Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lights on but nobody home

There are very few blogs that I make a point to look at on a regular basis, and one of my favorites is Messy Nessy Chic. Written by Vanessa Grail, a young Briton living in Paris, it has a wonderful aesthetic, looking at the obscure, the decaying, the forgotten and submerged. I wrote a column about her last spring and she was kind enough, when she went overseas for Christmas, to allow me to write a post for her blog. This is the beginning of the post I wrote, which went up on her site Friday. If you click the link at the end, you'll be taken to Messy Nessy Chic, and can see how she does it, plus find a lot more pictures.

     Chicago is justly famous for its architecture. Birthplace of the skyscraper, home to the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (still, the emotion-driven claim by New York’s One World Trade Center, based on the dodge of calling an antenna a spire, is easily dismissed) Chicago offers a panorama of architectural marvels. So many icons that you usually have to live here before you start noticing structures that are not famous and important, but merely intriguing and fun. Such as the charming little fake buildings that electrical company Commonwealth Edison puts up to camouflage its  substations.
     It can take a while, walking past, until you realize that the front doors don’t open. Or what look like windows are actually louvers. What is that? you wonder. And what is it doing there?
     The most noteworthy, a faux Georgian mansion in the River North area of downtown, was designed by perhaps the city’s most famous living architect, Stanley Tigerman, former director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
     “The building is somewhat tongue-in-cheek , a bit of a joke,” said Tigerman, who had first designed a restaurant just west of the site. “The Hard Rock Cafe: fake stucco, fake Georgian, nothing real about it. Then they came to me and wanted me to do the ComEd substation next door, but to be contextual, to relate it to this ersatz piece of junk.”
     So rather than construct a bogus building based on a fake, albeit one he designed, Tigerman cut the other direction....

To continue reading on "Messy Nessy Chic," click here.


  1. Fascinating -- now I'll be checking buildings for doors and windows !

  2. What can one expect from Com Ed?


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.