Designers On Design: Nine Top Chicago Creatives Talk Turkey

Architecture, Designed Objects, Furniture, Graphic Design, Reviews No Comments »

On view at the Chicago Cultural Center through November 2, “CHGO DSGN: Recent Object and Graphic Design” captures the vast and variegated creative production in the city. Freelance writer Renée Olson conducted a series of nine interviews with members of the Chicago design community whose work appeared in CHGO DSGN. Edited transcripts of interviews with Charles Adler, Bob Faust, Felicia Ferrone, Firebelly Design, Sara Frisk, John Pobojewski, Holly Hunt, Jake Nickell and Rick Valicenti appear below.

Charles Adler, co-founder of

Renée Olson: Does the Chicago design community hide its light under a bushel?

Charles Adler: One of the things about Chicago I’ve always been frustrated with is that it’s the dark side of the work ethic. Everyone just huddles up in their own studio. We work but we don’t tout ourselves, and yet there are massive talents here.One of the problems I’d like to participate in solving is how do you get (the design community) out there and connected—and what can happen when you start connecting all these people?

RO: What is the CHGO DSGN show saying?

CA: (Though) Chicago has a history with design that gets overshadowed by other cities; (it fully) exists in the realm of the designed world. CHGO DSGN showcases the beautiful, inventive, personal and ambitious work that comes from this great city. Read the rest of this entry »

Designy Mom: To Drive or Not to Drive

Urban Design No Comments »
A 1973 Amtrak schedule promises a faster commute in the Midwest. Photo courtesy of Amtrak.

A 1973 Amtrak schedule promises a faster commute in the Midwest. Photo courtesy of Amtrak.

By Krisann Rehbein

I am now “Midwestern bi-coastal,” spending time on the shores of Lake Michigan in both Milwaukee and Chicago. These days, my favorite piece of graphic design nostalgia is the one-and-a-half-square-inch Milwaukee County Transportation System bus pass I carry in my wallet. MCTS is in the middle of implementing a smart-card ticketing system, complete with real-time tracker information. But for now, they still accept the lovely retro paper tickets that feature a purple MCTS logo with bleeding edges and the word “ADULT” rendered in orange neon with a purple outline. Across the top, the ticket reads: “Vital to the Community. Vital to You. Get on Board.” The tickets come ten to a perforated sheet and when you get on the bus, you simply hand one to the driver.

In our daily transportation choices, we vote with our feet. But in the upcoming elections, we will have the chance to vote for candidates who differ substantially in their support for urban infrastructure. As the Wisconsin gubernatorial election nears, the Democratic candidate, Mary Burke, brings up her opponent’s decision to turn down federal dollars for rail transportation infrastructure in 2010. In refusing federal support, Governor Scott Walker took Wisconsin out of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative at a loss of both construction jobs and a potential boon to the regional economy. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Pleasant View

Chicago Looks, Fashion No Comments »


MCA curator Naomi Beckwith was photographed after the “David Bowie Is” press preview.

In your opinion, is fashion art?
I have to defer to Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, when they say fashion is not art. Fashion aspires to make great iconic images and forms and sometimes I may prefer those forms to some art objects. Those things take great artistry, but, in the end art has the freedom to take any form or no form. It doesn’t even have to exist at all as an object and that freedom separates art from design.

Would you consider curating a fashion-related exhibit for the MCA? If so, what would be your dream theme?
Firstly, I would like to give respect to the lovely fashion and history of dress curators in the world who do this work all the time. If pressed, I would be interested in presenting a show on the “sapeurs” of the Congo. The sapeurs are a group of men, and a few women, who treat dressing well with religious commitment. It is about fine suits, vibrant colors and never, ever sitting down as it will wrinkle your outfit. Read the rest of this entry »

Americas, The Beautiful (and Bold): Herzog and de Meuron, Siza Share New IIT Architecture Prize

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The 2008 Ibere Camargo Foundation is among Siza's best-known works. Photo courtesy of Alvaro Siza Vieira.

The 2008 Ibere Camargo Foundation is among Siza’s best-known works. Photo courtesy of Alvaro Siza Vieira.

The recent awards dinner for the inaugural Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize was the culmination of an all-day event that drew architecture luminaries from around the world and across. The $50,000 purse attached to the honor is intended to encourage—as well as celebrate—exceptional architecture in the Americas. The Prize is the brainchild of Wiel Arets, dean of IIT’s School of Architecture and a respected architect himself. Despite the focus on the western hemisphere, the event turned out to be a global affair; one Prize was awarded to the Portuguese master Alvaro Siza, the other to Swiss materialists Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.

At the dinner, dignitaries from Portugal, Brazil, Switzerland and the Netherlands mingled among IIT students’ work. Mayor Emmanuel opened the festivities with remarks on Chicago’s role as the originator of American design culture, a claim that rings especially true within the sacred volume of Crown Hall. Over drinks, the audience watched seven finalists, chosen from a field of 265 nominees, present their projects in a format that was as varied as the designs themselves, in turns technical, commiserating, animated and touching. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Beauties: AIA Chicago Publishes Third Edition of Venerable Guide to Architecture

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Studio Gang's Aqua tower graces the cover of the updated architectural guide

Studio Gang’s Aqua tower graces the cover of the updated architectural guide

By Seth Unger

Aside from seeing every significant structure in Chicago in person, the best way to get to know Chicago’s architecture is an oddly-sized, encyclopedic tome, the “AIA Guide to Chicago.” A recently-released third edition of the venerable guidebook served as an occasion for Newcity to sit down with executive vice president of AIA Chicago, Zurich Esposito, and one of the book’s editors, Laurie McGovern Petersen, to discuss the expectations, trepidations and many joys of the four-year process.

