Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chicago Adventure - - Part 2

Phew, if you made through all that architecture and history bit from the last long story you're going to love this part!

Keep in mind, I now live in New Mexico where things are old and historical and significant but all that comes in a very very different package. 

Chicago is cold in late December/early January. So, what to do? Stay at a hotel watching TV? Nah (although we did watch an awful lot of the Food Network)! Instead you go out to sightseeing and stopping in at whatever kind of place you happen to find when you finally can't take any more of the cold and biting wind. Sometimes it's a coffee shop, sometimes it's a CVS or a Walgreens, and sometimes it's the Chicago Cultural Center. 
The Chicago Cultural Center is 1/2 government owned and 1/2 public space but it's 100% awesome. It used to be a library but now it hosts special events, exhibits, and it can even be rented for weddings or other private parties. 
There are two parts to the building. If you change stairways you end up in a completely different wing. Randolph MusicCafé,Studio Theater, Dance Studio, Michigan Avenue Galleries, Landmark Chicago Gallery, In the other you have, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda, Hall, and Annex Healy Millet Dome.
Even with all those amazing sounding things, the two best parts are the two stained glass domes.
First, you have the world's largest stained glass Tiffany Dome. It's 38 feet in diameter and has more than 30,000 pieces of glass. It's amazing.
It's in the old library which also a thing to marvel at. Here are some photos:

World's Largest Tiffany Dome

Original Library and Tiffany Dome

The other dome is in the other part of the building. It's done by Healy and Millet and it is a 40-foot dome with even more glass. This dome is in the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial - a huge hall. The carpet is amazing as are the windows and the view they provide. The dome here is in a Renaissance pattern. Here's some more photos:
Grand Army of the Republic Memorial 

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial  Dome

There are also some amazing stairs and archways that you've just to to see to believe. But just so you get an idea...

Library Stairs and Arches

Awesome Staircase

Amazing Staircase

While we were there we also toured some outdoor public art but since it was so cold we didn't stay out for very long. The two most impressive parts were Marc Chagall's Four Seasons glass mosaic in the financial district. The mosaic is 70 feet long and 14 feet high and contains glass from more than 12 countries. 
Four Seasons

But don't forget the reason why we went to Chicago.
This guy right here:
Butch Walker

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chicago Adventure -- Part 1

Everyone does crazy things sometimes, I just tend to do more of them than others.

For example, I decided to fly to Chicago from Albuquerque in late December just for two concerts. Ha. Even more crazy is that I convinced my parents to go, too. :) Craziness is a family trait I think.

Which concert you ask? Who is the singer, you inquire?
Who else but Butch Walker. Of course!

He was scheduled to play a New Year's Eve show so I bought tickets. All you could drink was included! Hey, sounds like a good idea to me - even now! Between the time the first concert was announced and the date, he announced a second show at a much smaller venue. Good news, we also got tickets for that.

One important thing to remember: Chicago is COLD. Albuquerque isn't bad.
A second important thing to remember: Chicago has ARCHITECTURE. Albuquerque has adobe.

Half of the adventure was to be in a place where things are old, varied, and interesting.
We did a few touristy things, like visiting the Adler Planetarium (worth the general museum admission, but I'd skip the special shows because they're costly and redundant, especially if you've even had any kind of planetarium experience), taking the required Chicago photos of the Bean, visiting Bloomingdales, and walking State Street and Michigan Avenue. But my favorite part was the architecture and the outdoor public art and AWESOME PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. I'm a sucker for those three things.

So, on to the architecture and outdoor art or else I'll continue on about public transport and bore the two readers of this blog beyond imagination.

One building I discovered only after I moved from the Midwest was on the TOP of my list to see. It's the Rookery building in the financial district. It has loads of history, looks amazing, and has an awesome library. Regrettably  we were in town during the week between Christmas and New Years which meant many things weren't operating normally. Boo. The building has been in and out of public and private hands over the years and now it is private. It's only open during "banker hours." But I finally made it.
The Rookery Building

The Rookery building was designed and built by famous architects Burnham and Root. It was completed in 1888, a result of a building boom due to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The fire provides an interesting twist to the story. The fire destroyed many many many existing buildings but the area where the Rookery is wasn't affected as much as other areas because there was a huge water tower nearby. The Rookery incorporated the water tower into the larger building. Burnham and Root poked holes in the top of the water tower and lined the inside with shelves, making a stunning library the center of their building. !!!
That's not the only exciting thing about this building! Burnham and Root's work included implementing new technologies. These included metal framing, elevators, fireproofing (how timely!), electric lighting, and a type of glass.
The building is 11 stories tall and in 1888 was one of the world's tallest buildings and certainly the tallest with metal framing and masonry walls. For some perspective, the tallest building in Albuquerque is only 22 stories tall and it was built in 1990. The oldest building in Albuquerque is a church built in 1793 (see a photo from this blog post: The Rookery is the oldest standing high-rise in all of Chicago.

Now, doesn't that make you want to see it!?
But wait! There's more!

The interior of the building was done in elaborate ironwork and ornament which was very popular at the time. But to maintain the building's status, the city decided to commission Frank Lloyd Wright to redesign the sky lit lobby in 1905. Wright removed a lot of the iron from staircases, balconies, and walls and instead focused on Root's detail on the stairs and expanded this motif. Glided marble covered over the lobbies thus hiding the original iron. The exterior remained the same with only the interior being lightened up a bit.
Even if you are to visit the Rookery today, you are still able to see the amazing ironwork and ornamental bits from the original building as the supports are still there, uncovered. Also, the lobby has a certain museum aspect to it with placards strewn about telling visitors all of this information. Additionally there are tours offered for a small fee that take you up through the building.
When I visited, no tours were scheduled due to the holiday. But if you're planning on making a trip to the building, I suggest a trip on a Wednesday because the Wednesday tours, though slightly more expensive, include a tour to the water tower library.
Now, photo time!

Rookery Building - Iron ornamental work & Wright's gilded  marble.

Rookery Building

Rookery Building - Iron ornamental work & Wright's gilded  marble.

Rookery Building - Iron ornamental work & Wright's gilded  marble.

Staircase inspiring Frank Lloyd Wright

Hopefully you enjoyed your bit of history about the Rookery Building and you can see why it's one of my favorite buildings of all time.

Stay tuned for part two of my Chicago adventure!