By Paul Kulon
Opportunities to reinvent public space in the Loop are rare, making it imperative to produce outstanding design when the moment arises. In 2008, the renovation of Pritzker Park, located on the northwest corner of State and Van Buren, presented such an occasion. The site’s location was excellent in an area with high foot traffic from a wide spectrum of potential users. A primary goal of the project should have been to engage the multitude of pedestrians, with an interactive artistic element and innovative urban design. Unfortunately, the design of Pritzker Park went in the opposite direction, producing a passive, lightly landscaped green space. Most days, the park is lifeless and ignored. Read the rest of this entry »
Multimedia artist Rebecca Mir Grady wrote a zine about weather, storms and other earthly phenomena, called “She is Restless.” And, after years of apprenticing for jewelry makers, Mir Grady launched her own line, which debuted at Dose Market earlier this month. I recently spoke with her about flying, icebergs and being in a long-distance relationship with the ocean.
The pieces in your first collection have a dual aesthetic appeal: they’re both thematically mystical (mythological names, visual references to runes and magical spells) and formally simple and geometrical, even geological. What was your approach to these designs?
Jewelry is inherently mystical. Pieces can become talismans, and some are passed down through generations. This collection grew out of a handful of pieces that I made for myself and friends to wear everyday.
The Tramontana necklace was made to be a talisman for me—a simple rendering of a compass, with four points on a gold ring. I’ve always been interested in traveling and exploration. My dad was a pilot, and I grew up reading stories of fliers, whom some of the pieces in the collection are named for. The simplicity of the designs is both an aesthetic decision and a conceptual one. The designs reference landscapes and rock formations, and the shapes of wings and arrows. Read the rest of this entry »
Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson China Company, “Place Setting,” 1966. Photo: Bill Walker
In its twentieth year, SOFA Chicago (the Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair) has become more established in the cross-sections of art, design, fashion and the academic world. And it hasn’t lost its edge. One highlight of the preliminary champagne toast was seeing what Jack Donaghy might call “business-drunk” VIPs take care not to sway too close to oddly shaped objects, twisted metal or glass-shard sculptures.
You’re not supposed to touch anything, of course, but at SOFA, it’s particularly fun to imagine you could. In the days during and following the show (which was this past October 31-November 3), I’ve always had at least one “SOFA dream,” and this year was no exception. Fortunately, I was not attacked by a squadron of John Miller’s enormous curly fries. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: James Steinkamp
By Paul Kulon
Jones College Prep at 700 South State is a selective enrollment high school and a top academic performer. The Chicago Tribune ranked Jones College Prep as the fourth best high school in the Chicago area in 2012. Since 1967, Jones College Prep was housed in a Brutalist, bunker-like building in the South Loop that was originally designed as an office building. This changed with the completed construction of a massive addition, which opened August 26 to 1,200 students for the 2013–2014 academic year. The new building has state-of-the-art-facilities of both education and recreational uses that will undoubtedly enrich the academic experience for the student body. However, not everyone is pleased, especially the local South Loop community, which has long advocated for a neighborhood high school, only to get snubbed again because Jones College Prep is a selective-enrollment high school.
The local architectural firm Perkins+Will, a company with an extensive portfolio of educational buildings, won the Jones College Prep commission. A primary challenge was to include all needed facilities on a small site. The solution was to build up, to seven stories high, in addition to the school’s campus extending over an entire city block. Nearby, Roosevelt University’s “vertical campus”(their branding phrase), at thirty-two stories tall, suggests that we’re seeing a new trend for skyscraper schools. Read the rest of this entry »
Tiffany Studios, “Garden landscape window,” 1900-10. Photo: John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.
By B. David Zarley
Held aloft from the surprisingly quiet corner of Erie and Wabash, David Hanks sat upon the third-floor divan, enveloped in the Gilded Age accouterments of the Driehaus Museum. Legs crossed at the knee and prim navy suit immaculate, Hanks ruminated briefly upon the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, which sat before us, soft bound and glossy, on the table and also all around us in the period furnishings and windowpanes saturating every room in the house museum by virtue of the Tiffany exhibition he had curated. A woman swaddled in an audio tour drifted aimlessly around us, in quiet consideration of the works, personifying what Hanks was thinking about, if extrapolated to a larger scale: How many Chicagoans must have passed by Tiffany pieces before, in silent, somewhat hurried appreciation, like this woman, albeit sans the benefit of exposition?
