Preview: The Midcentury Mood: Milton Schwartz in America, 1953-1965/The Art Institute of Chicago

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Milton Schwartz. 320 Oakdale Apartment Building, Chicago, Illinois, Perspective Drawing, 1953/54. Gift of Audrey K. Schwartz.

Milton Schwartz. 320 Oakdale Apartment Building, Chicago, Illinois, Perspective Drawing, 1953/54. Gift of Audrey K. Schwartz.


Architect Milton Schwartz is perhaps most well-known for being underappreciated. That he was a developer as well as an architect marked Schwartz as an outsider in the design field. The architecture industry has traditionally frowned upon such hybrids, preferring that architects work separately from the mercantile aspects of the building business. This reality was compounded by the fact that Schwartz rarely vied for architecture awards and “never had critical good press,” as Stanley Tigerman—who worked as a draftsman at Schwartz’s firm in the fifties—stated in Schwartz’s 2007 obituary. Yet Schwartz’s buildings, with their modern forms, advanced engineering and surprising materials, suggest the architect can claim pride of place in helping define America’s midcentury architectural legacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Adriaan Geuze of West 8/IIT School of Architecture

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Since taking the helm of Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture, Dean Wiel Arets has managed to deliver many of the world’s top architects and designers to lecture at Crown Hall. Adriaan Geuze, co-founder of Rotterdam-based landscape architecture firm West 8, is the latest speaker in this reemergent lecture series. Geuze has been at the forefront of a burgeoning global conversation about landscape architecture, urban space and the environment. Spurred on by climate change, the densification of cities and the fragmented nature of the urban sphere, landscape architects are finding themselves in increasingly pivotal positions in the development of livable and sustainable cities. Chicago itself remembers one of our most famous architects, Daniel Burnham, not for his cornices and columns, but his plan for the public spaces and parks of the city. Geuze works in a similar vein, and with much of the scope of an old master such as Burnham, synthesizing culture, context, architecture, public space and engineering to create unparalleled urban experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago 2015

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Richard Florida may not have predicted the rise of the curatorial class, yet its members are legion and its influence vast. This installment of Newcity’s annual Design 50 issue salutes this cohort, which includes retailers and organizers, critics and collectors, deans of schools and heads of foundations, cultural workers of all stripes, and others who present and promote design in Chicago. Though design is, definitionally, a cultural product, the act of design itself can feel alienating. If, in other words, to consume design is a social act, to produce it is a radically lonely one. The curatorial class serves an essential function in the design ecosystem. It creates the basic pathways through which designers connect with one another—making, in aggregate, what we might call a “scene”—as well as the pathways that disseminate the work of designers to an audience of end-users. Especially in Chicago, where, unlike the coasts, design can still feel marginal, the people featured in these pages keep the creative industry humming. Let us raise our voices in a paean to these otherwise unsung heroes.  (F. Philip Barash)

Design 50 2015 was written by F. Philip Barash, Brenda Bergen, Nick Cecchi, Isa Giallorenzo, Troy Pieper, Krisann Rehbein, Brook Rosini, Jessica Sattell, Michael Workman and Alanna Zaritz

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave-Lux taken on location at the Graham Foundation Read the rest of this entry »

Designer of the Moment: Sarah Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Curator of the Chicago Architecture Biennial

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Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave-Lux

Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave-Lux

By F. Philip Barash

Sarah Herda set out to become an architect. That she didn’t turns out for the best: a series of high-profile gigs, culminating with the Graham Foundation, have marked Herda’s march toward the intellectual center of design. When the first architecture biennial in North America launches in October, Herda will have finally arrived at her destination.

Dead architects you’d invite to a dinner party. Go.
Lina Bo Bardi, Eileen Gray, Lebbeus Woods and John Hejduk, who was the dean of Cooper and participated in the first “State of the Art of Architecture” in 1977. I’ll make dinner.

What is an architecture biennial?
It is, fundamentally, a platform for new ideas. In our Biennial, the central event will be a large-scale exhibition. We’ll be taking over the Cultural Center—the “People’s Palace”—and it will be the first time that building is used for one project. It’s about making ideas public, and giving the public access to ideas. That means that there’s going to be a robust public program of talks, films, performances and also partner programs all around town. It gives the public an opportunity to interact with ideas and it also gives other practitioners an opportunity to be exposed to new work. It’s both for the public and it’s for the field. Read the rest of this entry »

The Public Good: Charles Leeks Brings His Urban Design Track Record to the National Public Housing Museum

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Photo Charles Leeks

By Aaron Rose

When Charles Leeks joined the unabashedly idealist group of people at National Public Housing Museum as their executive director in January, he brought a career of urban design successes to their mission of putting “public good” back into public discourse.

