Friday, August 21, 2009

Lake Meadows

Well, I'm just chock full of posts this month (and week even, in fact). But I just had to post this. This morning I had a great opportunity, the chance to go up on a south side rooftop. So here are the results.As those of you who are intrepid might guess, this was taken from a Lake Meadows rooftop, from the Luxury Building no less (that would be the smaller building closer to Lake Shore Drive, which is the only building which is not rental, has central air conditioning, inset balconies and in addition, a bigger unit mix - i.e. larger units).

Here you can see some of the mix of buildings on the near south side. The distant buildings are the towers of Indian Village - the area of East Hyde Park and Kenwood which was to have been a new streeterville or even Manhattan-esque area. In the immediate foreground there are townhouses and a vintage street (aka gated community), a newer mid-rise complex - early 90s if I recall correctly.
Here is the view south, looking at the simplest of the slab buildings, which are the most pure of the zielenbau of Skidmore's plan for LM. Here is a view of the stereotypical curtain-walled glass towers, with the more recent "infill" townhouses in the forground.
Another view, towards the northwest, with more of the townhouses. Quite frankly, they are an abomination, firstly because of the purity and elegance of the scheme - and the luxurious quality of the towers in the park. But also because of the poorly designed pastiche-laden neo-traditionalism. If they had done modernist housing, ala South Commons, the result would have been much more successful. And looking north towards the loop with Prairie Shores (Perkins & Will) to the left and Michael Reese Hospital (Hopefully long for this world) to the right.

As you may, or more likely, may not know, Lake Meadows was built by the New York Life Insurance Company as an investment. It was also slum clearance and necessitated the Robert Taylor Homes along the Dan Ryan, which was built as replacement housing. It was intended as a mixed-race, middle/upper-middle class development, not a project (obviously). In fact, it became a haven for many members of the black elite, who actually paid more rent than the white residents who were subsidized. It is interesting the see the photos of the mixed-race mixed doubles tennis (no, sorry, the couples weren't interracial) - where else would you have seen black tennis players in the 1950s, let alone two couple of different races playing together?

However, the social exclusion of LM and the slightly, but only somewhat, later Prairie Shores, led even Hizzoner Daley Sr, to commission South Commons as a mixed-income and mixed-race complex, that, however, is a discussion for another time and (another) post (one which talks about the change in aesthetic, as well as social aims and goals of that project, sorry, complex, don't want to confuse things).


While I usually try to steer clear of political issues with this blog, I found this to be rather amusing, well, more interesting than amusing, as it proves that Chicago is still a labor town. They've been out there a few mornings lately, but since I don't always take the bus, either the el or my bike, I can't say for certain how often.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to Boston

550 Beacon Street

Since we've been visiting New York, I felt we had to go back to Boston to get some of my backlog of posts cleared out of the archives (and believe you me, there are a lot planned, believe me...).

So here we have 330 Beacon Street in the Back Bay, Boston's Back Bay that is. Here in the middle of the posh 19th Century Subdivision (yes, for that is what it is, a subdivision, albeit, tres upscale) lurks an interloper, an interloper of a modernist ilk. It would be Hugh Stubbins' 330 Beacon of 1959. Not only is it discretely fitting itself in with it's red brick and bay windowed facade, but it also make no grand gestures, but simply fits in quietly.

Interestingly, the back facade (the rear faces both the Charles River and an expressway) is glazed and balconied. In fact, in a paraphrased quote, the orientation doesn't matter to Americans as much as the view (and as long as the physical plant can provide comfortable temperatures year round). What struck me when I visited this spring was something that I hadn't realized; that it is red brick and not white brick as I had thought from my trusty "Multi-Story Housing" book. In fact, I shall get more images from that and another book from the era it was built in. I had to cull the floor plans from elsewhere, however... (disclaimer, as a technically inept person and luddite, my computer, pc, wordprocesser or whatever you want to call it, and hence scanner, at home are not working, I am somewhat limited with and in my imaging abilities).

In fact, the building is also quite interesting in plan as well. It has a modified skip stop corridor configuration. Here is the corridor floor, which is every third floor.
There are a few north facing, single sided units, while the rest of the units are through units, with two exposures.
Some of the units are duplexes, and most are quite large. At the core floor, there are three cores with two units per core lobby.

A future post will feature more plans, vintage and interior shots...


Key Urban Housing of the Twentieth Century
Plans, Sections and Elevations
Hilary French
W.W. Norton & Co

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Legacy....

