Road Trip to Chicago’s Gritty, Colorful Past

It’s hard to escape Chicago.  It doesn’t matter where you go on this big blue marble of ours, Chicago seems to follow us around.  Museums in Seattle feature items salvaged from demolished Chicago buildings.  Las Vegas has dozens of Chicago eateries, including Al’s Beef, Garrett’s Popcorn, and a second Giordano’s location under construction.  Asia is dusted with Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grills.  Tokyo has a used clothing store called Chicago.   Buenos Aires has a neighborhood called New Chicago.  And you can’t get through an episode of Antiques Roadshow without seeing some machine, painting, or other nicknack that was made in the Windy City.

Fort Dearborn Coffee, Chicago, 1977 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)

Fort Dearborn Coffee, Chicago, 1977 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)

So it’s not that surprising that there is a new art exhibit out on the left coast that celebrates Chicago.  This time it’s photography.  And not just any photography, it’s the now vintage, super-colorful work of Wayne Sorce.  The exhibit is called Urban Color, and features Mr. Sorce’s photographs of 1970’s and 80’s Chicago, plus some east coast city that shall remain nameless.

Even though his images are close to 50 years old, they are as crisp, and as colorful as anything you’ll find from an iPhone X on Instagram today.

That vibrancy is enhanced by the subject matter.  Sorce didn’t shoot the postcard skyline pics we’re used to seeing.  His lens was aimed at the city’s grit and grime.  The juxtaposition of color and decay is both jarring, and comforting as we see a city from a time gone by that also looks startlingly familiar.

If you’d like to see the exhibit, set your Google Maps to the Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, California.  If a Route 66 trip isn’t in your future,  just enjoy the images below, and see if you can figure out their locations.

El Platform, Chicago, 1978 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)
East Chicago, 1977 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)
Spiral Fire Escapes, Chicago, 1975 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)
Halsted Street, Chicago, 1978 (photo by Wayne Sorce, via Joseph Bellows Gallery)

Upcoming Exhibition: Wayne Sorce: Urban Color

October 21st – November 30th, 2017

Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming solo exhibition,
Wayne Sorce: Urban Color. The exhibition will open on October 21st and continue
through November 30th, 2017. In conjunction with Sorce’s exhibition will be a
group show relating to the city as subject.

Urban Color will present a remarkable selection Sorce’s large-scale color
photographs of urban environments taken in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in
both Chicago and New York City. His urban landscapes describe, with a formal
exactitude, the light, structures, and palette of these cities within a certain era.
For Sorce, the urban landscape is both still and transitory; people appear in
the photographs as both inhabitants, as well as sculptural forms relating to a larger
composed scene.

Wayne Sorce (American, 1946 – 2015) was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received
both a B.F.A. and a M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1969
and 1971). His photographs have been exhibited at the Renaissance Society,
University of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the
Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Sorce’s photographs are held within the collections of the Art Institute of
Chicago, the George Eastman Museum, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art,
National Museum of American Art, at the Smithsonian Institution, and the
Museum of Modern Art.

Complementing Sorce’s exhibition will be a collection of photographs by his
contemporaries that describe the city as subject. Work by Bob Thall, George
Tice, Bevan Davies, Grant Mudford, and others will be included.

from Chicago Architecture


E2 Makes Downtown Evanston More Colorful

The E2 apartment building made a splash when it opened in Evanston in 2015, and now it’s adding a splash of color to the suburb’s downtown.

E2 developer Fifield Realty has unveiled an expansive new piece of art on the side of the building by Albany Park muralist Thomas Melvin.

Eee-tu’ (What Redwing called to Drake) 1890 Maple Evanston Illinois (photo by Steve Somen, courtesy of Fifield Realty)

The painting is called “Eee-tu” (What Redwing called to Drake) 1890 Maple Evanston, Illinois, and is an abstract depiction of its home city.   Interpreting the names off artwork is almost an art, itself.  But we can tell you there is a red winged blackbird on on end, though we see no evidence of a drake on the other.

There’s also a stylization of the CTA’s Purple Line L, which makes sense since the train runs just a few blocks away, and the mural reflects the city.

It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and a great way to enhance the face of a parking garage.  Now if every parking garage in Evanston could get on board, we’d really have something.

Press release follows the photos.

Eee-tu’ (What Redwing called to Drake) 1890 Maple Evanston Illinois (photo by Steve Somen, courtesy of Fifield Realty)

Downtown Evanston Gifted Colorful New Mural on South Side of E2 Apartments

EVANSTON, Ill.  — Downtown Evanston, Ill. is looking a bit brighter as Fifield Realty Corp., the owner of Evanston luxury apartment community E2, has announced the completion of a mural across the south facade of the building, visible from Oak Avenue, University Place and Maple Avenue. The mural is by Thomas Melvin, an artist on Chicago’s North Side who has specialized in the design and execution of original murals and decorative painting for more than 40 years.

