Happy Birthday, Giant Perplexing Picasso

Is it a woman?  Is it a cow?  Is it a baboon?  We will never know, because enigmatic artist Pablo Picasso took the answer to the grave with him, having never visited Chicago or seen the work he graced the city with.

The untitled Picasso

But this month is the 50th anniversary of the erection of Picasso’s gift to the city in what was then called Civic Center Plaza.  Ever since, tourists and locals have gazed into its narrow-set eyes and puzzled at what it might represent.

When the statue was unveiled in 1967, some people thought it was an Afghan dog.  Picasso had pet Afghans.  But he also had a muse.  A November, 2004 article in the Sun-Times explains that it’s likely supposed to be Lydia Corbett.  She was an Englishwoman born in 1934.  By the time she was 19, she was living in France and posing regularly for Picasso. According to the artist’s grandson in his book Picasso: The Real Family Story, the girl posed dozens of times for Picasso and the artist was fascinated by her long neck and ponytail.

One of the Picasso statue miniatures created in the 1960's. This one seen at the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of the Picasso statue miniatures created in the 1960’s. This one seen at the Art Institute of Chicago.

These days, it’s the focal point of a million Instagram pictures for teens, and a playground slide for the wee ones.  At 50 feet tall, and 162 tons, it simply cannot be ignored.

Picasso didn’t actually build the statue.  What his studio put together was a 42-inch-tall model that U.S. Steel turned into what we see today.  There were also a number of miniature Picasso statues made and given to influential people of the day.  They occasionally appear in museum exhibits.

Though the actual 50th anniversary is next Tuesday, August 15th, the city is having an official celebration at noon tomorrow, Tuesday, August 8th.  The mayor’s office is going to recreate the 1967 unveiling of the statue in what is now Daley Plaza.  With any luck, the people in attendance will make an effort to dress the part, meaning business attire and briefcases, not polo shorts and backpacks.

While you’re trying to remember where your fedora is, enjoy the following pictures of the original U.S. Steel Picasso blueprints that we managed to snap years ago.

Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso
Blueprints of the untitled Picasso





from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/08/07/happy-birthday-giant-perplexing-picasso/

Hotel EMC2 Opens in Downtown Chicago; Smart People Pack Their Bags

You don’t have to have crazy white hair and a Nobel Prize in physics to stay at downtown Chicago’s newest hotel.  SMASHotels recently swung the doors open at 228 East Ontario Street in Streeterville for Hotel EMC2, welcoming all to its eclectic interior and science-themed accouterments.

For those of you who aren’t scienticians, “EMC2” is a nod to the law of mass-energy equivalence.  If all this is new to you, you can learn more about it in this Wikipedia article that’s already way over your head.

Rendering of the SMASHotels project at 228 East Ontario Street (Courtesy of Koo and Associates)

Rendering of the EMC2 Hotel (Courtesy of Koo and Associates)

We’ve been following the progress of this hotel since it was a little baby neighborhood outrage back in 2014.  Now that it’s complete, the KOO and Associates-designed building sports 195 rooms across 21 stories, with not-so subtle early 20th-century laboratory touches throughout.

The hotel’s restaurant “Albert” is a reference to the man who figured the whole E=MC2 thing out, Albert Einstein.  It has regular seating for 120 people, and super special seating for 20 invited guests in the kitchen.  That’s where you can watch the chefs prepare your meal right before your very eyes.  It’s like the Food Network, but in 3D, with the best sound system ever and smell-o-vision.  After your meal, remember that it’s only polite to invite the kitchen staff to your office to sit around and gawk at you while you work, too.

The Albert at Hotel EMC2 (Photograph by Michael Kleinberg, courtesy of Marriott International)

The Albert at Hotel EMC2 (Photograph by Michael Kleinberg, courtesy of Marriott International)

Hotel EMC2 is part of Marriott’s Autograph flag, so if you’re collecting points with Big M, this is a good place to lay your head.  Making the reservation might just be your first opportunity to try the new 884 toll-free area code.

Press release follows.

Hotel EMC2 (Photograph by Michael Kleinberg, courtesy of Marriott International)

Hotel EMC2 (Photograph by Michael Kleinberg, courtesy of Marriott International)

BETHESDA, Md. /PRNewswire/ — Some might call it genius; all will call it “exactly like nothing else.” Autograph Collection Hotels, part of Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR), together with SMASHotels, an award-winning hospitality management company, announced the official opening of Hotel EMC2 in downtown Chicago. Celebrating the convergence of art and science through its design, cuisine and guest experience, Hotel EMC2 joins the diverse and dynamic portfolio of more than 100 Autograph Collection Hotels around the world that are independent, one-of-a-kind and champion values of vision, design and craft.

