part one_chicago.

Just a precursor; it has taken me some time to compile these blog posts. A lot of people have been asking me what my opinion of the Dulux Study Tour was. I’ve come to learn the best adjectives to describe the trip have been ‘overwhelmingly excellent’.

In the ten weeks that I have been home, I have already noticed in small ways how the tour has contributed to both my practice of architecture, and involvement in the profession. The tour itself is a brilliant idea - Each tour member evidently takes from the tour what is relevant to them at that particular point in their career. For me personally, given I have a multitude of other creative outlets - it reinforced for me why the profession holds so much potential to critically engage with many disciplines, ultimately making better places for us to live in.

I don’t think I will be able to fully recap the trip over the following posts about my trip, however I have included what was personally beneficial for me - what I got out of the trip, and what has spurred on continuous thought and research.

I’m not sure I can say thank-you enough to Bernadette Wilson at the Australian Institute of Architects for her intense organisational skills, and many many thanks to Phil White and Sarah Nadenbousch from Dulux for their generosity in giving such a memorable and informative experience.

Chicago surprised me. It wasn’t what I expected. Firstly, the CBD [‘The Loop’] was immaculately clean. Second, the general public’s awareness of architecture was overwhelming. The development of the city I found personally very interesting, particularly given I was recommended and reading a book on the history of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Interestingly, the majority of the building stock of the city was lost in the great fire of 1871. 9km2 of the city was lost, culminating in the opportunity for the later 1909 Plan of Chicago, or the ‘Burnham plan’ as it is more colloquially known as, to be implemented. I’ve also subsequently read a lot about the double-decked streets of Chicago. I was intrigued to learn that upper levels of multi-level streets typically only serve local traffic, with primary entrances to buildings at this level - the lower levels serving through-traffic and service entrance to businesses. I read that first double-height street was not produced until the late 1910s, coinciding with the Burnham Plan - due to drainage issues with Lake Michigan. I was particularly fascinated in how these roads created not only an anomaly in the layout and use of streets within the city, but also influenced the planning of buildings. We had many great tours given by architects, guides, and in conjunction with reading the book I was reading, everyone we met told me something that further peeled back a layer of the city and contributed to my overall understanding of Chicago as a place.

The photos I have added in here are from my Instagram (given I was totally overwhelmed with picking from my new camera (top middle). On day 2 we were collected by Larry, our brilliant and ever-informative tour guide (seriously – if you are heading to Chicago and needs a Mies tour guide – book him!). Larry destroyed us for all other Tour Guides to come on the Study tour, particularly given his predilection for showing us/teaching us as much as he could. A Mies-aficionado and a previous tenant of Lakeshore Drive; Larry was the perfect tour guide to share with us the Farnsworth House [Bottom right]. What I found interesting was in the many famous photographs of the site, the house appears to be far more remote - images neglecting to represent the fact a large motorway lies a couple of hundred metres up the hill from the infamous piece of residential modernism. 

It was great to finally visit the 1959 Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City Towers courtesy of Strawn Sierralta’s very generous home office visit [bottom left + view middle right]. We had been circulating around the two buildings for the past couple of days prior to our visit, first sited on our Architectural Boat Tour of the river.  It’s kind of nuts that 19 floors of a spiral corkscrew at the base of each tower have been given over to 896 car spaces per building! I also find the floor plans completely fascinating - each apartment created from parts of triangular wedges. It was inspiring to see how a young practice had lovingly renovated their Marina City apartment, whilst maintaining and restoring some of the original design elements.

One of the most beneficial things of the tour was visiting a practice or building that you weren’t familiar with, who you in turn found completely inspiring. One example for me in particular, was the work of John Ronan Architects. I was in love with his work as soon as we stepped inside his office and I panned around looking at all the materials and finishes samples. As someone who is heavily into crafting and making, I personally have a penchant for the product selection/materials research stage of design process. Visiting John’s building the Poetry Foundation [interior shot middle left] heavily reinforced the benefit of stringent product research - John noting the immaculately beautiful concrete aggregate flooring that continued from within the courtyard into the building was the result of at least 100 different tests. Even the pour lines and control joints had been designed [middle right]. This fast became one of my favourite buildings.

There were many architecture practices that we visited, notably SOM [who took us on a site visit to their masterplan of Millennium Park - those of you who would have been reading previous posts of mine would know of my adoration for the work of artist Anish Kapoor, so learning of the way in which the slab on which the Cloud Gate rested required structural reinforcement given it sat over a large carpark was fascinating]; PORT Architecture + Urbanism [doing very cool things - check out their Denver Park Loop project], Studio Gang [always inspiring to visit a practice with a female director] - the list goes on.

For a more detailed account, jump on over to the Dulux Study Tour blog that the five of us penned whilst being whisked around The States. 

Next: New York City


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