Sunday, March 25, 2012

Studying the Reliance Building

This semester at UIC, my friend Lauren and I have been doing a research project on the Reliance Building for our Tech class.  The building is very different from all other buildings being studied by our peers, which include the Mercedez Benz Museum by UN Studio, the IAC building by Frank Gehry, and Eberswalde Library by Herzog and deMeuron (sorry I couldn't find a good website for this one, but please look it up!).
Lauren, finding some old info
on the Reliance Building
The Reliance Building, unlike all of these, is over 100 years old, and in Chicago, which meant that Lauren and I got to be more hands-on than any of the other groups in learning about our building.  We went to the Art Institute Library to play history detectives of sorts, and looked through lots of old documents about the building, both from when it was first built and when it was restored in the 1990's.  We also got to interview Gunny Harboe, of Harboe and Assoc., who headed the restoration project.  He took his lunch hour one day to show us a whole slideshow and answer all of our questions about the facade system.  It was a really great opportunity.
The model we're planning to build
of the Reliance, in Rhino.
Also, since it is right here in downtown Chicago, Lauren and I went right in and asked if we could look around on the upper floors, which Gunny had suggested we do.  It was restored to be a hotel in the 1990's, and it is now called the Hotel Burnham, after Daniel Burnham.  The original style of the upper floors, which started out as offices, has been kept; the doors all have frosted glass windows.

For Valentine's Day, I was treated to a night at the Hotel Burnham.  It's the second time I've gotten to play tourist in Chicago by staying at a hotel downtown.  I had dinner at the Atwood Cafe (named for Charles Atwood, who took over the design of the Reliance Building after Root passed away) and stayed in a historical suite on the 11th floor.  Here are some of the pictures I took while I was there. 
View across the street, to the Marshall Field's
(begrudgingly, Macy's) building at night.

view south, on State Street, at night
view north, on State Street, at night
view north, on State Street, in the morning

upper hallways, still looking like office building floors

the downstairs lobby, originally planned to show off
Hale's (the building owner's) own elevator design.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A late post on London

Lloyd's of London
I started off 2012 with a trip to London to visit my friend Katie, who was working there for 3 months.  Her company had set her up in a flat that was incredibly close to 30 St. Mary Axe (more commonly known as "the gherkin") and Lloyds of London.  During my 5 day stay, most of which I spent wandering around, exploring on my own, these two buildings became my lighthouses of sorts; when I was feeling a little lost by the end of the day, I would spot one of these buildings just up the street and know that I was close to home.  It was pretty cool, also, the first morning I was there to walk out of Katie's flat and be practically assaulted by a building or two that I had read about in books and newspapers.  
            Since a good 2 months have passed since I got back from London, this post is going to be a broader overview of the trip than I may have given when it was all fresh in my mind.  No matter, it's still the highlights.  
blue doors on the houses
inside the Tower of London
            The first day of the trip, I stuck to historical sights: a tour at the Tower of London, where I admired the crown jewels and some turquoise doors - quite striking against the white and dark wood bracing of these traditional English houses.  After that, I took a tour of the Tower Bridge, then took a long walk back home over the London Bridge.  Once Katie got home from work, we had a quiet dinner at a place next to the gherkin - probably a madhouse at lunch, but completely empty at dinnertime, since it's more of a business district.  
Millenium Bridge (and St. Paul's cathedral) at night
          Day two was a lot of walking as well: I tried my luck at Spitalfield's market, and saw a few things that enticed me, although the one thing I wanted to buy had no vendor present from whom to buy it!  So much for my first souvenir!  On to St. Paul's cathedral, where I ventured up the first two sets of stairs (53 meters/376 steps up).  The bracing cold January winds deterred me from climbing up the remaining 150 steps or so for the view up at the top.  After warming myself back up in the lower level of St. Paul's, then enjoying a sandwich at Pret a Manger, I crossed the Millenium Bridge to check out the Tate Modern.  They had an exhibit of Gerhard Richter's work.  I wasn't familiar with his stuff before, but found a few pieces to be really compelling, especially the ones that were many panes of glass set up next to each other like dominos (terrible way to describe it - maybe I'll come back with a link).  On the way back over the Millenium Bridge in the evening, I suspect that I dropped one of my lovely mittens, so it has probably rested well into the Thames by now.  Farewell dear mitten.
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
            The next day was sunny and bright - as would be the rest of my visit in London!  It was a perfect day to check out the Houses of Parliament,
the shadow of the
London Eye.
followed by a turn around the London Eye, which I had actually ridden back in 2001, the last time I was in London, to visit a high school friend who was spending the semester there.  My ride back in 2001 was on a dark and stormy night, so this one was much more agreeable, especially now that I had a much nicer camera.
Enjoying coffees in the cloisters
at Westminster Cathedral
            Back over the river, I toured around Westminster Abbey, recognizing some of it from seeing Kate and William's wedding back in April, and other parts from my architecture history classes.  Too bad you cannot take pictures inside the churches; my favorite parts were the ceilings in the small alcoves up in the front of the church, beyond the choir pews.  I was able to take a few pictures out in the cloisters, however, and again took advantage of a sunny scene.  
            After another sandwich (this time at EAT.) I took a walk up Regent Street to find Liberty of London, where I did 90% of my shopping for the whole trip.  Fabrics and scarves - maybe someday I'll use the fabric and do a post about it on my other blog.  
The Heatherwick Rolling Bridge, unrolled.
           The next day was an architectural pilgrimage of sorts.  I was off to find the Thomas Heatherwick rolling bridge, which I learned about back in 2005/2006, very recently after it had been built.  It's in a very quiet, unassuming area, and actually just crosses a very small dead-end canal (when the bridge is rolled up, you only need to walk an extra 30 yards or so).  It opens once a week, according to the website, but the technician who came to open it told me it's actually more like 3 times a week, more often even in the summer.  There was one other visitor who, like me, had come to see and photograph the bridge.  He is an architect from Columbia, and you can see him in the bottom picture of this bridge series.  I'm very late emailing him this picture, but hopefully he will understand how busy I've been, having gone through architecture school himself.  Anyway, the bridge was a fun little diversion, and since Alejandro and I enjoyed it so much the technician rolled it out a second time so that we could take more pictures.  It was a fun visit.

            After that, I took a long walk up through the northern part of the city, through Regent's Park, up to King's Cross Station, then south a little bit to meet Katie near her office.  We then hopped on the tube to the National Portrait Gallery, where we had high tea, then spent the rest of the evening looking at portraits, then more art at the National Gallery.  Both museums are open until 9 (I think it was 9) on Fridays, so we had a very cultural evening.  Then we went out to get a drink.  
Meat pie from Pie Minister
           Saturday, my last day in London, Katie and I walked over to the design museum, which had some fun exhibits.  They will be building a new building and moving soon, so I guess I'll have to go check it out again someday.  After that, we went to the Borough Market, where we enjoyed some meat pies for a late lunch.  For our final evening's activities, we saw Crazy For You at a theater in Covent Garden, then took the Hackney Wick bus home.  
            I fit quite a lot into a 5 day visit, especially considering I started back to school the day after I flew back to Chicago.  An exhausting but nice kick-off to my second semester!