McMansionHell.com suffered a really bad week that had an awesomely good outcome thanks to the EFF. It's worth reading about. But last week, she published a great essay on the architectural styles (or lacks thereof) of the modern wealthy and how we should look at middle-class architecture as well (emphasis hers):
Architecture as a field has always been captivated by the houses of the elite - those who can hire architects, build large and high quality homes, and set trends for the next generations. While it is always enjoyable to look at street after street of high-profile houses and marvel at their fine execution and intricate architectural details, we must keep in mind that these houses are not where most of us live.
Architectural history and preservation have always preferred buildings left virtually untouched and in pristine condition. For most of us, our houses are not museums - they are places we live - places that grow as we grow. We build additions, decks, and other secondary structures; we enclose our porches in order to add a dining room; we redecorate to our tastes and the styles of today.
McMansions are so disappointing to us because they are the homes of the upper and upper-middle classes who used to build houses that were interesting, that set the stylistic trends later codified by architectural history. While they are now included in guides like A Field Guide to American Houses, the usual objectivity is put aside, replaced with an air of disdain, as if to say “this is the best you could come up with?”
As to the matter this week, I wonder which genius at Zillow decided to sue a young architect for making fun of the houses on Zillow without actually harming the company itself? I mean, doesn't Zillow itself exist thanks to freely-available data?
The Tribune reported late yesterday that the John Hancock Center is for sale:
Chicago-based developer Hearn Co. plans to put the North Michigan Avenue tower's office space and parking garage up for sale, possibly by late summer, company President and CEO Stephen Hearn said.
Hearn said he believes the real estate is worth more than $330 million, or more than double what his firm paid in 2013.
Hearn has been in talks with companies interested in putting their name on the skyscraper since the structure's namesake no longer pays for that right. "We've had interest in it, but have not made a deal yet," Hearn said.
That process could be resumed by a new owner.
Hearn declined to say how much he believes naming rights are worth, but people familiar with the property estimate it could generate $1 million to $2 million annually.
When it opened in 1969, it was the second-tallest building in the world. Today it has the best view of any building in Chicago.
Oh, I hope this art installation flies:
In a planned one-day protest, four golden pig balloons will take anchor in the Chicago River, lined up to cover President Donald Trump's last name on his building's southeast facade.
The giant swine come by way of Chicago-based design company New World Design Ltd., and will arrive by barge. New World is still negotiating how and when the pigs will arrive, but architect and firm principal Jeffrey Roberts says he is confident the project will come to fruition. With the city's approval, which is still pending, the massive pigs will pop up for a day in late August or early September.
I'm looking forward to the day when the letters adorning that garish skyscraper come off permanently.
Forty four years ago today, workers in Chicago completed the Sears Tower:
The original plan was to build two separate buildings. That was changed to a single structure, 1,454 feet high. As board chairman Gordon Metcalf explained, “Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.”
Construction began in 1970. The foundations were dug, and the steel frame began to rise slowly over Wacker Drive. On the way up, the Sears Tower passed the former record holder, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
The Sears Tower kept is title until 1996. Today all the sky-piercing structures are going up in Asia.
Meanwhile, in 1992, Sears again moved its headquarters, this time to Hoffman Estates. The tall building on Wacker Drive is now known as the Willis Tower.
And in the meantime, Eddie Lampert has poisoned the company to death.
Property values in Chicago's Trump Tower have declined as other similar properties have gotten pricier. Go figure:
"I've never seen such a glut" of condos for sale, said real estate agent Carla Walker of KoenigRubloff Berkshire Hathaway. "When people live where they've paid $1.5 million and up, they don't want to see people hanging out and demonstrating. And there's still a stigma there for some people."
The number for sale "is amazing," said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors. "I've never seen that number for sale since they opened, and there have been very few transactions."
Only four units sold this year, and there was a decline in the number sold last year compared with the previous year, she said. There are about 52 residential units for sale now. With the addition of the hotel condos also on the market in the building, the number of units for sale jumps to about 70.
Based on the residential units alone, the number of available condos in Trump Tower is almost three times higher than other large condo buildings downtown, according to Lissner's data. No comparison is perfect, because the very high-end Elysian and Waldorf buildings are small with little turnover in units. But Lissner said that while Trump Tower has 52 of its 486 units on the market, the John Hancock building has 26 out of 703 for sale; Water Tower Place has 9 out of 260 for sale; Aqua has 12 out of 262 for sale; 340 on the Park has 11 out of 343; 600 N. Lake Shore Drive has 20 out of 395; and The Heritage has 5 out of 358.
Apparently the massive "TRUMP" logo on the southeast wall of the building is not what people in heavily-urban, heavily-Democratic Chicago want to pay extra for.
Chicago is experiencing sustained 48 km/h winds with gusts up to 68 km/h, which has a noticeable effect on the building I work in. Sears Willis Tower was designed to sway in high winds. Over the years, however, material and building techniques have changed, so occasionally windows blow out of our upper floors. Fortunately this hasn't happened in almost 7 years, but these winds are high enough today that we may have to close the upper floors.
I may pop up to 66 today just to feel it. At that floor, the building can sway almost 3 m. I'm feeling a little dizzy and I'm only a third the way up.
And I haven't fully read any of these:
Only a few more hours until we see how much closer to Rome we get.
Growing up, one of my favorite things in the whole world was the O-gauge model railroad at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Atlas Obscura describes the $3.5m refurbishment that opened in 2002:
The exhibit focuses on the intersection of transportation infrastructure and economic activity—the intercity elevated train, suburban commuter rail, and cross country freight lines, all buzzing with a vibrant post-WWII industrial economy of decades past.
The trip begins in Chicago, which is the most recognizable area to a contemporary visitor. Iconic buildings like the Sears Tower and downtown neighborhoods like the Loop are shown in a spellbinding level of detail, replete with miniature cars, pedestrians and vegetation. Tiny electric trains scoot around through the skyscraper valleys and every half hour the museum lights dim as the exhibit enters “nighttime mode.”
As the exhibit moves westward five foot tall Rocky Mountain peaks rise into the air. The tracks cut through mountain tunnels and lumber towns before finally catching sight of the Pacific Ocean and the Port of Seattle. A hulking container ship is docked on the coast, ready to receive the raw materials and manufactured products collected along the 2,000 mile route from Chicago.
It's even cooler than the layout they had back in the day. And it's still one of my favorite things in the world.
For a couple of odd timing reasons, this is my first full 5-day week at my new job...and it's already a 5½-day week. So I've barely enough time to jot these articles down for future reading:
Have fun. I'll catch up to these in a day or two.
Today was pretty full. I took a train to Tring, hiked for two hours, came back to London, and walked around Kensington for a couple more. Now it's 11pm on Sunday night and everything is closed.
I won't have all the photos I took yesterday and today ready until I get back to Chicago, but here are a couple. First, the Tate Modern:
Second, this guy, who rode in my train carriage on the way back from Tring:
These are just from my phone. I did lug my real camera all over the hills of Buckinghamshire today, so I'll have real photos later in the week.