Open House and Open Eyes

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago featured 120 sites in two days. The specific Chicago areas featured this year were Rogers Park, Downtown, Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Garfield Park/North Lawndale, and Little Village. It was the first annual Open House Chicago modeled after other cities like New York and London. The Architecture Foundation as always, did not disappoint. Each neighborhood alone would have taken two full days to see every house and building. Downtown had over 30 buildings to see by itself! Exhaustion, curiosity, and excitement were the words of the day.

I began the day with the Tribune Building seeing Colonel McCormick’s office myself with the secret doors and how he made his visitors very uncomfortable. Moving on the Bridgehouse Museum another small museum with lots of reading about the river from the very beginning of the Chicago to today.  You tour the five floors of the Bridgehouse and see how the trunnion bridge works at the bottom. The next building was the Chicago Motor Club with its art deco and crumbling walls inside the building badly needs a restoration and a new owner. The building is falling apart; several fixtures on the inside including two columns had to be secured using wood and steel from all the moisture finding its way into the wall of the building. The building is currently for sale. Buy it quick, this Chicago gem can not be bulldozed.

After taking a quick lunch break, I went onto see the Santa Fe building otherwise known as the home of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. A new exhibit called Design on the Edge Chicago Architects Reimagine Neighborhoods is a remarkable piece of work. At Loyola University, where the El train tracks are crumbling and cracked. Here, it is even harder for students to cross the busy intersection at Sheridan Road. Architect, John Ronan wants to place a super elevated train with walking path on top of the magnet elevated train.  Artictects, Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen would like to change the boundaries around the United Center to feature a more defined area; that area being a three flat system of housing using stacked and geometric shapes even clove leafs. The buildings would then house Chicagoans and the area within the boudary could be used for events or seasonal surfaces such as a temporary market, farm, or exposition. To see these ideas and more check out the Architecture Foundation. Finally, in the Santa Fe building lies the artium and sky lights for the architecture firms such as Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, VOA Associates, and Goettsch Partners. Click here to see how all the buildings of Chicago have materialized. The other added bonus I saw was where Daniel Burham’s office had once been, the floor has been renovated so there is not exact location any longer.

The Monroe Building and the Fine Arts Building were last. The Monroe Building through generous donations is being rehabbed and taken down to the original wood and other furnishings. An up to date door handle, custom made was $3,000 dollars! Also, in the Monroe Building is the Pritzker Military Library. The only library dedicated to the military in the United States and the current exhibit is Memories of World War II, photographs from the archives of The Associated Press. The photos include a famous kissing scene in New York City, a Nazi March, and a bombed out church. Many emotions come to surface even after 70 years of distance from World War II.  Finally, the Fine Arts Building houses the only manual elevator in Chicago and has several exquisite murals based on Roman times and I was able to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s office. A very tiring but good day.

There will be another Open House next year! I will be waiting!

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