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REPUBLIC WINDOW & DOOR (now shared with Wrigley Company) (1998)
Booth Hansen Associates
927 West Evergreen Avenue
By 1976, a group of rebellious young Chicago architects had had it with the idea that Mies was the source of all that was good. Calling themselves the “Chicago Seven,” after the Yippies who went on trial in the late 1960s for conspiracy, they began writing and staging exhibitions in an effort to replace the “Less is more” doctrine with something else.
That’s the short story behind the city’s earliest postmodernists, a group that included Stanley Tigerman, Tom Beeby, and others. One, Larry Booth, reasoned that architecture should be defined by “character,” which he said applied to a building’s construction and to its spirit. Character, he believed, could guide the design of almost any type of structure, and he tried nearly all——from light-filled townhouses in Lincoln Park to major church restorations, and the Republic Window & Door factory on Goose Island.
Despite attempts to gentrify it, Goose Island remains charming and mysterious with its steel bridges, railroad tracks, and rusty pilings along the side of the river. Inspired by this urban archaeology, Booth designed for Republic an unadorned steel structure with raw steel columns, ribbed metal cladding, and exposed cross braces tightened in place by giant turnbuckles. That was the physical part.
For the spiritual, Booth sought ways to express the plain hard work of the family owners of the business and the people who labor there. Loading docks sit prominently in front, instead of being hidden away. Inside the building is a large space, mostly unadorned, filled with natural light. (Republic makes windows, after all.) A steel staircase that is almost sculptural in its detailing rises through the lobby, eloquently inviting executives and manufacturing workers alike to climb it on equal footing.