Architecture – Strange Closets people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Day Trip: Milwaukee Art Museum Mon, 09 Jan 2012 21:07:34 +0000

If you haven’t visited the breathtaking Milwaukee Art Museum, which was created by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, I highly recommend that you check it out. Although I’ve lived in Illinois for most of my life, I’d never actually visited Milwaukee proper. Prior to my recent visit, I couldn’t understand why one would bother to make the trip. What would be the point? With plenty of culture, shopping and lots of action, Chicago has it all, right? Well, not really. Not if you like hills, of which Milwaukee has plenty. Not to mention the historic architecture, new downtown loft developments and the friendly populace. On the way out of town, we popped into the indoor public market, where there was no shortage of tasty treats. We left Chicago around 1 or 1:30 p.m. and were back in Chicago by 7:00. Not a bad day trip.





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Summer in the City Wed, 10 Aug 2011 17:46:45 +0000

Have you seen the Marilyn Monroe statue downtown? Apparently it’s somewhat controversial, but I kind of dig it. I took the train downtown last weekend and walked around snapping photos. If you’ve never been to Millennium Park, I highly recommend checking it out. I can’t think of another place where the feeling of joy is so palpable in the air. I worked across the street at the Stone-Container building (150 N. Michigan) for six years and watched the park being built. Cost overruns made it controversial as well, but the sound of children laughing and splashing near the fountains make it seem worthwhile in the long run. What do you think?

I snapped this photo at the Art Institute. Although the woman looks peaceful and contemplative in this image, she is actually dialing her cell phone. When she heard the click of my camera, she turned toward me with a glare and scurried off to the side to continue her phone call.

Click here to see where one blue man lives.

Over and out.

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Abandoned brewery. Small town. Hot summer Sunday. Mon, 18 Jul 2011 05:24:35 +0000

Warning: this post contains graphic images of urban decay, although I have a feeling that you might like that kind of thing. If not, imagine how this place would look with a little rehab, a thick shag rug and a mohair sofa. Or how it would have looked 100 years ago when it was bustling with brewery workers. I wonder if they noticed the architecture and amazing light? With unobstructed views of a nearby state park, the I & M Canal and the Illinois River, this building oozes unrealized potential.

Imagine my delight.

Doubt means don’t.

Check out this ceiling. I guess breweries have always been cool.

Wouldn’t those giant exhaust vents make stellar hoods for a massive commercial stove?

The second floor would make a killer living room. Upstairs will be the master suite.

Regarding the Chinese screen, your guess is as good as mine.

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Urban forms Thu, 19 May 2011 06:12:31 +0000

I’ve been noticing this form around town lately, most recently atop a Lincoln Avenue building near its busy intersection with Belmont and Ashland. I’m pretty sure these steel structures were meant to hold billboards. If so, the sluggish economy might explain my growing awareness of their existence. One thing’s for sure: I’m far more fascinated by their almost sculptural multidimensionality than the bright boring ads they ordinarily support.  I wouldn’t know how to display such a sublime urban form, were I to be fortunate enough to acquire one. It screams lawn sculpture, but the scale is all wrong for my tiny patch of grass. I’m sure I could recreate the piece by soldering pieces of steel or even wire together, which is an idea I swiped from former Open House stars Sean and Eric, who used the technique to make a tabletop sculpture I still covet (see below). But I’m not really jonesing for another project after refinishing my tanker desk last summer, so for now at least, I’ll love these beauties from afar. Do unexpected urban forms ever inspire you? If so, how? Inquiring minds want to know.

This specimen on Broadway is less intricate than others but still lovely.

Sean and Eric’s place as photographed by Nathan Kirkman for Chicago Home + Garden. On the coffee table is that awesome sculpture I told you about earlier (unless you’re reading this post backwards-forwards, which is really big right now (not really)).

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Detroit Wed, 23 Mar 2011 01:15:30 +0000

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, seeing the world with a photographer’s eyes makes everything more interesting and beautiful. In fact, Detroit’s urban decay has inspired so many professional and citizen photographers to record its haunting beauty that the scenes have become a bit clichéd, which changes neither my love for them nor my intention to road trip there myself at some point before a wave of gentrification knocks down, gussies up or replaces the burned out shells of abandoned buildings. Artists, entrepreneurs and adventurous early adapters sensed opportunity several years ago, and from what I hear, things are starting to happen. Farmers markets, great food and gorgeous architecture at jaw-droppingly low prices. I haven’t visited Detroit since we passed through during a family road trip from Chicago to Niagara Falls when I was 11 or 12. I don’t remember much (it was a long car ride), but I’m looking forward to a return trip.  I’ve included a few images from a spectacular Huffington Post slideshow. Please check out the entire slide show for many more amazing images.