Tiffany first came to Chicago following the city-devouring conflagration of 1871. Ever the artist, Tiffany did not seem to find an appreciation for pulchritude and good business sense mutually exclusive. “Tiffany actually opened an office in Chicago in the 1880s, so before the fair [The World's Columbian Exposition, Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted's 1893 "White City"] he had business here,” Hanks said, in a voice that shared a slow, luxe elucidation in spirit with the manse. “I think that he saw, after the Great Fire, there was a couple decades of rebuilding the city and interior work, so he saw it as a business opportunity. We don’t really know what he was doing, but probably a lot of church interiors.” Read the rest of this entry »
Dr. Joyce Lee. Photo: Russell Ingram
By F. Philip Barash
So great, so enveloping is the ambition of CUSP Conference (organized by Multiple, Inc., a “strategic design firm,” and held September 18 and 19 in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art), that it overtakes us all—designers graphic and industrial, young and old, architectural and digital, those whose methods are orthodox, those whose pants are skinny, and those who, by any other standard, are designers not at all. In an empire of design, everyone turns out to be a designer. CUSP is about the “Design of Everything.”
Still. CUSP isn’t an empire, nor a cult. It may be something of a priesthood, if pediatric endocrinologist, researcher and self-professed “little bit of a tiger mom” Joyce Lee tells the story. What kind of priesthood? One in which “men in black turtlenecks” work on “very small things.” That may describe a number of professions, but designers come to mind among the first. Read the rest of this entry »
By Emerson Dameron
To quote God in “Futurama”: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” But when a design project gets ugly, its creator gets attention.
Dan Allen, a Chicagoan and a professional designer of ten years, has done graphic design for print and web and is now exploring the growing field of user interface design. His side-interests include an influential role in the bulletin-board-style web community reddit.com—he worked on the UI design for its Enhancement Suite, a wildly popular Chrome and Firefox extension that adds a phalanx of features—and an eye for particularly dreadful design work. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jason Foumberg
Museum exhibitions, like books and paintings, are alternate realities. They offer an escape to the past (at the history museum) or into someone’s imagination (art museum). How convincing is the virtual experience? That is the job of exhibition design.
Evocative lighting, soundscapes, hands-on interactives, props and backdrops are all standard components of a contemporary blockbuster exhibition. Sometimes these elements verge on the theatrical, as if museum visitors are on stage with the artwork and artifacts.
It’s easy to be skeptical about exhibition design. Must special effects be a part of every show, much like 3D glasses at the movies? Does the simulation occlude a real encounter with facts and knowledge? Several current exhibitions in Chicago answer these questions with some of the most cutting-edge designs in recent memory. Read the rest of this entry »
I first glimpsed Miriam Cecilia Carlson’s work from a bicycle last spring. Along the strip of more straight-laced boutiques on Diversey where her Lincoln Park studio is nestled, the dresses on display at miriam cecilia were so subtly but palpably different that I got off my bike to look closer. The dress in the window was more sculptural than I was used to seeing outside of magazine editorials: intuitively responsive to the properties of the material in its drape, but also innately structural and balanced—no small feat for an ankle-length dress that appeared to be made of tulle. A year later, I finally met Carlson and talked to her about her creations the week before she wrapped up her fifth runway collection. Read the rest of this entry »
Douglas Garofalo and David Leary, “Camouflage House,” 1991
By Paul Preissner
The exhibition “Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design” is curated around the idea that in recent years architecture and design have overlapped in the areas from where each gets its motivations, resulting in an array of work and thoughts that have begun to produce clearer and stronger visual links between the different design professions.
The show takes visitors through a layout organized around six themes, which the corresponding objects allegedly share as their deeper obsessions. The room feels nice enough, and my quick take on the exhibition is that there are a number of important, impressive and fun works of design and architecture put out by both well-known and lesser-known individuals. The collected objects and artifacts look good together and seem incredibly in-style, making it easy not to question the presumptions of the categories. “Structure,” “Geometry,” “Technology,” “Color,” “Surface” and the catch-all category of “Hybrid” help one out in understating just how some of these presumably unrelated projects might possibly relate to one another in some subconscious zeitgeist-y way. Read the rest of this entry »