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Skidmore Owings, Bow House, Chicago discussed on Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen


And worked in the bow house mode so there were architects. Could text already bringing this. What ultimately became the international style? They were explicitly influenced by all these European modernists including the house guys because this work was already being done everywhere in Europe in the end the twenties and thirties. Now what's it being built that early so it's existed on paper. Buildings like this well was doing drawings of glass towers that were very very sophisticated in the twenties and thirties so it is very slender blender last lab and this mirrored blue green window glass which is a very distinct part of the building right. Well remember the context in which they're operating. The streets was a set of buildings that were brick and stone right and all of a sudden. There's this very very light. Almost a Africanus project that challenges the heaviness of these other impenetrable building holding right and this building is thinking about opening up space or you could actually see it and I think what's really important about this particular building is is it's play with openings and solids and light and void. Were very very central to the way. The Bow House experimented kid and looked at projects. So you have an open space on the ground that anybody can go into. So you're on the street and then you're in this beautiful covered space ace and then you're in this courtyard that's completely open to the sky. So I think that's what's extraordinary again. The play of inside outside inside outside side. This building is actually. I think if you go back to its social agenda if you want. It's giving back to the streets. It's saying to the people. Yeah you can come in here because we don't have anything marking marking. The edge of the sidewalk goes right into the plaza. People are cutting right diagonally across it. They feel that they're welcome to just answer. Enter fundamentally private property. The Lieber House architects worked for Skidmore owings and Merrill which was the modern American firm. When I first heard architects as a kid among other things get more designed the former sears tower in Chicago? The Herschel Museum in Washington and skyscrapers burs and banks and corporate buildings almost everywhere Frank Lloyd Wright referred to Skidmore owings and Merrill as the three blind niece many people will say skidmore owings. Merril were the firm that understood meese and that work and we're able to develop it into a very very corporate model very sophisticated and became the firm to do the most eminent corporations right which is another way. The House had this was immortal. Earliest out this life in in the United States and the rest of the world beyond the actual dudes from the house right but it was also about can the building itself be part of the brand so the Lever House was part of the brand. You know think about it It was transparent transparent. They're selling soap. The building is the headquarters of a soap manufacturer who has a natural interest in keeping things clean it becomes an advertisement for Unilever Unilever right. So you're saying it's just a big bottle of Scotch basically. There's the bronze there you go but one of the other things things to be aware of is that there seems to be a small irony right in the fact that the bow started off as a social proposition and then the first I buildings to emerge are corporate entities So so these modern buildings in the mid fifty s in America seem like the very expression of love sophisticated and modern and new which America was so trying to own and be at that time. The difficulty of course is that in some ways to do this as well required an incredible discipline and not everybody had it and it was also easy to copy so by being easy to copy some of the very sophisticated nuances get lost and then of course how do you do this without doing thousand iterations. Losing money on the job so I think that people started to shortcut. That's not understanding the values of the proportions of how people move through the building. The relationship of the scale itself. How big can you go before? In fact there's failure failure aesthetic failure so if you look across the street at whatever building that is the streets cares nineteen ninety wherever there's a kind of value engineering engineering there right. We're GONNA phrase right. The value engineering is architecture phrase for making cheap for taking out things that might cost too much right and so much smaller panes of glass so much less expensive much less difficult to install again. We're trying to figure out ways to make things faster faster better cheaper and sometimes the design was one of the things that got forfeited. Remember some of the most extraordinary designs have a poetry to them. And that when you go in there not just about oh I get it. You actually feel something you feel something about being in a space which has been so well articulated that it actually moves you and there are a few of those spaces and sometimes you have to be there for a while before it becomes a part of how you experience it. It's not going to happen in a moment. Beautifully said and that is true. These two buildings each of which I have hung around a couple of dozen times in my life I feel that with both of them. Francis Madam President Ah Francis Brunette is an architect and the president of Pratt Institute. You can see pictures from our field trip. In the buildings we visited at studio three sixty dot org by the way if you're going to be around Chicago or in Germany during the next couple of months there are a few bow how centennial exhibits. That will still be up early. Twenty twenty you can find out the details at studio three sixty dot. Org.

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