The Legacy at Millennium Park is one of my favorite of the new crop of residential loop high-rises. I didn't think that I would really like it from the rendering and plans, but...
I find that I do. It is quite elegant and particularly dramatic when viewed from the park with it's 72-story, 800+ foot height subtly tapered form. The reflective glass effectively mirrors the sky and some of the surrounding buildings in the right light.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chatham Towers

Chatham Towers is one of the most interesting middle income developments in urban American from the 1960s. They were built in 1964 as a cooperative near City Hall, next to Chinatown, designed by Kelly & Gruzen. Unusually, they are raw concrete in one of the most purely brutalist complexes in the United States - residential complexes that is. In form they are close to many English social housing schemes, however in detail they far surpass them (being site built for a higher price point helps, of course). Interestingly, they reputedly have Swedish windows - the blinds are between the glass of the double-glazing, which is extremely common in Swedish windows from the 30s until the 80s, as well as being center-pivot windows (also common in Sweden in this era). Apparently, there was some controversy about the use of gypsum board (aka drywall) within the units at the time as well.
Here is a view from an overpass, framed through tree's, showing the assymetrical penthouse. A view of the balconies, showing the detailing, the ribbed concrete and elegant balcony edges and the windows. The slots beneath the windows are for fresh air supply I assume, for the air handlers.
A view looking up at the balconies and facade. The balconies are assymetical in the sense of some floors not having them to create a more interesting silhouette. Another view looking at the buildings obliquely. A shot from the privacy and retaining wall, framed through the garden trees.
A parting glance, looking at the towers in shadow. This shows the balcony silhouette quite well. The concrete is in amazingly good condition, probably due to the less severe New York winters.

I will follow up with plans and further details when I get a chance, however I wanted to get these photos out quickly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Broadway Update

It is called 40 Mercer (at least the upper residential tower portion) and is by noted French Architect, Jean Nouvel.

Broadway Penthouse

Here is the second entry in my flurry of New York postings. In this entry, I was fascinated by this penthouse which I saw as I walked up Broadway. While it's not great architecture, it's site lends itself to a dramatic vista as one walks up Broadway and see's it's position change, to looking at it from above to below. The blue sunshades are also quite arresting, especially from a distance.
The superstructure here is also interesting, harkening back to the early moderns of the Bauhaus era or to a steamship (or for that matter, a dock). Coming closer, one can see that the superstructure actually does include a crane, which is a fantasy for many architects to include in their projects (myself included). Getting still closer, it becomes apparent that the sunshades are indeed, actually blue in color!Closer still, they are transparent as well. One can also see the crystalline glass box sheltering under the brise soleil. Despite nestling beneath that, despite the sunshade, I imagine the solar load on the mechanical system is astronomical. However, as these are obviously luxury apartments, I don't that that is really much of a factor.
Here in a final view, one can see the tower above the base or podium of the building, which sports a less glass box and more "technical" or mechanistic curtain wall (or perhaps it's actually a cladding system). I am going to do some research to find out more information about this building. But for those of you that are intrepid, curbed ( is where I am going to start first.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tudor City

Tudor City in the Rain

Well, once again I realize that I have been truly neglectful of this little project, my blog. In fact, I haven't updated since the very end of May, and I have all of June and July to get written and posted. Since I went to the multi-family capital of America this weekend for a visit and took my trusty little camera with me, you, my dear readers, can have some visual treats.

Tudor City

First off we have Tudor City, once owned by Husband to the Diva, Harry Helmsley, who got into quite a bit of trouble trying to redevelop it before selling. I'll update with further information, but briefly, it was built in the 1920s, on the eastern edge of Midtown Manhattan. It is literally directly across the street from the UN (as in United Nations) however, when it was designed, there was no Congress of Nations or other body on that site (well, bodies, not the governmental kind, or even human, but the edible kind) just docks and stockyards, hence the inward facing design.

It was quite a lovely space, with a large garden with tall, mature tree's making the Neo-Gothic (Tudorbethan or Jacobethan) towers all the more surreal when seen through the leafy canopy. At ground level the arboreal splender appears to be a modestly scaled, nicely detailed space, however the penthouse levels above do make a dramatic impression when viewed from below in typical Manhattan fashion (nearly all of my photos were in portrait mode from the verticality of it all - at least Lower Manhattan and Midtown.
Another shot looking upwards. The tops of the buildings are really magnificent against the cloudy sky with rain pouring down. A view of the central courtyard, more of a garden than a park. The undeveloped area was a big bone of contention when H. Helmsley owned Tudor City.
A parting glance. The last shot shows one of the more modest building tops.