“Hotel EMC2 is the perfect addition to Autograph Collection Hotels with its complex, yet enriching concept and complementary design elements,” said Brian Povinelli, Senior Vice President and Global Brand Leader, Autograph Collection Hotels. “Our hotels and resorts are known for providing standout guest experiences that are Exactly Like Nothing Else, and we believe that Hotel EMC2 will exceed this promise, attracting global travelers and Chicago notables alike.”

Driven by the vision and passion of local real estate developer, leader and disruptor Scott Greenberg, President and CEO of SMASHotels, as well as General Manager Christine Wechter, the hotel’s interiors are designed by the award-winning Rockwell Group and architecture by KOO. Art and science are thoughtfully woven throughout every nook of the 21-story, 195-room hotel beginning with a typographic design that greets guests upon arrival and features the commanding words of legendary Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci: “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Da Vinci’s vision sets the stage for the experience to follow, guiding the design of the hotel: from the captivating pieces of artwork commissioned specifically for the hotel, to the well-appointed guestrooms subtly influenced by 1920s laboratories with rose gold fixtures, luxurious furnishings and playful gramophones that project music from any mobile device.

The hotel’s 120-seat contemporary American restaurant, the Albert (a nod to the extraordinary scientist), presents seasonal, globally inspired dishes from acclaimed Executive Chef Brandon Brumback. The dynamic opening menu has been meticulously created to celebrate the fresh flavors and aromas of summer. Unlike any culinary experience in the city, the restaurant offers the warmth of a 1930s institute of higher learning, where professors swirled a scotch and talked about the mysteries of the universe. The Albert also offers an intimate 20-seat open kitchen where diners are invited behind-the-scenes to witness Brumback’s culinary canvas, firsthand, while marveling in the commissioned artwork from West Coast surrealist painter, Paul Bond, and local artist, Jonathan Plotkin. At the center of the restaurant, a glass chandelier evokes a scientific experiment and pours house-made infused liquors developed by Director of Food and Beverage Rebecca Royster.

Creative expression also extends to nearly 2,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Honoring Emmy Noether, one of the greatest math minds of all time, and the principle of symmetry, which underlies the convergence of art and science, the two multi-functional meeting and event spaces boast blackboard-style artwork installations by Dr. Eugenia Cheng (a British mathematician, musician, author, artist and Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago).

“I have always been fascinated by art and science, and I’m truly ecstatic to bring a hotel experience like this – geared toward both left- and right-brained guests – to Chicago,” said Scott Greenberg, President and CEO, SMASHotels. “At the core of our hotel is the idea of inspiration; we want to educate and ignite imagination and innovation at every turn, challenging guests to expand their understanding of how everything is connected. Through our partnership with Project SYNCERE, we are able to extend this passion even further.”

A shining example of the brand’s value of having a role in the community, Hotel EMC2 and Autograph Collection Hotels have committed to support the youth STEM programs of Chicago-based Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments), an organization that combines art and science to create transformational experiences for youth within underserved Chicago communities. With the support of Autograph Collection Hotels and Hotel EMC2, Project SYNCERE will jump start the career exploration of 20 high school students by providing hands-on, real life engineering experience through its E-CADEMY program. The hotel will also collaborate with the organization on additional initiatives and will remain committed to the partnership beyond opening.

Hotel EMC2 is located at 228 E. Ontario Street. Room rates start at $249.00. For details on reservations, please visit http://www.hotelemc2.com or call 884-205-3939. For further information about Hotel EMC2, follow @HotelEMC2 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information about Autograph Collection Hotels, please visit: http://www.autographhotels.com.

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/08/01/hotel-emc2-opens-in-downtown-chicago-smart-people-pack-their-bags/

Habitat Snaps Up More Chicagoland SRO’s

It’s not often that we have good news about SRO’s, or the Englewood neighborhood.  So it’s nice to let you know that The Habitat Company is getting involved with three Chicagoland SRO buildings

Habitat will manage two of them, and the third it will both own and manage.  The two managed properties are the Indian Trails Apartments on 121st and Indiana, and the Ridge Garden Apartments in Chicago Ridge.  It bought the Eastwood Garden Apartments in Englewood.

Though Habitat hasn’t spelled out any renovation plans as of yet, it has recently invested quite a bit of money in its other SRO properties.  Habitat is one of a very few Chicago development companies that both puts up luxury apartment towers for the city’s elite, and handles low-end homes for those struggling to make it in a sometimes unforgiving Chicago.

