Architecture & Public Art (outdoor), Chicago
The final member of my Off the Beaten Path group of neighbours is Soldier Field, a quite impressive piece of work near McCormick Place that we passed daily on our bus rides. I didn't know quite what to make of this first view of the Soldier Field sports stadium, opened in 1925 as a memorial to American soldiers lost in WWI. According to Wikipedia, it turns out that the space-age looking parts are due to an upgrade in 2003 that made the seating arrangements much more comfortable while at the same time dropping the actual seating capacity by 5,444 to its present level of 61,500. The 2nd photo gives a better look at what the place used to look like in the days when it was declared a National Historic Site. Not everyone is pleased with its new look, hence its new nickname of the 'Spaceship on Soldier Field'!
Over the years the stadium has held a number of venues including college football games, the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney heavyweight boxing championship match, a NASCAR race, 1994 World Cup of Football matches as well as numerous rock concerts including the Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi. It has also been home to the National Football League's Chicago Bears since 1971.
Looking out the bus window was as close as I got to seeing Soldier Field.
If you are a fan of Mies "less is more" Van der Rohe, then you might enjoy a stroll on the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus near Sox Park. The architect was head of IIT’s architecture department beginning in 1938 and helped develop the master plan for the campus, nearly 20 buildings on the campus were his designs. I personally do not care for the boxy glass and steel designs of Van der Rohe, you will also find some of his work in downtown Chicago including three Federal government buildings, the Dirksen Federal Building, the Kluczynski Federal Building and one of the post offices on S. Dearborn plus One Illinois Center, all big boxy buildings.
The only thing that I find cool at IIT was designed by Rem Koolhaas, an concrete and steel oval tube that looks like something out of Tomorrowland at Disney that muffles the noise from the el train that cuts through the campus. If you want to ride the el through the tube, you need to take the Green Line el south from downtown to the 35-Bronzeville-IIT stop. If you are approaching from the south, you need to go past the stop and turn around and come back.
You don't have to go all the way to the Louvre in Paris to see the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace. We have our own replica statue here in Chicago -- and it's in Gold! The Goddess of Victory (known as Nike, in Greek) is shown here in the form of a winged woman. It is located in the Citadel Center, at the northeast corner of the intersection of Dearborn and Adams. It is in the lobby area, so you can view it at any time. Venez voir! Come see!
This controversial sculpture was a gift from Picasso to the City of Chicago. Installed in 1967, it was originally received with skepticism and derision. But over time is has become an icon of the city if not completely understood or even really appreciated. According to the City of Chicago's Public Art site, the sculpture "is acknowledged as a monumental achievement in Cubism, the artistic style pioneered and explored by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and his French contemporary, Georges Braque, between 1907 and 1911. “The Picasso” is an exemplary work of Cubism in its use of multiple perspectives, combining frontal and profile views in a single vantage point. "
Definitely worth a look if you happen to be in Daley Plaza where you can also imagine Jake and Elwood driving their beat up Dodge cop car through the plaza and to the entrance to the offices of Cook County to the left of the plaza as you are looking at the Picasso. ;-)
Spanish painter and sculptor, Joan Miro, was commissioned to create this interesting and creative sculpture which kind of reminds me of WWII cartoon/graffitti character, Kilroy, with a fork sticking out of his head. The City of Chicago Public Art website describes it thus
"Miró imbued this sculpture with the mystical presence of an earth deity, both cosmic and worldly. Shapes and forms found in this composition evoke celestial imagery and common objects. The bell-shaped base draws the viewer’s gaze downward, symbolizing Miró’s association of the female form with the earth. The sphere at center represents the moon while the shape of the face is derived from that of a ceramic hook. The fork projecting from the top of the head is symbolic of a star, with individual tines representing rays of light."
So I guess I was partly right!
The Miro is located at 69 W. Washington Street, directly across the street from Daley Plaza and next door to the Chicago Temple.
Commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration through its Art-in-Architecture program and installed in 1974, is an abstract iron sculpture that has been painted red. The most stunning part of the sculpture, to this humble observer, is the contrast of the red sculpture to that of the dark/black windows/facade of the many buildings that share its location in Federal Center Plaza. Also the rounded figure is another contrast to the perpendicular linearity of the building facades. It's fun to walk right up to it and imagine climbing on it, which is actually not at all easy to do.
Located at Federal Center Plaza at the corner of Dearbonr and Adams Streets
Marc Chagall is one of our favorite artists mainly for his whimsical and colorful paintings and lithographs. I think we would have eventually discovered who Chagall was but we did happen to first hear of him when we purchased our first home on Chagall Avenue in Irvine, California. Installed in 1974, The Four Seasons is fantastic for its size (14' high x 10' wide x 70' long) and the fact that is a mosaic. From afar it looks like a large collection of Chagall figures such as horses, dancers, angels, and the usual suspects one might recognize from Chagall's paintings. The fantastic colors are also present here. It's an awe-inspiring experience to take your time walking around it and deciding what stories Chagall is trying to tell in the many scenes.
