Archive for the ‘Architecture – Contemporary’ Category

PostHeaderIcon My New Dateline: France

Nice, France

Nice, France

For the past 16 months, I have been blogging about the arts from Chicago. It has been called, and rightfully so, the great American city. In the past quarter-century, it also has been recognized as one of the country’s cultural capitals. Any city that boasts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Grant Park Symphony in summer, the Art Institute of Chicago, Lyric Opera and a theater community unmatched in its vitality and importance can proudly make such a claim.

Starting this week, however, I will be based for several months in France on an extended vacation or, as I like to call it, “sabbatical.” I will be posting less frequently as I get acquainted with my new surroundings—in Vence, nearby Nice and towns along the Cote d’Azur–in June and July. During this period, my reporting may roam beyond the arts (though France hosts many art exhibits and music festivals in summer) to include discoveries I make in my travels.

I will get to Paris toward the end of my visit. In the meantime, my intent is to get to know France in all its rich diversity beyond previous trips solely to the City of Light. I hope you will stay along for the ride. And do send me your comments!

PostHeaderIcon Arts In Bloom For May

Not just flowers but the arts are also in full bloom in May. If you are scouting for something different to do this month besides the old stand-bys (movies, touring museums or club-crawling), here are six events sure to inject some added spark in your social calendar.

Chi Humanities spring1. Spring Humanities Festival —May 3-15Chicagoans flock every Fall to the Chicago Humanities Festival. A lesser-known fact is that the festival has a sister version each Spring. This year’s festival is titled “Stages, Sights and Sounds” and features 40 performances by 4 theater companies from Scotland, Italy, Canada and The Netherlands. The companies will perform at the Museum of Contemporary Art and on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. For more information on the troupes, dates and tickets, see or phone 312/494-9509.

2. Chicago Opera Theater—MAY 7 & 8When art, like life, hands you a lemon, make lemonade. That’s precisely what Chicago Opera Theater General Manager Brian Dickie did when the previously announced production, Shostokovich’s opera,”Cheryomushki,” was put off to next season. Dickie then had an inspired notion: stage two song cycles about obsessive love and add visual special effects by the Chicago Symphony’s “Beyond the Score” team of Gerard McBurney and animator Hillary Leben. The dream images, Leben says, are “meant to lead the audience through the expressive emotional content of the songs. It’s a chance to experience them on a deeper level.”

COT will present Robert Schumann’s “A Woman’s Love and Life” and Leos Janacek’s “The Diary of One Who Disappeared.” Go to witness the fascinating interplay of images and song. But hurry. There are only two performances at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Tickets range from $25-75 with half-price seats for students. For more information, go to

chicago-architecture-foundation-walking-tours3.After Five” Walking ToursAre you new in town or simply want to know the story behind some of Chicago’s most famous structures? The Chicago Architecture Foundation will begin a series of 11 “After Five” walking tours this month through September. Learn more about our city’s heralded architectural heritage after work and be home in time for dinner. Some offerings include “Downtown Deco,” “Modern Skyscrapers,” “Gold Coast: Astor Street.” Tours are led by the foundation’s trained docents and cost a modest $15. For a full list of tours, go to


The Front Page

4. The Front Page—Now Thru July 17At a time when blogging passes for reporting and newspapers are in financial peril, relive what Chicago journalism was like in its 1920s heyday while laughing your head off. “The Front Page”, by Chicago legends, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, draws on their exploits (more like shenanigans) at City News Bureau in this landmark comedy that exposes the rampant corruption and hi-jinks synonymous with Windy City politics and journalism of that era. The crack TimeLine cast bring the madcap antics of star reporter Hildy Johnson Death Row inmate, Earl Williams and the paper’s tyrannical managing editor, Walter Burns, to life. To book tickets, go to


Bill Cunningham

5. Bill Cunningham New York—Starts May 20Some people read The New York Times for its political coverage, others for its business news or op-ed pundits, but the city’s entire fashion and society world read it for Bill Cunningham’s weekly photo essays. However, everyone will find the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, enchanting for its portrait of a delightful 82 year-old, humble gentleman who gets around New York by bike and whose singular passion is capturing Manhattan’s street and night life on film. Make this movie a top priority. You will exit the Music Box on a high note. For more details, check out

6. Artspeaks—MAY 16This University of Chicago program, now in its seventh season, gathers renowned artists from various disciplines in conversation for the benefit of the campus and Hyde Park community. But I’m sure they won’t ask for your passport if you venture to Hyde Park from the North Side. Director Peter Sellars, playwright Tony Kushner, choreographer Bill T. Jones and artist Kara Walker have been past participants.

The May program features playwright/producer David Henry Hwang, best known for the play, M.Butterfly and Producer/Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, former head of New York’s Public Theater, who now teaches at New York University. They will discuss their craft and Hwang’s upcoming Goodman production of Chinglish. The duo will appear at International House, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $5 for students. To order tickets, call 773-702-8068.

PostHeaderIcon Architecture Beyond the Architects

Chicago Model City

Mention architecture and our minds instinctively think of modern master builders: Sullivan, Wright, Kahn, Gehry, van der Rohe, Piano.  But architecture encompasses several allied fields– engineering, design, landscape gardening– and millions of architecture fans, like myself.

Just over 40 years ago, there was no Chicago Architecture Foundation. It was founded in 1966 to save the Glessner House on Prairie Avenue from demolition. It won that battle and stayed around to fight other battles. It is now a thriving organization, boasting a budget last year of $11 million and nearly half-a-million participants in its programs, from walking tours (led by 450 trained docents), the Chicago Model City exhibit at the ArchiCenter, 224 S. Michigan Avenue, noonday lectures and a highly popular riverboat tour. Its programs help tell the story of Chicago through its buildings.

Like Burnham, Lynn Osmond makes no little plans. President and CEO at CAF since 1996, she has added a new title, chair of the Association of Architectural Organizations, a new international group, which aims to foster collaboration amongst its members and raise public awareness in other cities to the often overlooked architectural riches in their midst. Every building has a tale connected to that city’s history.

AAO consists of 30 members representing 3,100 architecture centers, heritage properties, architectural educators, university programs and individuals. It grew out of the Architecture + Design Network (A+DEN) meeting last November.

Greater public interest in issues such as sustainability, climate change  and architectural heritage have fueled a boom in architecture centers here and abroad. AAO intends to offer consulting services to assist emerging architecture centers elsewhere, using CAF’s model and other best practices. It will sponsor conferences and workshops on design issues and offer online resources.

All AAO members are facing pressure, as Michael Wood, AAO’s newly-named executive director, to stretch their dollars.  Members are exploring optimal convergence strategies: sharing ideas as well as exhibitions, lobbying municipal leaders for increased funding and building a strong constituency for architectural preservation.

“Over time, our top priority is developing more strategic partnerships,” says Osmond.  “Architecture centers are only as strong as their Rolodex of partnering organizations,” adds Wood.  Wood also cites the key role of educating youth to design principles.  “We believe talented design educators are essential to AAO and our aims are deeply allied.”

Osmond states the board is now exploring ways to implement these ambitious plans and will present their recommendations to the AAO membership at its convention in Chicago November 15 and 16.

Wood is reachable online at For more on the exhibit visit Chicago Model City.