Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
In the autumn I spent some time in Chicago, a place famous for architecture and recommended by friends as a place to visit. I was particularly interested in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and wanted to see it for myself.
The first evening, we went to the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Building and at one time the highest building in the world and at 1,451 feet, the highest building in America. It was completed in 1973. In July 2009 there was the design and construction of a multi-million dollar renovation of Skydeck Chicago, including the development of The Ledge, a series of glass bays on the 103rd floor that extend from the building providing visitors with unobstructed views of Chicago through the windows and glass floors. Stand on the glass floor of the Ledge with nothing below if you dare!
The following day we booked the Frank Lloyd tour at Oak Park with the wonderful Chicago Architecture Foundation www.caf.architecture.org The guides are called docents and are very knowledgeable and passionate about the architecture in Chicago. Oak Park is famous as it was Frank Lloyd Wright’ home and the place where he designed a whole street of houses early in his career. The tour traced Wright’s early years, from his studio where the Prairie style was conceived, to Oak Park’s beautifully preserved private Prairie homes and greatest public building of the Prairie Period, Unity Temple. The tour was comprehensive and the docent very informative. It was interesting to see how Wright lived and worked in a fairly small house where the emphasis was home around the hearth. The hearth at the centre of the house was common to his early work. This was Oktoberfest so we ate at a German style restaurant.
The following day was the tour of the university area to include the Robie House, one of the most well know Wright designs but again with the central hearth feature. It is similar to some of the designs in Oak Park. Unusually, the lighting in the dining room is located at the corners of the table which makes perfect sense rather than having candles in the centre of the table blocking the diner’s vision. We drove on to the Illinois Institute of Technology to see the Department of Architecture building designed by Mies van der Rohe. He came to the US in 1938 from Germany and became the Head of the Department of Architecture. Mies viewed architecture as embodying multiple levels of value, extending from the entirely functional to the realm of pure art. One of the students showed us around and remarked on how it was a privilege to study in such an iconic building. The famous raised Loop train passes by a University building and a tube has been built around it to reduce the noise to the adjacent building.
On the last day, I spent the morning in the renowned Chicago Institute of Art famous for the collection of Impressionists paintings. The Institute is in a prime location on the shore of Lake Michigan. We walked in to town to see the sculptures by Picasso and Miro on the squares to house them. These are very tall sculptures and the scale is needed as they are surrounded by skyscraper blocks. For example, the Miro’s Chicago sculpture is 39 feet tall. I was also interested in the building designed by Louis Sullivan as a department store. He was a mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit a Blues Club. Chicago blues is a type of urban blues. Urban blues evolved from classic blues as a result of the great depression and developed in the first half of the twentieth century during the Great Migration, when Black workers moved from the Southern United States into the industrial cities of the Northern United States such as Chicago.
Coming attraction; Nerja.
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