Building hundreds or even thousands of times, and I can’t say I was ever flabbergasted by its beauty. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A planned 51-story tower on Wacker Drive has run into an unexpected obstacle that could halt the high-profile office development: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The federal agency has informed the developers, Chicago’s Riverside Investment & Development and Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp., that the project will have an “adverse effect,” since the plan requires demolishing an architecturally significant building along the Chicago River.
The five-story building on the site at 110 N. Wacker Drive, currently the headquarters of mall landlord GGP, is not landmarked but is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a public notice by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Because of that, the agency’s Chicago District will solicit public input through Dec. 14 about the planned demolition before determining the development’s fate.
The highly unusual snag comes just before the developers were expected to raze the building and begin replacing it with the 800-foot-tall skyscraper. The developers want to begin construction as soon as January, the public notice said. Plans call for more than 1.3 million square feet of office space, which is expected to command some of the highest office rents in Chicago.
The developers already received city approval for the project designed by Goettsch Partners. But they still need approval from the Army Corps because the project would include building a stormwater outfall structure, which is essentially a hole cut in the seawall to allow rainwater to flow from the tower’s roof into the river.
“The 110 North Wacker building project was the subject of an eight month public process leading to the granting of full zoning approval from the city of Chicago,” the developers said in an emailed statement. “To date, we have worked with the City Planning Department, Alderman (Brendan) Reilly and others to maximize the open public space, and architectural benefits for the city. We have been working through the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other statutory authorities and look forward to working collaboratively to deliver this exciting new building in the heart of Chicago.”
I’d hazard a guess that demolition will occur early next year…
During a review of the project, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in August determined the building’s architecture makes it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, creating an “adverse effect” if it were to be demolished, according to the public notice.
The building, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, is an example of Mid-Century Modern architecture, according to the documents. The $4 million building opened in 1958 as the headquarters of Morton Salt Co. The building has long turned heads because of its low-slung size, dwarfed by a row of modern Wacker Drive towers.
I was also amused by this:
Curbed Chicago first reported the “adverse effect” federal review.
I still hope they take my advice and rename the Sears Tower so that the sign reads Willis Towers Tower…
Making The Same Mistakes
A marriage of convenience isn’t necessarily bad—it just lacks the excitement of a true match.
Towers Watson & Co. may have reached that point in life where its peers have paired off and the clock is ticking. Its investors are being sweet-talked into going along.
The cash portion of the proposed cash-and-shares merger offer from insurance broker Willis Group Holdings PLC was more than doubled Thursday to $10 per share, ahead of delayed shareholder votes for both companies on Friday.
That helps to close the valuation gap that made this deal look poor for investors in Towers Watson, a benefits and human resources firm, and prompted proxy voting firms ISS and Glass Lewis to advise against it.
The trouble in this supposed merger of equals has always been that Towers Watson’s investors get less in Willis stock and cash than their own shares are worth.
In general, I’m supportive of some civic attention being paid to Wabash Avenue, but I will be sad to lose the dramatic shadows underneath it when the lighting gets upgraded.
Wabash Avenue, critically located between the tourist attractions on Michigan Avenue and shopping on State Street, is poised to undergo a significant makeover.
After more than a year spent collecting input and brainstorming, the Chicago Loop Alliance, the organization that promotes the downtown business district, has issued final recommendations for transforming the iconic corridor under the “L” tracks into a more inviting street.
The 24 recommendations range from the immediate, such as removing graffiti and litter, to the long-term, which includes installing a kinetic lighting installation running the length of the tracks.
Wabash, given its location under the tracks, tends to be dark and loud, often gathering litter and flocks of pigeons. It has higher vacancy rates, lower commercial and residential rents and lower pedestrian and vehicle counts than neighboring streets. Twelve of the projects to improve the street should start within the next two years, nine of them in two to five years and three of them five to 10 years from now, according to a timeline in the final report.