Eastwood Gardens (Courtesy of The Habitat Company)

Eastwood Gardens (Courtesy of The Habitat Company)


The Habitat Company Adds Three Affordable Housing Properties to Chicago-Area Portfolio

CHICAGO  – Chicago-based The Habitat Company, a leading U.S. multifamily developer and property manager, announced today it has acquired and assumed property management of an affordable rental development in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and also assumed management of two additional affordable housing communities in the Chicago area. The three properties, which total 500 residences in Chicago and suburban Chicago Ridge, will increase Habitat’s affordable housing portfolio to more than 10,000 units.

“Ensuring families have access to housing they can afford is as much a part of The Habitat Company’s core business as its legacy,” said Matt Fiascone, president of The Habitat Company. “These three projects are a perfect fit for Habitat’s portfolio, and will further our commitment to preserving quality affordable housing opportunities so people can continue living in these Chicago communities they’ve called home for years.”

The three new properties are:

  • Eastwood Garden Apartments, 6531 S. Lowe Ave., 188 one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental apartments in the Englewood neighborhood (Under Habitat ownership and management)
  • Indian Trails Apartments, 251 E. 121st Place, 221 E. 121st Place and 12141 S. Indiana Ave.,180 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments in the Roseland area. (Under Habitat management)
  • Ridge Garden Apartments, 10010-10040 S. Sayre Ave., 132 one-bedroom rental apartments in Chicago Ridge. (Under Habitat management)

“Not only are these three communities in neighborhoods that need well-managed and quality affordable housing, which was certainly a draw for us, but we also saw potential in these assets and will be announcing improvements in the coming months,” said Fiascone. “At Habitat, we’re highly vested in our diverse portfolio and the well-being of our residents, so we’re excited to bring the same quality of service to these properties – as we do to our luxury and market-rate communities.”

Habitat started as an affordable housing developer on Chicago’s South Side in 1971, growing to become one of the largest multifamily developers, owners and managers in the country. Today, the company’s management portfolio comprises more than 22,000 units across five states, of which nearly half are affordable or public housing. In fact, Habitat is currently the largest property manager for the Chicago Housing Authority.

Habitat’s dedication to affordable housing only increases with each year. Earlier this year, Habitat announced a $16 million acquisition and rehabilitation of a 153-unit single room occupancy community in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood. Work to renovate East Park SRO, 3300 W. Maypole Ave., is scheduled to be completed next May. The project will help preserve the affordability of the development, add enhancements for residents and reduce the building’s carbon footprint by adding energy efficiencies.

In honor of Habitat’s 45th anniversary in 2016, the company launched Generations Housing Initiatives, a separate non-profit entity created to help the company’s community development arm gain access to the much-needed funding critical to the redevelopment of affordable housing communities. The non-profit also provides social services programs, allowing residents of Habitat communities to enjoy quality housing options.

Last year, Habitat also renovated and restored Casa Heritage, a 142-unit affordable housing community in suburban Melrose Park, Ill., and donated the property under the state of Illinois’ Affordable Housing Tax Credit program to The Resurrection Project, a Chicago-based non-profit developer. The renovation enabled Habitat to preserve the only family-designated affordable housing option in a nine-municipality area, and helped The Resurrection Project expand its portfolio of properties in a targeted location.

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/08/01/habitat-snaps-up-more-chicagoland-sros/

465 North Park Looks Just Lobely

It hasn’t been that long, but it’s already time for another update on the construction of 465 North Park.

In our last update, we were just starting to be able to see that this isn’t going to be yet another collection of rectangles glued together (apologies to its neighbor, the North Water Apartments/Loews Hotel Tower).  No, thanks to Pappageorge Haymes‘ multi-lobed design, 465 has more curves than a Vegas chorus line.

465 North Park under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

465 North Park under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

In the photo above that Joe Zekas at YoChicago! took from the Optima Signature Tower, you can see the northwest and southeast lobes of the building stretch across the property on the corner of East Illinois Street and North Park Drive (for some reason listed as “Park Street” in Apple Maps). You can also see how the building’s driveway will travel underneath the amenity deck.  While this reduces the amount of ground floor retail space available, the way it’s configured will help keep traffic off of an already congested Illinois Street.

When complete, the tower being built for Jupiter Realty, MetLife, and Allstate will have 444 homes across 48 floors, with a good sized 12,000 square feet of retail space, and 181 parking spaces.

One hundred eighty-one parking spaces is a little under 2½ residences per space.  That may seem like a lot in a neighborhood with very good bus service and the walkability of living inside a shopping mall.  But Chicago is building more and more three-bedroom apartments, and this tower has some of them.

