Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicago - Architecture & The Public Art

18-5-2010(Tuesday) Chicago

Today is city tour, exploring the city’s astonishing architecture by walking around the city. The Loop of the downtown, Chicago city. The city of Chicago, Illinois features prominent buildings in a variety of styles by many important architects. Since most buildings within the downtown area were destroyed (the most famous exception being the Water Tower) by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The first skyscraper was for many years thought to be the Home Insurance Building built in Chicago, Illinois in 1885. Chicago is considered to be the birthplace of the skyscraper. Note: However more recent evidence points to New York's Equitable Life Assurance Building built in 1870 preceding the Chicago building by 15 years and was the first office building built using a skeletal frame.

The tallest building in Chicago is the 108-story Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), which rises 1,451 feet (442 m) in the Chicago Loop and was completed in 1974. It also stands as the tallest building in the United States, and the fifth-tallest building in the world. In addition, the Willis Tower has the second most floors of any completed building in the world, and stands as the world's second tallest completed skyscraper when measuring to pinnacle height, rising 1,730 feet (527 m) with the addition of its western antenna. The second-, third- and fourth-tallest buildings in Chicago are the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the Aon Center and the John Hancock Center, respectively. As of June 2008, the John Hancock Center, with 49 floors of condominiums,holds the world record for the highest residence. In addition, Chicago has the distinction of being the only city in the world with more than one completed building containing at least 100 floors.

The skyscraper
The structural definition of the word skyscraper was refined later by architectural historians, based on engineering developments of the 1880s that had enabled construction of tall multi-storey buildings. This definition was based on the steel skeleton—-as opposed to constructions of load-bearing masonry, which passed their practical limit in 1891 with Chicago's Monadnock Building. Philadelphia's City Hall, completed in 1901, still holds claim as the world's tallest load-bearing masonry structure at 167 m (548 ft). The steel frame developed in stages of increasing self-sufficiency, with several buildings in Chicago and New York advancing the technology that allowed the steel frame to carry a building on its own. The history of skyscrapers in Chicago began with the 1885 completion of the Home Insurance Building, which is often regarded as the first steel-framed skyscraper in the world.The building was originally constructed with a height of 138 feet (42 m) and 10 stories, and was later expanded to a height of 180 feet (55 m) and 12 stories before being demolished in 1931.

Chicago School
Chicago's architecture is famous throughout the world and one style is referred to as the Chicago School. The style is also known as Commercial style. In the history of architecture, the Chicago School was a school of architects active in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. They were among the first to promote the new technologies of steel-frame construction in commercial buildings, and developed a spatial aesthetic which co-evolved with, and then came to influence, parallel developments in European Modernism.

Some of the distinguishing features of the Chicago School are the use of steel-frame buildings with masonry cladding (usually terra cotta), allowing large plate-glass window areas and limiting the amount of exterior ornamentation. Sometimes elements of neoclassical architecture are used in Chicago School skyscrapers. Many Chicago School skyscrapers contain the three parts of a classical column. The first floor functions as the base, the middle stories, usually with little ornamental detail, act as the shaft of the column, and the last floor or so represent the capital, with more ornamental detail and capped with a cornice.

The "Chicago window" originated in this school. It is a three-part window consisting of a large fixed center panel flanked by two smaller double-hung sash windows. The arrangement of windows on the facade typically creates a grid pattern, with some projecting out from the facade forming bay windows. The Chicago window combined the functions of light-gathering and natural ventilation; a single central pane was usually fixed, while the two surrounding panes were operable. These windows were often deployed in bays, known as oriel windows, that projected out over the street.
The Home Insurance Building, which some regarded as the first skyscraper in the world, was built in Chicago in 1885 and was demolished in 1931.

Second Chicago School
A "Second Chicago School" later emerged in the 1940s and 1970s which pioneered new building technologies and structural systems such as the tube-frame structure.In the 1940s, a "Second Chicago School" emerged from the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his efforts of education at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. It got it's purest expression firstly with the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1951) and their technological achievements. This was supported and enlarged in the 1960s due to the ideas of structural engineer Fazlur Khan. Fazlur Khan realized that the rigid steel frame structure that had "dominated tall building design and construction so long was not the only system fitting for tall buildings", marking "the beginning of a new era of skyscraper revolution in terms of multiple structural systems." His central innovation in skyscraper design and construction was the idea of the "tube" structural system, including the "framed tube", "trussed tube", and "bundled tube". These systems allowed far greater economic efficiency, and also allowed efficient skyscrapers to take on various shapes, no longer needing to be box-shaped.