Titled “‘Eee-tu’ (What Redwing called to Drake) 1890 Maple Evanston, Illinois,” the mural features a modern design that offers a broad portrait of the city of Evanston. According to Melvin, the mural turns the once dreary alley into a welcome destination and represents the city’s colorful setting.

“’Eee-tu’ is an abstract portrait of Evanston, with grasses and water as the frames to represent the prairie to the west and Lake Michigan to the east,” said Melvin. “Observers might recognize the Grosse Point Lighthouse and city’s overall character, but they will be drawn to the blend of vibrant colors, perhaps the foliage, cattails and birds at street level, and the geometry of the structure as a canvas, which provided a unique backdrop for the painting.”

Melvin’s work can be seen all over Chicago and the United States, and includes the City Science Mural at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago; the 24-panel Mississippi River Tales Mural along the Mississippi River floodwall in historic downtown Cape Girardeau, Mo.; and murals on the west and east stairwells of the Lake Forest Library, a historic landmark in Lake Forest, Ill.

“We wanted the south facade of E2 to come alive, so we commissioned an artist whose work we knew would reflect Evanston’s one-of-a-kind setting and energy,” said Randy Fifield, chairwoman of Fifield Realty Corp. “Thomas Melvin offered the best vision for our goal, and his custom mural is Fifield’s gift to downtown Evanston and the residents of E2.”


from Chicago Architecture

Renelle on the River Pushes Chicago’s Flock of Cranes to 60

The city of Chicago reached a milestone today.  With the erection of the tower crane at Belgravia Group’s Renelle on the River, that makes 60 tower cranes in the Chicago sky.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a noted fan of tower cranes, visited the site of the bKL-designed building person to mark the occasion.

Rendering of Renelle on the River (Courtesy of Belgravia Group)

Rendering of Renelle on the River (Courtesy of Belgravia Group)

While Census Bureau numbers show Chicago’s population dwindling, downtown’s residential, hotel, and office development industry hasn’t gotten that memo.  New high rise buildings are proposed almost every week, and even the condominium market appears to be slowly waking from its deep slumber.

Naturally, time and construction progress will cause some of the cranes up now to come back down.  But with megaprojects like Riverline, 700 at the River, The 78, Lincoln Yards, the remainder of Lakeshore East, Wolf Point, and Old Town Park, either under construction, or fully steaming in that direction, you can bet your hard hat strap that even the 60 mark will be surpassed.

from Chicago Architecture

Broadway and Sheridan Block Progressing Nicely

The gas station is long gone, and the glazing is almost complete on 3901 North Broadway, the residential block going up on the northeast corner of Sheridan and Broadway.

We spent many a windy winter’s afternoon standing on that corner waiting for the #80 Irving Park bus to provide us with shelter, safety, and transportation.  It would have been nice to have this nine-story building there to hide from the elements.

3901 North Broadway under construction (Courtesy of Lake View Spy Joel)

3901 North Broadway under construction (Courtesy of Lake View Spy Joel)

In the photograph above from Lake View Spy Joel, you can see that the building topped out long ago, and the windows are almost fully in place.  But what about that part that’s all green insulation board?  No glass there.  As we reported back in April of 2016, that’s all going to be faced in brick.

When complete, the building will have one hundred apartments, and a little over 1,500 square feet of retail space.

from Chicago Architecture

Checking In On 168 North Michigan

Today we’re checking in on 168 North Michigan, because it looks like it will be a long time before anyone else checks in at the hotel that’s supposed to be going in this space.

168 has been the subject of many big plans, and a metric ton of pigeon droppings, ever since Greece’s Atlantic Bank left the building close to a decade ago.  It’s currently being converted into a 200+ room “independent lifestyle luxury hotel” called Hotel Julian by brave W.E. O’Neil hardhats at the behest of River North’s Oxford Capital and New York’s Quadrum Global.

Renovations at 168 North Michigan Avenue (courtesy of Loop Spy Joel)

Renovations at 168 North Michigan Avenue (courtesy of Loop Spy Joel)

When complete, the Hirsch Associates-designed renovation will fill the building with 200 hotel rooms, five additional floors of height, and a new restaurant.  But as you can see from the photo above sent in by Loop Spy Joel, there’s a lot of work to be done, at least on the outside.

That restaurant is one of the major events going on behind the scenes here.  Because while the outside of the building doesn’t look like it’s changed much at all since the Daley administration, city paperwork shows there’s all kinds of stuff going on inside.

The old elevators were decommissioned, and permits for a new bank of elevators were issued back in July.  In mid-September, the city granted permission to build out that new restaurant.  And at the end of that month, the renovation plans were rejiggered to allow the addition of another eight guest rooms on the second floor, which will be awesome for tourists who are also fans of taxi horns.  But if the nuns living in the cloister next door can get used to it, anyone can.

At one time the restaurant was going to be called Millennium Kitchen and be helmed by early Iron Chef competitor and rumored White House chef candidate David Burke.  But that was years ago, back when this was going to be a Hotel Indigo.  Quadrum is aiming for a 2018 opening for this property, so we might find out what’s going on sooner rather than later.  Assuming that facade can get patched up in a hurry.



from Chicago Architecture

New Erection Will Have Goose Island Sporting Wood

Yes, we’re all a bunch of fifth-graders around here.  But in spite of the juvenile headline, what’s planned for Goose Island is clearly innovative.

Texas mega-developer Hines officially plans to put up a new office building on Goose Island that’s made of wood.

Rendering of T3 Chicago (Courtesy of Hines)

Rendering of T3 Chicago (Courtesy of Hines)

Crain’s Chicago Business first reported Hines knotty notion way back in February, and we noted back then that this isn’t Hines’ first time going out on this limb.  It has a large office building in Minneapolis called T3, which is the home of the Gopher State’s presence. “T3” stands for timber, transit, and technology.  Hines’ Chicago effort will, imaginatively, be called “T3 Chicago.”

The architecture firm that designed T3 in Minneapolis is Michael Green Architecture, and Michael Green did a Ted Talk once about “Why we should build wooden skyscrapers.” He’ll try to work his magic in Chicago, too.

T3 Chicago will be seven stories tall, with 270,000 square feet of space.  In a spot of irony, the new wooden office building will be located where the Big Bay lumber yard once was.

While wooden office buildings are trendy around the world, especially in timber-abundant places like Scandinavia, this will be the first significant permanent wooden building in Chicago in more than a hundred years.  But it likely won’t be the last.

Near North architecture firm Perkins+Will has proposed the 80-story River Beech Tower, as part of CMK and Lendlease’s huge Riverline development south of the Willis Tower.

Rendering of the proposed River Beach Tower

Rendering of the proposed River Beach Tower

Press release follows.


Hines, the international real estate firm, in a joint venture with Diversified Real Estate Capital, LLC (“DRE”) and Big Bay Realty, LLC, announced it will develop T3 Goose Island – a seven-story, 270,000-square-foot heavy timber office development. The project will be the first wood-structured office building developed in Chicago since the 1800s.

Goose Island, an industrial and manufacturing hub since the 1850s, is now being reinvented as a highly desirable office location surrounded by the most affluent residential neighborhoods in Chicago. Sparked by the North Branch Framework, approved by City Council in July, the plan includes infrastructure improvements, added public, pedestrian and bike-friendly transit options, and open space to take advantage of Goose Island’s natural setting on the Chicago River. Until 2015, the T3 Goose Island site was home to Big Bay Lumber.

Hines will work with DLR Group and Michael Green Architects, the architectural team behind the firm’s prototype T3 project in Minneapolis, to design a timber-structured building in homage to the history of the site and as a market differentiator in Goose Island’s evolving neighborhood.

“Users are seeking authentic office environments that enable their culture. They want modern design, efficient operations and environmentally sensitive construction and T3 Goose Island will deliver on all of their expectations,” said Brian Atkinson, Hines managing director.

Designed for collaboration and work/life balance, T3 will offer an exceptional complement of amenities including common social areas, a shared rooftop deck, private tenant-only balconies on each floor, bike storage and repair, a modern fitness facility with locker rooms, and dynamic ground floor retail.

Surrounded by the most vibrant residential neighborhoods in Chicago, including: Bucktown, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Old Town, Goose Island is becoming a new hub for progress, easily accessible by bike, water taxi, bus, Metra and car.

The environmental benefit of using wood on T3 is the equivalent to taking 966 cars off the road for a year. With timber as the structural system of the project, T3 will be one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable developments in Chicago.

from Chicago Architecture

Caterpillars Mud Wrestling at Wolf Point

There’s something to be said for a rainy autumn day in Chicago.  Something about the drizzle pattering off the pale yellow leaves of the few remaining ash trees in the city’s medians.  And the low-hanging clouds that turn the city of skyscrapers into a busy village.  And then there’s the mud.

Wolf Point East under construction (courtesy of River North Spy Chris)

Wolf Point East under construction (courtesy of River North Spy Chris)

The people at Wolf Point know about mud.  You may remember last month the hole being dug for Pelli Clarke Pelli’s East tower filled with water, all the way up to the level of the Chicago River, engulfing all of the supplies, machinery, and generators therein.

It’s almost a month later, and the place is still a muckhole. But that’s to be expected any time you build something right next to a major waterway. Especially when your 60-story tower is supposed to have an additional six levels below grade.

River North Spy Chris sent in these photos of the Walsh Construction’s Caterpillars wrestling in the mud.  It looks like any minute now they’re going to come across the wooden bones of a long-lost Viking ship.

Wolf Point East under construction (courtesy of River North Spy Chris)
Wolf Point East under construction (courtesy of River North Spy Chris)
Wolf Point East under construction (courtesy of River North Spy Chris)

from Chicago Architecture