Architecture 

Here are articles about architects, buildings, and architecture (most of them in Chicago), historic preservation, landscape architecture, and reviews of books on the same topics, as published mainly in Chicago’s Reader, Inland Architect, and Illinois Times.

My interest in buildings was homegrown. Like most Illinois towns of any size, the downtown Springfield I grew up in was a museum of  American commercial, civic, and religious building styles. Growing up, I wandered around and through them like a kid at a fair. Nor was my interest parochial. I suppose it signified something that on our one family outing to the big city, when I was about ten, the only snapshot I took in Chicago was of a building. (It was the 1955 Prudential Building, then the tallest and one of the newest in the city.)

 

Beginning during my teen years back in Springfield, fine old structures of every type were being replaced by nothing near as fine, if they were replaced by anything at all. Springfield's Romanesque city hall, its handsome old banks, its YMCA, its Carnegie library, its most splendiferous movie house—the embodied history of the city, which by then was my history too—was taken away bit by bit in the backs of trucks.

I lived for more than eleven years a block and a half from the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Susan Lawrence Dana, then the headquarters of a specialty publishing firm and now under state ownership as the Dana-Thomas House. The building beguiled, and the saga of its purchase for the public, its restoration, and attempts to recover its long-scattered original furnishings were stories I was happy to report on. In learning about his work I learned from Wright's critique of his predecessors, so to that extent he was a teacher about architecture generally. 

 

In 1988 I moved to Oak Park, across the street and a world away from Chicago, and in 1990 was living in a flat above a law office exactly (sayeth Google) 714 feet from the door of Wright's home and studio on Chicago Avenue. So amazing a place had the world become by the middle 1990s that I had acquired a global reputation as an expert on Wright. I spent an hour tutoring an importunate Japanese student as we sat beneath the nearly 200-year-old gingko tree in the courtyard of the studio whilst the cream of the world's tourists chattered and gawked about us. 

 

Just as Chicago is a bigger city than Springfield, so was its architecture a bigger topic, and I wrote about it often. I knew nothing about it, really, but a freelancer must learn to masquerade his ignorance as respectful curiosity. I doubt that I fooled the editors at Inland Architect, but I suspect that they asked me to contribute anyway because I was willing to work cheap.

In any event, while posing as an architecture writer I got to meet and talk with distinguished practitioners such as Dirk Lohan and Harry Weese and Bertrand Goldberg from whom I collected quotes and they collected publicity according to the ancient laws of my profession, so everyone was happy. 

 

As for the articles, I convinced myself that my ignorance was a qualification insofar as I was had never been infected with the architecture-as-art virus then rampant in the better schools. My perspective instead was that of the public which is obliged to look at, move through, and use buildings, often (in Chicago) with delight, sometimes with befuddlement and annoyance.

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Dismembering the Sullivan Legend

Louis Sullivan and modern architecture

Illinois Issues October 1986

Prophet of the Prairie

Jens Jensen and the prairie asethetic

Landscape Architecture  April 1992

[Architecture Tour Videos]

What you get for what you see

Inland Architect  May/June 1992

The High and the Flighty

A century of Chicago skyscrapers, reviewed

Reader  July 26, 1991

Edifice Complex for Architecture

Designing buildings for fun and not much profit

Crain's Chicago Business  June 14, 1993

Chicago’s Classic Look

. . . owes to Graham, Anderson, Probst & White

Reader January 15, 1993

Jet-set architecture? In Springfield?
A vanished age endures in its buildings
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times March 24, 2016    

I Think Icon, I Think Icon, I Think Icon

Building iconography explained, sort of

Crain's Chicago Business  April 5, 1993 

Merchandising Modern Art
Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Reader  April 10, 1992

Homage to the Barons Who Built Chicago

Great buildings need great developers

Chicago Enterprise  November 1992

Gimcrackery

When the state runs its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

The Atrium as Field Daze

Field’s flagship store unveils a new old feature

Crain’s Chicago Business  August 5, 1991

Preservation and restoration

Rookery a Rare Roost Indeed

Cheers for the restoration of Root's masterpiece

Crain’s Chicago Business August 3, 1992

Saving History from the Wrecking Ball

Richard Nickel and Sullivan's legacy

Illinois Issues April 1995

Altered Visions

Walter Netsch’s brutalist Chicago campus is mugged

Inland Architect  March/April 1993

Positive Incentives

Springfield’s lazy, hazy, razing days of summer

"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 24, 1981

Refined, Felicate and Urban
Marking the Centennial Building’s centennial
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 1, 2016

“You look fabulous, really!”

An old fiend on Monroe Street gets a makeover
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 17, 2015

Old Arguments
Is the state spending too much to restore the statehouse?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  September 19, 2013

Temple of the Law
The state is doing justice to the Supreme Court Building
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 20, 2013 
   

Selling Off a Metaphor
Should the State of Illinois sell the Thompson Center?    
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Tmes  April 9, 2015    

Adieu to the Abe

Springfield’s grandest hotel dies prematurely

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 7, 1978

A Shooting

The end of the Hotel Abraham Lincoln

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 22, 1978

Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears

Converting the capitol into an office building

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 7, 1979

Saving the “Castle,” Monument to the American Dream

Springfield’s Brinkerhoff House makes new friends

Illinois Times  January 13, 1978

Orpheum

A loss to the arts—but oh, the banking convenience!

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 16, 1977

Richard Nickel

Louis Sullivan, Chicago, and preservation

Unpublished, 1996

Cheeseparing in the  Capitol Complex
Will a new Stratton Building be a better one?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 10, 2010    

The Dana House

An early Frank Lloyd Wright house is up for sale

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 6, 1981

How Chicago's Gentry Shaped the City

“How culture made itself manifest” in Chicago

Chicago Enterprise  April 1992

Architectural Dreams

Springfield's unfamous buildings by famous architects         

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 4, 2011 

Cheese on a Plate

A bigger, not better, capitol complex

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 15, 1983

Unbalanced Structure

Checking out the new Illinois State Library

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 11, 1990

More Burg than Beauburg

Public architecture of the capital is not capital

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 28, 1979

Persian Thumbs

Springfield's daily builds a new home

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 3, 1981

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SITES

OF INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

[STILL A-BUILDING]

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of

solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study

. . . an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy

the book

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated