Saturday, May 06, 2006

architecture in the city

little girl meets the bean
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Kicked off a four-week course this morning with Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune. First stop: Millennium Park (is it possible to get tired of that big, beautiful Bean?), followed by the Glessner House at 1800 Prairie Ave South.

Seeing the Glessner was interesting in the wake of the Ireland trip. Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson between 1885 and 1887 for the Scottsman Glessner, it’s a lovely merger of Scotts practicality and the Arts & Crafts movement, both inside and out (a couple of rooms are festooned in Morris-patterned wallpaper -- an unexpected treat). There's also a sweet hint of neo-celtic motifs bubbling through -- the house is a contemporary with W.B. Yeats after all, and with the Irish nationalism that was finding its voice around that time. (Ask me if I would even have noticed that if I hadn't just returned from Dublin.) One obvious example: A Celtic Tree of Life symbol decorates the archway over the front door.

The structure itself is particularly cool because it’s clearly granddaddy to so many of the great ideas that Sullivan and Wright will soon express in their architecture. I’d call the arch over the front door Sullivanesque if it didn’t pre-date Louis – maybe it’s more accurate to say that Sullivan’s arches are Richardson-esque. And he also played a little trick with the street – bricking it off to buffer the family from the mess and the noise – something FLW will be all about once he gets rolling in his work.

Another piece of random trivia that made me happy: Richardson was good buddies with Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in NYC and the UC at Berkeley campus. (I'm a big fan.)

Of course, next Saturday, if the sun is shining like it was today, I’ll be certain to bring the sunscreen and turn periodically like a steak on the grill so I don’t come away with only one half of my face sunburned, like I did today. (Yeah, if you're wondering, I do look like an idiot.)

John J. Glessner House
1800 S. Prairie Ave
Chicago, IL
1885-1887, Henry Hobson Richardson


patrick said...

I had intended to jaunt down to Prarie Ave last weekend after Chinatown but got rained out. Is it a safe area to wander around?

suttonhoo said...

very safe -- the whole neighborhood has been revived -- it's part of the building boom that's taking place across from the museum campus. we saw ads for loft apts ranging from $300k - $3 mil -- which gives you some kind of idea about where that neighborhood is going. ;) we wound up walking half the distance back to the Loop, when a cab was hard to come by -- it was a beautiful walk.

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