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illinois

the Flyover

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Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday break I took a roadtrip from Colorado to my native Kentucky.  This is the vast Flyover land of the center of the United States.  It is roughly the former vast inland sea from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains.  It is certainly the least densely populated one third to one half of the the US, and largely dominated by fields and pasture, sheds and barns, farmhouses and shacks of agricultural America.

This immense area - eastern Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, western Kentucky - is not the stuff of dramatic landscapes.  That is not to say that it is not beautiful, but it is a softer, more subtle set of relationships between land and sky that makes this area's initial uniformity peel away to reveal an intensely beautiful sense of place.  And in that flat, or gently rolling landscape, a building sticking up from the earth holds a kind of power that qualifies the space around it.  A sense of space aggregates around a building.  Here in the Rocky Mountains and in so many places along the eastern seaboard, there seems to be a natural space that buildings have been placed within.  But in these midwestern plains, a building makes a space, a small domesticated sphere that comes into being only by the nature of the building.

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Frank Lloyd Wright knew this.  He clearly understood how a building sits on this flat earth and how a large, sheltering roof can make a space more profound than a series of walls.  On my recent trip I did not visit any of his iconic prairie-style houses, but rather the Price Tower in Oklahoma.  More about that in an upcoming post.

Driving for many hours is a great way to reflect on things, and for me this naturally falls to things architectural.  Over the next few weeks I will post some more photos and thoughts that bubbled up during this long drive.  Send me your thoughts.

The Shops at Northbridge, Chicago, Illinois

The Shops at Northbridge on Chicago's Miracle Mile section of Michigan Avenue is an enclosed, curving arcade of 50 shops and restaurants connecting the Nordstrom's to Michigan Avenue.  Soaring above the shifted streetscape of Grand Avenue, the curving retail center skirts around the existing historic McGraw Hill building.

The retail center consists of a set of parallel, curving walkways that span from Michigan Avenue to the Nordstrom's building one block west.  Spanning over Grand Avenue, the project was designed as a bridge-like structure on one side and a solid, volumetric mass on the other side.

The project was initially designed by Mark Gerwing at Anthony Belluschi Architects from a series of schematic sketches and detailed plans for conserving the McGraw Hill building.  The McGraw Hill building was largely dismantled and its historic carved limestone panels reinstalled on a new structural framework.

Architects:  Anthony Belluschi Architects

Project Designer (Schematic Design):  Mark Gerwing