Chicago did not become the birthplace of American architecture at a seminar. It won that title in the trenches, where architects engage in risk, rivalry, and plenty of insults.
Louis Sullivan, in his 1924 autobiography, on the staid neoclassicism of the 1893 Columbian Exposition: “The damage wrought by the World’s Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1918, on a French-inspired house by Howard Van Doren Shaw: “I utterly failed to imagine entering it other than in costume.”
Stanley Tigerman, in 1971, at a faculty meeting of the University of Illinois at Chicago architecture department: “This place is a piece of shit. It’s mediocre. I don’t want to be a part of it. And you can take your full professorship and your tenure and shove it up your ass.” (Tigerman returned to become director of the department several years later.)
Harry Weese on Helmut Jahn’s James R. Thompson (State of Illinois) Center, shortly after its completion in 1985: “Palace for Peons, otherwise known as the State Office Bauble (SOB). . . . The afore-mentioned shapeless, and some would say tasteless, jellyfish sprawls off the site. . . . The gossamer SOB is . . . a piece of cake more suited to a Parisian department store.”
John Vinci, who studied under Mies, in 1991, on the postmodern interior of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rice Wing, designed by Tom Beeby: “It’s the only building I know where the building looks like it’s holding up the columns.”
The developer/architect Jim Loewenberg on his own project, the North Side condominium tower Park Millennium on Columbus Avenue, completed in 2002: “The top got away from everybody.” (Small consolation for those who have to look at it.)
Photography: (Sullivan And Wright) Chicago Tribune; (Tigerman) Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune; (Weese) Harry Weese Papers, Ryerson And Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago, Digital File 200604.75524-05 © The Art Institute of Chicago; (Vinci) Dianne Brogan/Chicago Tribune; (Loewenberg) Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune