World will follow our decade of new directions
Angeles’ Frank Gehry appear to be on the wane, perhaps because the Great Recession made such buildings look excessive. (The same fate befell jazzy, heavily ornamented Art Deco designs in the 1930s.)
A more austere aesthetic, combining geometric rigor and spatial complexity, prevails in the work of such architects as Chicago’s John Ronan. Traditionalists like
Chicago’s HBRA Architects are out there, too, transforming historic precedents to modern needs rather than trying to invent a new architecture every Monday morning.
If anything unites these disparate approaches, it is the evermore-urgent matter of environmental sustainability, a concern driven home with stunning power by the recent flooding of
With an eye toward energy benefits, architects and developers are looking anew at materials like mass timber (large pieces of wood that are fused together to make them structurally robust and fireproof ). There is fresh talk of “biophilic” design, which strives to connect a building’s occupants to nature.
Not content with the dull “mow, blow and go” clusters of grass and shrubs that once enveloped corporate palace, landscape architects are ascendant. The nature-inspired buildings and regenerative landscapes of architect Jeanne Gang are a key example.
A renewed concern for equity is part of the shifting outlook. Increasingly, the question isn’t only “what gets designed?” but “who benefits?” Maurice Cox, formerly Detroit’s planning director and now Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s planning chief, personifies this trend.
As the nation approaches its 250th birthday in 2026, the art of adapting old buildings to new uses continues to comprise a significant part of what architects do. But the buildings being transformed these days are not cute
Victorians or magnificent BeauxArts libraries.
They include buildings of the middle years of the 20th century, like the Art Moderne behemoth of Chicago’s Old Post Office and the exotic New Formalist structure of the University of Chicago’s Keller Center. How quickly today’s cutting-edge design becomes tomorrow’s cultural artifact.
Soon we’ll be fighting over a key legacy of postmodernism: the Helmut Jahn-designed James R. Thompson Center.
As always, Chicago is an urban cauldron in which the competing forces of power and money, passion and art, vie for supremacy amid the smoke and fire of argument and debate.
As the world urbanizes and grapples with the consequences of ever-greater heights and density, it invariably will look to the crucible of late 19th and early 20th century urbanization — Chicago — for answers. Why? Because change is the only constant here.
Would we want it any other way?
The Keller Center, a renovated mid-20th century building at the University of Chicago, added a multilevel atrium with bleacher seating.