Monday, October 21, 2019

Lee Bey’s plea for South Side architecture

     Lee Bey is a reporter.
     Yes, he wears other hats — architecture expert, urban planner, lecturer at the School of the Art Institute, photographer of growing renown.
     But a newspaperman is what he was when he joined the Sun-Times in 1992, and he remains true to the basic imperative of reporting: Tell people something they don’t already know.
     This educational process began, for me, with the very first photograph in his new book, “Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side.” (Northwestern University Press: $30). A simple, flat-faced building with a sloping roof. At first I thought it was some 1950s geometrical whimsy; the caption reveals it to be the Lavezzorio Community Center, 7600 S. Parnell Ave., designed in 2008 by Jeanne Gang — the most famous architect in Chicago today, whose Aqua Tower opened to raves in 2009. 
Lavezzorio Community Center
    ”It’s a fine little building that should have ridden Aqua Tower’s slipstream to some modest fame, at least,” Bey notes.
     That it didn’t — I had no idea Gang’s community center exists, and I pay attention to this kind of thing, or try to — is the point of Bey’s new book. Just as America still can’t seem to wrap its head around the fact that black lives carry the same weight as white ones, so Chicago’s architecture south of Cermak Road rarely shows up on our cultural radar, even though it should.

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  1. Many thanks for today's column as otherwise I would not have been aware of Mr. Bey's book. I believe it will make a perfect holiday gift for my spouse and I have already placed my order!

  2. I echo Anita's thanks. I have always enjoyed Bey's writing. Also, I was fortunate enough to take classes at both Bowen and CVS over the years, but unfortunate in not appreciating the architecture thereof. Simply took it for granted. And the dreams I have from time to time of running back and forth, up and down, desperately trying to find a classroom seem to take place in a CVS-like building, though in real life, I tend to get lost in 20-story office towers.


  3. Thanks for calling this book to my attention. I also know someone this would make a great present for and just placed my order with Women and Children First.

  4. One quibble, Bowen looks like Schurz, but is a lot smaller.


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