The Wednesday Question: Will Detroit make a comeback? Why or why not?

The Wednesday Question for Antique and Vintage Dealers: Are you drooling over the amazing furniture in the abandoned banks, classrooms and hotels featured in the slides? If so, please venture to Detroit on our behalf and mark up your bounty appropriately.

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

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Chicago strolls (part 1) Tue, 22 Mar 2011 04:24:35 +0000

The weather is finally warm enough to make neighborhood strolls pleasant. After spending the long winter in a state of semi-hibernation, the whole world looks new and interesting, although in truth, cultivating an active interest in photography has made everything in every season look beautiful to me. If the world looks dull, dreary or ugly, take up photography. After enough time looking for the “nice shot,” you’ll begin to see them everywhere (as my sometime annoyed friends can attest). For me, cutting through a back alley is just as beautiful and even more fascinating than strolling along a boulevard. The iPhone’s camera has improved to the point that for a simple neighborhood walk, I often opt to leave my much heavier Nikon at home. Most of these pics were taken in Lakeview, Uptown and Edgewater over the last week or two.

The Tuesday Question: Cell phone cameras have unleashed a new wave of citizen photographers. Are you one of them? Has taking photos changed how you see the world?

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Walking around downtown Chicago on an especially warm October afternoon Thu, 28 Oct 2010 18:32:25 +0000

Monday afternoon was an exceptionally warm October afternoon, so I was happy to have errands to run downtown. The loop was eerily quiet as it was warm, so I’m guessing many opted to take a vacation day to enjoy one of the last nearly 80 degree days before it snows. Isn’t Chicago gorgeous?

The architecturally significant Marina City towers, which were designed to resemble corncobs. Note the interesting open parking garage on the bottom floors.

Characterized by its diamond shaped top, the Smurfit-Stone building is perhaps most famous for its appearance in the 80’s film Adventures in Babysitting starring the underrated Elisabeth Shue (whose character was a very bad babysitter indeed). I worked in the building for six years in the aughts.

They saved this facade and used it on a new condo tower at Randolph and Wabash. Some have criticized this technique as inauthentic, but I’d hate to see the beautiful old stonework wind up in landfills or private collections.

The Trump building replaced the boxy, short Sun Times building.  I’m a bit obsessed with the new tower’s reflective outer skin and slim profile. The needle-like building was constructed on a tiny footprint and was built with innovative new techniques in concrete.

Tribune HQ. Home of our very own Chicago Home + Garden.

This stairway leads from Michigan Avenue to the subterranean transit routes. The famed Billy Goat Tavern is right across the street.

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Photos: Abandoned brewery in Morris Thu, 20 May 2010 18:35:44 +0000

The chance to own a condo in this abandoned brewery might actually convince me to move back to my hometown Morris. After I posted a photo on the Strange Closets Facebook page, one of the community members revealed there were plans to develop the property back in the 70’s but they fell through, so there it sits. The top floors likely have spectacular views of the nearby Illinois River and Gebhard Woods State Park, so I hope somebody does something with it. What do you think?

Check out that gorgeous arched brick ceiling. I took these photos from a ladder perched outside one of the windows, and I couldn’t help but think that the abandoned building is probably being used for nefarious purposes by adolescent troublemakers.  I can’t believe I never thought of that when I was a teen. But it’s best not to focus on what might have been.

While it now has a Silence of the Lambs vibe, with a little TLC, this would make a luxe duplex condo.

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First look at a lakefront home? Mon, 17 May 2010 17:15:35 +0000

Several months ago I wrote about the Baugher’s, a Wilmette couple who bought the derelict old home on the primo lakefront lot next to their Sheridan Road home. Seeking development ideas, the Baugher’s enlisted the help of New Trier architecture teacher Josh Wood, whose 24 students competed to design an eco-friendly home incorporating universal design principles. Recently the 12 finalists presented their designs to judges, family and friends. All the entries were excellent, but senior Becky Greenberg’s curvy design took top honors. Click here to read my Make It Better story about the evening.

Click here for photos of the now demolished home that originally stood on the lakefront lot.

Click here for my interview with New Trier architecture teacher Josh Wood.

Click here for more information about the Baugher’s.

New Trier architecture teacher Josh Wood, prize-winning senior Becky Greenberg and Robin Baugher.

The judges deliberations were visible through the door’s four big windows, which must have been kind of torturous for the contestants.

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Photo Essay: Art Chicago Tue, 04 May 2010 00:05:08 +0000

There’s nothing that makes me feel less creative (yet more inspired) than events like Art Chicago, part of last weekend’s Artopolis at the Merchandise Mart. While I didn’t have my good camera with me, I never seem to get tired of using the Hipstamatic application on my iPhone. Did you attend this year? If so, what did you think?

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