After decades of the country’s commitment to the “public good” eroding into fears about public “welfare,” NPHM is creating a forum for renewed commitment and new conversation. The organization celebrates the histories of public housing communities and people who have called them home; and shares stories to inspire us to rethink the purpose of public housing as a vital cornerstone of urban and community design.

If anyone is temperamentally suited and professionally prepared to take this on, it’s Charles Leeks. Leeks has the demeanor and wisdom of a teacher and leader, and has been both. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: The World is Your Canvas

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IMG_7478Black Youth Project activist ( and hip-hop artist Cameron “Roots” Flowers ( was hanging out in Pilsen.

As a community organizer, how do you think your style influences your message to the world?
As an artist and as an activist I think a lot about communication and believe in dressing for the occasion because presentation is very important. My style is variable and shifts depending on the spaces I’m entering in, the people I’ll be addressing, and my overall communication goals. I always retain an element of my own personal swag, but as a messenger I dress in ways that communicate myself and my message as best as possible. It’s all a part of the presentation. Life is a theater and we have to take our roles and audience seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Beat: The Curated Life at Pilsen Outpost

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By Michael Workman

Located almost directly off the Pilsen Pink Line stop at Damen, the Pilsen Outpost was opened just this past November. In a transformed storefront, you’ll find a crisp, clean presentation room of work by makers operating in a wide range of vernaculars. As it turns out, much of what they showcase is handmade by local and international indie makers, so that made it a perfect fit for a visit.

Co-owned and operated by Diana Solís, Pablo Ramírez and Teresa Magaña, the trio see the shop as much a chance at fostering a sense of community as it is simply a retail experience. “I think what we’re trying to do here,” says Ramirez, “We sell the stuff we like. Art, objects, handmade t-shirts. Silkscreens, our original designs. Eric Garcia, we have over fifty different designers.” says Ramírez. “Right. We try to go in for urban contemporary art, that’s the main thing.” says co-founder Solis. “But we have a wide range of things available: artist’s handmade goods, jewelry, custom toys; we also have t-shirts and original works of art. We have a lot of prints: gig posters, linocuts, lithos, offset prints.” We discussed the project with Solis. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: Let’s Go Letter Hunting: A Field Guide for Typographic Expeditions by Friends of Type

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Letterheads now have an analogue way to document found signs

Letterheads now have Nonf analog way to document found signs


Typography and handlettering enthusiasts tend to get out of hand with attempts to document their obsessions. This lettering nerd once tripped a man while trying to take a photo of the instructions for override controls in a moving CTA train, and is frequently late for appointments because of stopping mid-journey to sketch signs. I am not alone: search the web for the term “letterhunting” to find thousands of documentations of type–from street art to vintage advertisements–gleaned in the built environment. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Glass House: At the Garfield Park Conservatory, Spring Reigns Eternal

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garfield parkBy Aaron Rose

The last interminable days of winter, pictures of friends lounging on a Hawaiian island or the coast of Mexico deepen your longing for the sun, warmth and color, especially green. But you don’t need a six-figure vacation to equatorial paradise to land yourself some serious visual, tactile and olfactory relief.

The luxurious comfort of balmy air, lush green and fragrant spring flowers is available now—right this moment—at Garfield Park Conservatory, located at the northwest edge of Garfield Park. Designed by Danish immigrant Jens Jensen, and opened in 1908, the Conservatory is one of the most historically significant, and one of the largest, glass houses in the world. It was the first of its kind: what came before were Victorian-era structures that looked like palaces filled with exotic potted plants crowded in a precious hothouse environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Fueled: Bill Shores Sows Beauty in Bayless’ Oasis

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Rick Bayless's gardens are available for public tours

Rick Bayless’ gardens are available for public tours

If you’ve ever eaten at Rick Bayless’ celebrated restaurants Topolobampo or Frontera Grill, you know that the deliciousness of the food is directly proportional to the quality of ingredients. A good portion of these ingredients are grown in Bayless’ city backyard under the watchful eye—and green thumb—of master gardener Bill Shores. Shores has an extensive background in urban gardening, with a focus on high-yield food gardens. But for Shores, gardening is more than just produce; design, as expressed through order and beauty, is equally important to him. His horticultural creations are so lush and inviting, they feel like elaborate fantasies, perfect for entertaining guests. His passion for creating these spaces is evident to all who take Shores’ garden tours, which are one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Read the rest of this entry »