Most early architectural drawings that have survived are now in museums. All of those, being fragile works on paper, are rarely seen when they're out of their storage drawers. This makes the Winter exhibition of this show, part II of a yearlong survey showcasing mid-Nineteenth Century European and Twentieth Century American architectural drawings, so rare.
That these drawings are actually for sale is rarer still. Works for unbuilt projects by the French firm of Viollet-le-Duc share wall space with Chicago School drawings from the firm of Burnham and Root. After the death of John Wellborn Root, the firm was renamed D.H. Burnham and Company. After time (and the death of Daniel Burnham), it became "Burnham Brothers." Some of those drawings, now in the Art Institute collection, are available for the true connoisseur of architecture.
Other architects exhibited in this show are Bruce Goff, George Mann Niedecken and Alfonso Iannelli.
ArchiTech Gallery, Chicago's only commercial gallery of architectural art, has assembled works by some of the great names of architecture for this show and sale.
Notes on the exhibition
This is my Fiftieth exhibition here at ArchiTech. The dozens I mounted before opening my own door in 1998 don't count. This is the only place possible for me to have met the people who seem to like what I do. They've also kept me in business, either by spending what it takes to run this level of gallery or joining my army of unpaid P.R. people.
The other day, one of the neighborhood's gallery-goers came in who hadn't been here for years. He told me he saw the same stuff now on the walls as he did then. At that moment, I knew he wasn't the kind of person this material appeals to. Some of my clients seem to spend hours here. One of my British tourists has called it "an Aladdin's cave." Those are the people I do this for.
This show, "Architectural Drawing: From Europe to America" is actually "part 2" of the yearlong survey of my collection, begun last Fall with "Architectural Drawing: From Wright to Goldberg." With this one, I hope to show the change in teaching from that of the "Ecole des Beaux-Arts," which taught the students how to draw but not how to build. That task would have been left to architecture firms as this was during the "apprenticeship" era. After they graduated from the Ecole, they were then sent to a firm for their apprenticeship. Later, architecture students were expected to know how the pieces of a building fit together. Architects, then, were beginning to hire recent grads so they could learn new techniques and materials the schools had taught them.
The most interesting of the pieces in this show is undoubtedly the linen scroll presentation drawing by George Mann Niedecken. Niedecken was a Milwaukee cabinet maker who built some of Frank Lloyd Wright's most important furniture during his Prairie years. This scroll drawn in about 1910 isn't of a Wright design. Though it's a beautifully drawn Renaissance Revival suite of dining room furniture, it typifies the era when rich men wanted anything fancy as long as it wasn't any of that Prairie House stuff. Wright was "over" to all those Midwestern clients after he walked out on his wife and six kids.
Most of the European drawings in this show I've shown in past exhibitions but some of the 20th Century works are new. Daniel Burnham's two architect sons took over his firm in the late teens and renamed it "Burnham Brothers" after designing the famous, Art Deco Carbide and Carbon Building. This drawing of the somewhat "Collegiate Gothic" Tower Garage Building is one of many alternate designs the firm presented to its client.
The other surprise here is the small drawing of a high rise building by Bruce Goff. It was probably done in 1934 or 1935 when Goff worked briefly for the Iannelli Studios in Park Ridge. But since the building was never built, I assumed it was just an idea off the top of his head. I was researching old issues of "Western Architect" for my book on Alfonso Iannelli when the logo of that magazine caught my eye. It was a small drawing just close enough to Goff's tower that I suspected it had also caught Goff's eye, too.
One mystery solved. Three million more to crack.