Three bedrooms means families.  Often elderly relatives living with expats, or young families shunning the suburbs and bringing up baby in the concrete jungle.  And as nice as it was to be a ten-year-old freely roaming the N and R subway lines when I was growing up in New York, today’s extended urban families really do need a set of (hopefully electric) wheels to take the wee ones to daycare, and take grandma to that other place that we’re not supposed to call daycare.

465 North Park under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

465 North Park under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/07/31/465-north-park-looks-just-lobely/

A Familiar Name Returns to Gold Coast Hospitality

Sometimes things are better just left alone.  Is Marshall Field’s better now that it’s Macy’s?  Are White Hen Pantries better now that they’re 7-Elevens?  Is First Chicago better now that it’s Chase?  The answer to all three is “no.” (Seriously, Chase’s web site goes down more often than a West Virginia coal miner.) But it’s hard for big corporations to admit that things should be returned to the way they were.

Not so at Journal Hotels, which is bringing the Ambassador Chicago name back to the now-recently-former PUBLIC Hotel at 1301 North State Parkway in a very leafy section of the Gold Coast.   It’s not quite the full “Ambassador East” treatment, but in corporate names and Chicago sidewalk cornhole, “close” is sometimes good enough.

The Ambassador Chicago Hotel, formerly the Ambassador East

The Ambassador Chicago Hotel, formerly the Ambassador East

The Ambassador Chicago is one of those names that survived six wars, two Mayors Daley, and Disco Demolition.    If you were a patron of the old Jazz Record Mart on Illinois Street, you might have gotten lucky and found a swing album or two recorded and autographed in the Ambassador’s ballroom where everyone from nobodies to Frank Sinatra have crooned into oversized ribbon microphones.   With the possible exception of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, Judy Garland didn’t sing about another hostelry.

We’ll meet at the Pump Room
Ambassador East
To say the least

On shish kebab
and breast of squab we will feast
And get fleeced.

Whether guests will get a chance to feast on squab at the Pump Room once again remains to be seen.  The former Pump Room is no longer named such. But Lettuce Entertain You is expected to relaunch the restaurant in a few months under unknown branding.  Perhaps the new management will invite Phil Collins to the grand opening.

Press release follows.

CHICAGO /PRNewswire/ — Journal Hotels, a management company, today announced the debut of Ambassador Chicago restoring the legendary property to its historic identity. Built in 1926, Ambassador Chicago draws inspiration from the city’s Golden Age, having served as a local mainstay to celebrity icons such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. With deep historical roots in the Windy City, Ambassador Chicago will pay homage to the city’s storied past through thoughtful programming and elegant design.

Nestled within the illustrious Gold Coast neighborhood, Ambassador Chicago offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan with easy access to Chicago’s main shopping boulevard, Michigan Avenue. The property features 285 spacious guestrooms, a 24-hour fitness center, two restaurants, local programming and amenities curated by Chicago-based artisans and chefs, in-room dining and other luxury comforts. Attached to the hotel is a legendary restaurant having served as a celebrity favorite during the Jazz Age, which is currently being reconfigured by Lettuce Entertain You Group to introduce invigorating, innovative design and cuisine concepts that play up the glamorous history of the space while simultaneously infusing modernity into the venue.

Taking cues from its early nineteenth century art-deco design, the property celebrates Chicago’s vibrant history reflected in the intricate design details such as vaulted ceilings and original crown moldings, providing a unique environment for rotating exhibitions of contemporary art. Glass doorknobs, original mail-chutes, and ornate wrought iron juxtapose against modern furnishings and art installations of painting, photography and sculpture serve as reminders of Chicago’s cultural presence and the hotel’s rich past resulting in a contemporary, chic vibe.

“We’re thrilled to add a legendary hotel such as Ambassador Chicago to our portfolio,” said Stephen Brandman, Chief Executive Officer at Journal Hotels. “The rebranding will return an iconic Chicago property back to its roots through creative activations and allow Journal to not only grow in a critical market, but continue to celebrate iconic spaces that invite discovery.”

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises will be returning to this historic location to work with the Journal Hotels to operate all food and beverage in the new Ambassador Hotel. From the re-concept of the restaurant, which is projected to open late fall 2017, to creating new menus for room service, catering and private events and the lobby bar, Lettuce is excited to serve the Ambassador guests and Gold Coast neighborhood. The restaurant group previously ran the space from July 1976 – January 1998.