He introduced a new structural system of framed tubes in skyscraper design and construction. The Bangladeshi engineer Fazlur Khan defined the framed tube structure as "a three dimensional space structure composed of three, four, or possibly more frames, braced frames, or shear walls, joined at or near their edges to form a vertical tube-like structural system capable of resisting lateral forces in any direction by cantilevering from the foundation." Closely spaced interconnected exterior columns form the tube. Horizontal loads, for example wind, are supported by the structure as a whole. About half the exterior surface is available for windows. Framed tubes allow fewer interior columns, and so create more usable floor space. Where larger openings like garage doors are required, the tube frame must be interrupted, with transfer girders used to maintain structural integrity

Over the next fifteen years, many towers were built by Khan and the "Second Chicago School", including the massive 442-meter (1,451-foot) Willis Tower. The first building to apply the tube-frame construction was the DeWitt-Chestnut Apartment Building which Khan designed and was completed in Chicago by 1963. This laid the foundations for the tube structures of many other later skyscrapers, including his own John Hancock Center and Sears Tower, and can been seen in the construction of the World Trade Center, Petronas Towers(Malaysia), Jin Mao Building 金茂大厦(Shanghai,China), and most other supertall skyscrapers since the 1960s.

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If you appreciate the beauty of Chicago skyscrapers, you must remember "Chicago seven": James Ingo Freed, Tom Beeby, Larry Booth, Stuart Cohen, James Nagle, Stanley Tigerman, and Ben Weese. The architects who have constructed landmark buildings of varying styles in Chicago.

Willis Tower may has lost its title as world tallest building, but Chicago is still the City of Skyscrapers. It has two buildings under construction that are planned to exceed 1,000 feet (304.8 m) in height: the 2,000-foot (610 m) Chicago Spire, and the 1,362-foot (415 m) Waterview Tower.

"What is the chief characteristic of the tall office building? It is lofty. It must be tall. The force and power of altitude must be in it, the glory and pride of exaltation must be in it. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exaltation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line."
—Louis Sullivan's The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered (1896)

Public Art

Looking for the public art subjects of Chicago in the street, it is like treasure hunt. It is fun, it is interesting, and it help you to tour the city, the L(Loop) and the downtown, without you realized it. Some family member complain on the walk, but the appreciation of public art work and the architecture, the soul of Chicago City is crucial to understand Chicago. Be based on the article, Loop Art Tour in the website of Wikitravel to trace the public art in Chicago. We missed some art work, but the effort to trace the public art is fulfilling...

1. Art Institute of Chicago
Hold Calder's whimsical Flying Dragon and Sir Henry Moore's pondering Large Interior Form in your mind — you'll see two monumental echoes of these two statues farther on. The other statue on hand is David Smith's Cubi VII

2. Millennium Park
Crown Fountain (Jaume Plensa) comes into view, and makes an impression! These two mini-skyscrapers project faces of Chicagoans, who occasionally spew water through their "mouths" into the large black granite fountain between them.
Cloud Gate (Anish Kapoor). Better known as the Bean, it's a kidney-shaped structure of smooth stainless steel weighing 110 tons. It's the favorite sculpture of Millennium Park's throngs of visitors, as it reflects the surrounding skyscrapers (and tourists) like a funhouse mirror.
Pritzker Pavilion (Frank Gehry). Its giant steel trellis performs an important function besides aesthetic appeal; it supports much of the stage's sound and lighting systems. At the eastern edge of the pavilion (and of Millennium Park), take the long, winding BP Bridge over Columbus Drive

3. Aon Center Plaza
The plaza is pleasant enough and there are two Sounding Sculptures (Henry Bertoia) at the southeast and southwest corners. These "musical sculptures" are inspired by the image of Midwestern wheat fields swaying in the breeze. These wheat stalks are hollow and made of thin copper, so when the wind blows (and it always blows in the Windy City), the rods produce a strange metallic music. Follow the plaza around to the west of the tower past some smaller statues and Richard Hunt's Winged Form (his more spectacular Freeform is yet to come)

4. Thompson Center
Continue a couple blocks to State Street and turn left. The giant Chicago sign on the left is one of Chicago's most famous landmarks, at the Chicago Theater. Walk past the theater and then turn right on to Randolph Street. Two blocks more and you will be before one of Chicago's most distinctive buildings, the Thompson Center (named for an Illinois governor). In the plaza on Randolph stands one of Chicago's most famous statues, Jean Dubuffet's Monument with Standing Beast. It's a strange sculpture of white, organic shapes, with thick black outlines, and usually a host of kids running in and out of it.
Make a point of wandering past the curved glass walls of the Thompson Center into its enormous atrium. The building is often compared to a spaceship, but few spaceships can claim the collection of public art that the Thompson Center has. Once you've finished inside, head back out to Randolph, turn right and head to the corner at LaSalle Street. Look across LaSalle and look up. Up on the State of Illinois Building is Richard Hunt's three ton, 2.5 story-tall, flame-like Freeform sculpture.