It basically portrays scenes of Chicago and was originally created in France on full-scale panels and then installed here although Chagall made modifications throughout the installation process. It is a beautiful piece of art.
Located at the Bank One Plaza at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets
Chicago is one of the best cities in the U.S. for historic and interesting architecture. In the Loop/Downtown area one can pretty much do a self-guided tour by looking at building exteriors and selecting certain ones to explore further by entering. We did just that while conducting our own public art walking tour in the Loop and ended up attracted by the beautiful facade of the Marquette Building. Named for a 17th century French explorer, Jacques Marquette, the building was designed by Holabird and Roche and ws completed in 1895. We were mainly attracted by the bronze revolving doors and the metal relief above them depicting early American exploration.
The lobby is equally impressive with bronze heads of Native Americans, explorers, and animals on the first and second floors, visible from the ground floorthrough the open interior lobby courtyard. Around the second floor landing are brilliant Tiffany mosaics that show additional scenes of early exploration of North America. There's a security guard in the lobby who can answer questions and will provide a pamphlet describing the history of the building upon request.
Located at 140 S. Dearborn Street
There are countless examples of art in the neighborhoods of Chicago.
They range from the professional, the planned, the haphazard, to the captivating graffiti.
They all are free to enjoy and do their part to inspire. Simply take the time to enjoy!!
City Art – City at Large - Everywhere
Bloomingdale Gallery - Bloomingdale Ave (1800N, east-west between California and Winnebago streets)
Chicago Gallery - Hubbard Ave (starting at May Ave and runs ~4 blocks west)
Say Goodbye Gallery - Hubbard Ave (starting at Des Plaines Ave then to the west)
S Ashland – City Murals - 1800~2100 S Ashland Ave
Anyone can find good-looking buildings in Chicago. Just look around. They're all over the place. After all, this is, in many opinions, the architectural capital of America. But what about the ugly buildings? There are some oddballs right downtown that look as if they've been abandoned, or as if they've burnt down altogether. The investors out there ought to think about buying and redeveloping that property.
Mike1457 writes: "This is actually an architecturally significant older building that lends character to the area. It's an old warehouse from a different era." There's a significant more general point behind this: the ugly stuff is probably historic, so watch closely.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel - 690 W. Belmont - is in the heart of the popular E. Lakeview neighborhood. It was created in the late 19th century as "the mother church" of English-language parishes on the North Side of Chicago.
Our Lady was built in 1913 in an English Tudor Gothic style - somewhat reminiscent of Westminister Abbey! There are notable stained glass windows and a famous Skinner organ.
Btw, the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known to be among the most open in Chicagoland for gay and lesbian Catholics. As is appropriate for its neighborhood.
The John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium, at 50 E. Erie, is owned and operated by the American College of Surgeons. This "temple" of medicine was built in the 1920s, and was closely based upon a similar structure in Paris, the Our Lady of Consolation Chapel.
John B. Murphy was a prominent Chicago surgeon of the early 20th century. A nice way to be remembered! Unfortunately, there isn't regular access to the interior of the building.
This historically significant house has recently been restored, sandblasted, and generally given a shake-down, courtesy of the ample pockets of Richard Dreihuas, a generous area businessman with a passion for historic preservation. Before the exterior was sandblasted, the walls were black with decades of soot and grime!
The 19th century architect responsible for this residence, Edward Burling, also created the St. James (Episcopal) Cathedral around the corner. Walls of the exterior are said to have been made two feet thick!
Formerly, the Nickerson House was used as offices for the American College of Surgeons - but I'm not sure what Mr. Dreihaus is planning on doing with the building now.
One of the few surviving mansions in this neighborhood, the Ransom Cable is a reminder of the time when the streets between N. Michigan and State were the ultimate in high class Chicago style. Designed by the firm of Cobb and Frost, the Ranson Cable house has been extensively and meticulously restored by its current owner, Richard Dreihaus, a passionate restorer and preserver of historic Chicago.
I believe the mansion will soon be open to the public for tours - though I don't have any details. I know that I would love to take a peak at the interior.
The main picture for this tip is just of the stable house for the mansion!
25 E. Erie, between Wabash and State Streets
It's not exactly "public art" in that it's behind a wrought-iron fence - but it's not exactly hidden either. Call it "semi-public art" then. I think it's quite magnificent - a casting of "Victory" - created by Daniel Chester French for First Division Monument in Washington D.C.
Daniel Chester French was one of the greatest monumental sculptors in American history. He is best nown for the amazing seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Temple - also in D.C.
The Chicago "Victory" is in the front yard of a proud 1900 mansion, standing on Erie Street between Wabash and State. It's next to the Ranson Cable House - another one of the few remaining houses in this part of the bustling city.