“Lettuce has a lot of history at this location. Our first restaurant here was exciting and so much fun that I’m thrilled to be doing it again in a more modern way,” says Rich Melman, Founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

Ambassador Chicago will join Journal’s collection of hotels which includes The Hollywood Roosevelt, Two Bunch Palms and Hotel G as part of Journal’s rapidly expanding portfolio of storied hotels rich in cultural tradition and steeped in history. As with all hotels in the portfolio, Ambassador Chicago will maintain its distinct character while providing guests a truly memorable stay and authentic Chicago experience.

Journal Hotels is a collection of iconic properties including The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, Hotel G in San Francisco and Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs. As a partnership between GCPH, the Chang Family and Stephen Brandman, Journal Hotels distinguishes itself by combining exceptional hotel management with a creative and independent approach. With properties rich in culture and steeped in history, each hotel has a distinct character that invites discovery and enables guests to stay storied.

With a rich history rooted in Chicago’s Jazz Age, Ambassador Chicago is the city’s original boutique hotel dating back to 1926. Located in the heart of the Gold Coast, the iconic property has hosted the who’s who of the 20th and 21st centuries having served as a local beacon to countless celebrities. Uniquely individual, Ambassador Chicago is nestled among graceful mansions in a quiet, gilded neighborhood tucked into the center of the Windy City offering incredible views of Lake Michigan with easy access to Chicago’s main shopping boulevard, Michigan Avenue. With 285 spacious guestrooms, a 24-hour fitness center, two restaurants, thoughtful programming and amenities curated by local artisans and chefs, Ambassador Chicago maintains its distinct and legendary character while offering guests an authentic Chicago experience.

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/07/31/an-old-name-returns-to-gold-coast-hospitality/

You Can Tour Chicagoland’s Largest Infrastructure Project

People love taking tours of places that few can go.  And people love seeing the inner working of Chicago’s built environment.  Those are two reasons that the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s annual Open House Chicago is such a big hit.

If you’re the sort of person who looks forward to rare tours of constructed spaces, then the  Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has an opportunity for you.

For a few weekends, the MWRD is offering tours of a portion of TARP — the massive water shunting and storage project that is trying to keep Chicagoland from returning to its pre-1800’s state as a soggy marsh.

Phase one of the McCook Reservoir (Courtesy of MWRD)

Phase one of the McCook Reservoir (Courtesy of MWRD)

The specific sections of TARP you’ll tour are the new Mainstream Pumping Station and the McCook Reservoir, which is still under construction.  That means sensible shoes, and no shorts.

McCook is the last of three reservoirs designed to hold rainwater during storms, keeping it out of your basement and Honda until it can be safely cleaned and pumped into the Sanitary and Ship Canal.  When complete, McCook will be able to hold 10 billion gallons of water, and help prevent $143 million in flood damage each year.

The last time the MWRD gave tours it was two years ago, of the Thornton Composite Reservoir in South Holland.  Those slots filled up fast.  To reserve your place in this year’s tours, phone 312-751-6632, or e-mail tours@mwrd.org.    Tours start at the Mainstream Pumping Station at 6100 River Road, in southwest suburban Hodgkins.

Tour dates are:

  • Sunday, August 6
  • Sunday, August 27
  • Sunday, September 17
  • Sunday, September 24
  • Sunday, October 1
  • Sunday, October 15

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/07/27/you-can-tour-chicagolands-largest-infrastructure-project/

Construction Begins on Second GEMS Academy Building

Is it possible to start construction on a new school building in downtown Chicago without anyone noticing?  Yes, if you hide that construction in plain sight.

The second GEMS Academy classroom building has begun construction on East Wacker Drive — right in the shadow of the massive 95-story Vista Tower going up in Lakeshore East.

Rendering of GEMS Upper School, courtesy of bKL Architecture

Rendering of GEMS Upper School (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held in April of 2015, but construction is only now beginning in earnest, according to GEMS Americas C.E.O. Denise Gallucci, in a letter that managed to find its way into our anonymous tip box.

Officially the building is called GEMS World Academy Chicago Middle and Upper School.  It’s sandwiched in the space between the new Vista Tower and The Coast.  So this will complete a row of three buildings that bKL Architecture has had a hand in bringing to life.

The new school’s design will be similar to the tartan of its cousin, the Lower School on East South Water Street, but whereas the Lower colors reference the trees and flowers and gardens of Lakeshore East Park, which it faces, the Upper School will sport a cooler, bluer color palette — a nod to the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, which it faces.

The new 17-story building has a capacity of 1,440 students, bringing the total number of little GEMS to 2,100.


from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2017/07/26/construction-begins-on-second-gems-academy-building/