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Bertrand Goldberg
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin St., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60654
June 5, 2009 - August 29, 2009

Marina City
by E-Slant Team




From ArchiTech Gallery:

Chicago has many iconic buildings but none is so instantly recognizable worldwide as the riverside complex of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City.

The sculptural aspect of the matched towers is so breathtaking, and its siting at the edge of the river so startling that it creates an unmatched visual image of Chicago.

In describing the tower plan in a 1959 speech at the start of building, Goldberg insisted that it wasn't cylindrical, rather, it was "...the organization of a tremendous sunflower - where the core is the center of the flower and each of the bays emanating from the core are very much - both in shape and in organization - like the petal of a flower."

He ended his speech with this: "Marina City has been called revolutionary, but I do not believe along with Corbusier that things are revolutionized by making revolutions. The revolution lies in the solution of existing problems."

In a parallel to today's expressionistic architecture by Gehry and Calatrava, the construction of Marina City made Goldberg a superstar of modern architecture and opened up contemporary building to include "Baroque Modernism."

"Marina City" opens in a commercial exhibit of drawings from the 1960 and 1965 original designs as well as its 1995 remodeling for the House of Blues. Photographs and blueprints will also be exhibited for sale. The exhibition opens Friday, June 5th to Saturday, August 29th, 2009.

This year has been the "Mid-Century" period for ArchiTech. I started it with industrial design drawings by Henry Glass and others in the preceding "Future Perfect" and will end it in the fall by showcasing some of Frank Lloyd Wright's Mid-Century works. For this Summer show, only Goldberg's Marina City had enough Moxie to match the others.

When I moved here for post graduate work in 1974 (there, now you know how old I am), Marina City's interiors still looked like sets from "Goldfinger." Sadly, they been homogenized by the real estate firm that owns it into a conservative gray/beige fog. But the bones are still there. The exterior "plaza," never more than an asphalt podium with potential, is still waiting for improvement. Its "House of Blues" tenant has energized the area but the "olde timey" restaurant pavilion built in the 90s has been an aesthetic cancer in need of a scalpel. Stat!

In short, the entire complex has turned into performance art that is greater than the sum total of its various components. But it's architecture that (don't look too closely) endures. Whatever the various condo owners inflict (think Astroturf and Weber grills littering the terraces), pedestrians looking up at the monumental columns of concrete will cancel out. Errant strings of Christmas lights on the railings may make a purist gag but the delight of those city views from apartments can only give a tenant the "frisson" of the true urban dweller.

In 1995, Goldberg was at the tail end of his wondrous career and given the job to redesign the theater structure into a new home for the House of Blues. Strangely, his early design affixed a "Classical" temple portico onto its eastern front! Monumental pilasters edged the streetside end of the saddle shaped building. The interior eventually received a classical opera house motif but, thankfully, the exterior remains untouched. The exhibition here shows the designs for those possibilities as well as the materials Goldberg used for his "show and tell" lectures in the early 1960s.

One of my favorites in this exhibition is a 1965 lineprint of a section through the theater with a 1995 marker sketch of the new balconies on transparent tissue floating over it. It's like time traveling over 30 years.

Though the exhibition is likely to be too cerebral for some viewers who like their design drawings to at least be "pretty," I think of architectural art as a dance between art and science. This show wears a lab coat.

Posted by E-Slant Team on 6/15/09

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