Look Up

What a day in Chicago today.  It started out with threatening and overcast skies.  There was a bit of a chill in the air:  Do I bring a hoodie or not?  I oped not to, which was the right decision.  

By 11:30AM, everyone knew, "It's a Beautiful Day."  I captured some images before a 12:15 lunch with Adam Rose and Bina Sanghavi at Howells & Hood in the Tribune Building.  The Ahi tuna salad was delightful, but the company was even better, as evidenced by the 2.5-hour lunch while seated on wicker outdoors.

Then it was off to capture more images in the afternoon sun and shade.  I took my 12mm Voightlander Heliar lens.  An extreme wide angle lens that would do some weird, but edgy stuff.  When using that lens, the secret is to look up, which makes Chicago perfect for that lens.

The Michigan South Plaza is pictured in the cover photograph.  It is part of the massive complex that replaced the Illinois Central rail yards.  The railroad began selling parcels and air rights in 1951.  The first buyer was Prudential Insurance Company.  It built a 41-story tower a block east of Michigan Avenue on Randolph.

Completed in 1986, Michigan South Plaza is comprised of two connected building designed by Fujikawa Johnson & Associates.  Not surprisingly, Mies van der Rohe's classic 20th Century designs were the inspiration, but the red swoosh adds a telltale dash of color that undercuts any notion that Mies was directly involved.   It is a playful touch.  Every day some 18,000 people pass through doors of these two buildings, which serve as the main entrance to the five-building complex known as Illinois Center.  

The Old Republic Building

My next door neighbor, Angelo Kokkino, is an internationally known architect.  One day, he waxed on eloquently about the Old Republic Building.  Angelo saw perfection in its classic terra-cotta facade.  He loved the economics of floor plan. 

Rising 23-stories and completed in 1924, the building was one of the first skyscrapers built south of the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue after the avenue was widened in the early Twenties.   The signage on the front of the building dates to the mid-Fifties.  The building was initially built to house the Bell and Zoller Coal Company, which is why it was originally named the Bell Building.  The top floor is now occupied by the Sky Line Club, which limits its membership to 300 people.  The terrace offers some nice views of the Chicago River and surrounding buildings.

Wall of Reflection

Between what is still known as the Amoco Building and Two Prudential Plaza sits a water fountain/fall.  Today, the water looked so inviting, particularly when slowed to 1/8 of a second.  There is something very calming about the flow of water against a backdrop of steel, glass and concrete.

One of the Shrinking Few

Surface parking lots are hardly historical architecture, but this little fellow is holding up his end of the bargain with that glossy red paint--might make a nice color for nails.  It is not clear how much longer this lot will remain.  A recent article in the Chicago Tribune noted that surface parking lots are an endangered species in Chicago.  That's certainly true north of the river, where one glass box after another consumes surface parking.

Afternoon Shadow Play

Chicago fire escapes are the eighth wonder of the world.  This one casts a particularly nice shadow on the back of Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre.  To me, the shadow resembles a staff without notes.

Brutalism In a Triangle

I usually envision more volume and rectangular mass when I think of Brutalism, but famed Chicago architect Harry Reese had a different take on Mussolini's Brutalism when he designed the Metropolitan Correction Center.  Its 28 stories house some of the tougher folks in Chicago.  In their cells, the inmates can look out the narrow 5-inch wide, 7.5-foot high windows.  The exercise yard is on the top floor.  You might think that this structure is escape proof, but you would be wrong.  On December 18, 2012, two bank robbers knocked a hole in the wall, and then used bedsheets to escape their 17th floor cell. One of the robbers was captured two days later, but it took two weeks to capture the second one.  

It is somewhat ironic that the jail population has some of the best views in the City from this high-rise.  Those views, however, may be better than many realize.  Over the years, female friends of intimates have used the roof of an adjacent parking garage to perform strip tease and X-rated sex shows.  According to one article, the Bureau of Prisions is aware of these performances, but claims it is powerless to do anything about them.  If you see the lights flickering on and off in the prison's windows, there is a good chance that a performance is underway.  In prison, flickering lights are the visual equivalent to a standing "O."

Reflections on Joy District

Hubbard Street in River North is the place to see and be seen these days, at least if you are a young thing who lives in one of the new glass high-rise rental apartments that line the Chicago River.  When I arrived on the scene just shortly after 6PM, the afterwork crowd was already spilling onto the street.  

I love the reflection of the old iron block building in the window, its subtle blue tones against the stark red metal overhang.  My inclination was to get to a second level, so that I could take the photograph straight-on.  There, however, is a problem with that strategy.  Reflections are funny things:  They disappear with changing positions.

Hands at Day's End

Hands at Day's End

Day for Night

Day for Night