What goes into the process of revising and amending a guidebook?

Laurie McGovern Petersen: The first thing I started to do for this edition is get in the car, drive and look at every single thing over again. I started four years—before we had a contract. That was just taking a leap of faith.

Zurich Esposito: We didn’t have a publisher but we knew it would happen.

LMP: Each time you have to see absolutely everything that was in the book again to make sure that it hasn’t been demolished or altered. And then there might be something that catches your eye that’s right on the route that you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. We made a huge spreadsheet; I sat down with Zurich to confirm what would make the cut. Still, there were too many things to put in the book so we had an advisory committee that met and reviewed everything. It was interesting because there was total consensus on ninety percent of [the buildings]. Read the rest of this entry »

Selling Larry Laske: The Designer Auctions the Work of His Strange and Prolific Life for a New Adventure in Philanthropy

Designed Objects, Events, Furniture, Graphic Design, Interior Architecture No Comments »
Newcity cover designed by Larry Laske

Newcity cover designed by Larry Laske

By Krisann Rehbein

Lawrence Laske’s hand made the motion of a winding river, cutting through the air to illustrate the meandering flow of his conversation. Just like Tarantino, he said, he’d “bring the story back around eventually.” We are sitting in an office of the auction house Wright to talk about an upcoming auction of Laske’s entire body of work. The output of his strange and prolific twenty-year-long adventure in industrial design will be up for sale to the highest bidder on October 24. Nearly 300 lots comprise an auction titled “Lawrence Laske: Design Studio and Collected Works,” which represents work dating from the years before a cancerous tumor was removed from his brain. Now, Laske is moving on by giving it all up. And giving a lot of it back.

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Honoring Tradition: A Line of Handbags at Ikram Draws on Maasai Beadwork

Fashion No Comments »
Traditional Maasai beads embellish a collection of bags at Ikram

Traditional Maasai beads embellish a collection of bags at Ikram

In high school, New York-based Michael Nelson gravitated to a group of girls from Kenya, who stood up for him when he was bullied. His line of handbags and clutches, which are all fabricated in a fair-trade cooperative and launch at Ikram on October 15, pay homage to this childhood friendship. Nelson’s handbags and clutches are always adorned with Maasai traditional beadwork, in which intricately woven tiny beads are layered flat with bright shapes and bold lines. Nelson blends the Maasai culture’s traditional colors such as red, green and black with a contemporary aesthetic.

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Review: Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971/Graham Foundation

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The Halprins hosted freewheeling, interdisciplinary gatherings at their West Coast homes

The Halprins hosted freewheeling, interdisciplinary gatherings at their West Coast homes


In the late 1960s, a prominent landscape architect and an avant-garde dancer came together to lead cross-disciplinary workshops near San Francisco. The series of experimental creative exercises are chronicled in videos, photographs, artifacts and ephemera in an original exhibition at the Graham Foundation, on view through mid-December.

“Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971″ documents Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s efforts to challenge traditional ideas of aesthetics, creating generative spaces for open-ended operations rather than finished artworks. The Halprin Workshops emphasized experiential creative enrichment over application. A set of instructions for one workshop includes, for instance, “Buy yourself a present in a place of fantasies and act accordingly.” Environmental designers, architects and dancers from around the world attended the workshops, learning completely new approaches to artistic practice that presaged much of today’s experience-based art. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Matching the Bean

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Eugene Delmundo and Janine Supnet were visiting from New York City.

So far what have you enjoyed the most here?
Janine: Chicago is a beautiful city and very clean. Catching the views of historic skyscrapers from the First Lady architectural boat tour down the Chicago River was pretty amazing! Also, the locals here are super friendly and the food and drink scene are great. Violet Hour in Wicker Park was my fave!

Eugene: Love Chicago. Like Janine says, it is a beautiful city. Just taking in the scenery of the skyline and catching the cool stuff along Millennium Park was pretty rad. I really enjoyed visiting the Art Institute too.

What do you think of the fashion you’ve seen in our streets?
I think the Wicker Park/Bucktown area is really cool. Sort of similar to the Brooklyn scene, very grungy, hippy and vintage all done in a tasteful way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Plot Thickens: Architecture Biennial Appoints Ty Tabing as Executive Director

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The Chicago Architecture Biennial is staffing up.  Logo forms courtesy of Plural.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is staffing up. Logo forms courtesy of Plural.

When the Chicago Architecture Biennial was first announced, skeptics were quick to point out that there wasn’t a whole lot of there there. At the summer ceremony, a processional was led by the mayor, who was flanked at the dais by brand-name designers. But the ubiquitous pair of Jeanne Gang and Theaster Gates didn’t mask the absence of a plot. Nor did a check for $2.5 million, underwritten by BP. Nor did the repertoire of stock expressions about Chicago’s status as “design capital” and its “world-class architecture.”

You didn’t have to be a scholar of hermeneutics to wonder what was behind the dais and the donation, the rhetoric and the ambition. Around town, conversations have since been drifting into questions of content and execution: what will the Biennial show? And how will it show it?

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