5. Daley Center
Two blocks down Washington and you are at the Daley Center and Chicago's most famous work of art, the Chicago Picasso. Resembling an elephant, a sphinx, or whatever your mind comes up with, the Chicago Picasso was the first monumental public art downtown (donated by the artist) and sparked the spate of public art acquisitions that you are now enjoying. It was "controversial," however, when it first arrived for its "abstract" "non-traditional" design. But the reactionary grumps have bit their tongues (after having removed their foots from their mouths) and the statue is celebrated today by a city that loves art. Kids, in particular, enjoy sliding down the statue's base.

Turn around and look across Washington Street for Joan Miro's Chicago, a strange surrealist, anthropomorphic figure. The fork on its head is said to represent a star.

Go down Dearborn Street one block and take a left onto Madison Avenue to make a quick venture into Three First National Plaza (70 W Madison St). The atrium is attractive and full of plants, complemented by one very large Sir Henry Moore statue, Large Upright Internal/External Form. Henry Moore's titles are purposefully devoid of descriptive content. He argued: All art should have a certain mystery and should make demands on the spectator. Giving a sculpture or a drawing too explicit a title takes away part of that mystery so that the spectator moves on to the next object, making no effort to ponder the meaning of what he has just seen.

6. Chase Plaza
Head back to Dearborn and continue south. Dominating the next block is the curved Chase Tower and the large plaza at its feet. Courtesy of the Russian-Jewish painter Marc Chagall, this plaza has become a must-see attraction for art lovers in Chicago. The Four Seasons is a 70 foot long mosaic/mural featuring light-hearted surrealist depictions of Chicago. After you have finished here continue south on Dearborn Street.

7. Federal Plaza
Two blocks down Dearborn from Chase Plaza is Federal Plaza, a full city block planned by renowned modernist architect Mies Van der Rohe. In the center of the plaza is the second Alexander Calder statue of the day, The Flamingo. Whimsical and constructivist (meaning: constructed of big industrial materials bolted together) are not words that usually belong side by side, but both Calder statues of the day nonetheless fit this description. The giant "Calder-red" flamingo poses a graceful, curving counterpoint to the hard edges and straight lines of the surrounding skyscrapers that reflect the statue in their windows.

Head south across Adams Street and then head around to the backside of the building on the left. Behind this building and on the side of another is Sol Lewitt's monumental, yet very understated Lines in Four Directions. The sculpture consists of four giant panels covered in long strips of aluminum painted white, facing in four directions (hence the title). Similar to David Smith's Cubi VII back at the Art Institute, the emphasis here is on how one work of art can change depending on its environment and the position of the viewer. Depending on where you are standing, and the day's lighting, different patterns will emerge as the light hits the differently aligned aluminum strips.

8. CBoT
The Metcalfe Federal Building's lobby on the left at the intersection of Jackson and Clark contains another larger than life statue. Frank Stella has created a whole series of Moby Dick related abstract sculptures; this one is named after a specific chapter, The Town-Ho's Story. It's a terrific mess of 13,000 lbs. of steel and aluminum. The link to Melville's novel is not very clear, but the sculpture is impressive and purposefully abrasive.
The next block of Jackson Boulevard is the gigantic Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade Building (CBoT). The main lobby itself is a work of art, and a good quick stop along the way. From here turn up LaSalle Street. Turn left at Adams Street and cross the intersection to stop in the building at 190 South LaSalle Street to admire its beautiful lobby. The high vaulted ceiling is covered with $1 million of gold leaf, but lest you strain your neck, focus your attentions on the large bronze statue at the end of the room, Chicago Fugue (Sir Anthony Caro). The statue is a cubist jumble of musical instrument-like shapes: a keyboard, organ pedals, cymbals, and any others you may "find" in it. The lobby's leather couches are another good reason to come in here, by the way.

9. Sears Tower
Universe is the last of the day's sculptures by Alexander Calder, and unlike the other "stabiles," this sculpture is fully "mobile." Held to represent the effect of the Big Bang at the origin of the universe, the work is comprised of rotating shapes meant to resemble heavenly bodies.

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I do not know about other visitors of Chicago, to know Chicago we need to understand her spirit, her soul; that is the character of the city. Hop in and hop off, going after tourist attractions may be the agenda of some, that is typical tourist. Others come all the way just for shopping at Magnificent Miles; others follow the food track, some go for sport, and many come for musical festival, the blues, the jazz and the gospel music. I go for the skycrappers and people, I want to feel the tempo of the living Chicago. Be it be art, food, music, sport, market, back alley, trains, river, lake ..... the living Chicago. That is the soul and spirit of Chicago.....

It is pity I have not much time to know Chicago, just merely a feel of its samples. Chicago...may be I have begin to feel her heart beats....

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Related articles:

1. List of tallest buildings in Chicago,
2. Skyscraper,

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