burnham does an armory


In penance for doing little posting of late, I present you with a little precedent study, and an archaeological one at that.  Burnham & Root’s Armory Building (Chicago, 1882), was demolished in the 60’s, and Richard Nickel’s photos are little of what remains to tell the epic story of this impressive structure.  Predating the Monadnock Building by 9 years, the simple masonry volume is rather unornamented, save for the excellent brickwork and rough-faced battered stone.  A large skylit central drill hall anchors the form, which gives only small fortified slit windows to the street, save for the large, Richardsonian Syrian arch at the main entry.  The windows pre-echo Kahn, but I’m not going to argue that he was so influenced, no matter how hard I’d like to.  The structure is framed by the large load-bearing masonry walls, which are filled with long-span trussed arches, which allow for the large hall at the center.  My first (failed) attempt at a truly square floor plan is at the bottom.





old man mies had a basilica


Beginning with Mies’ chapel at IIT, this quick project extrapolates his frame-and-infill, steel-and-brick, pavilion into a basilica form, with a full apse and a hipped roof.  A square skylight orients the modernist square volume, while dormer gables pierce the trabeated apse.  A more exuberant roof study follows.


nine-square staircase


This is a piece of a larger puzzle, the basic parti of which is sketched above.  The stair is located centrally in the square plan, and is itself a nine-square plan.  Tectonically, the stair is supported on a peristyle of Tuscan pilasters, while the stair proper is takes its details from Mies’ Crown Hall at IIT, and tall fireplaces occupy three sides (their form, a take on Schindler’s Kings Road House.



from mies to wright


Keeping the Chicago theme, but moving a bit back in time, today I’ll feature some early Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly the Cheney House in nearby Oak Park.  The plan is fascinating because it is an effectively square structure under a large hip roof, divided into two halves: the front is made up of three public rooms (nine square), while the back is broken into four bedrooms (four square), with servant spaces filling out the middle.  The hearth is at the very center of the house, typical Wright.  This basic parti (formal planimetric diagram) still fascinates me to this day – a simple form with a complex, yet brutally clear interior logic.  The variations it inspired will follow over the coming days.



mies at iit


In contrast to yesterday’s post, I’m featuring Mies’ earliest work in the United States (and his first experimentation with the ‘revealed’ corner, where the exterior envelope is set off of the structural grid), classrooms at IIT, for which Mies also completed the masterplan.  Here, the frame is still made up of wide flange steel sections, but with buff brick infill panels.  The window systems are still solid steel bars welded together – the thermal break found in the aluminum and bronze curtainwall systems was still a long way off.




While working in Chicago, I became painfully aware of how little I actually understood the mature work of Mies van der Rohe, especially with regard to his command of modules, structural regularity, and the finesse of his details.  So I drew.  I drew every one of his corners I could get my hands on – from the early simplicity of the Lake Shore Drive Apartments to the apex of complexity at the Seagram Building only some 10 years later.  Over the next few days I’ll be overwhelming you with these drawings.  Enjoy.


an urban villa


Since it’s opening day here at frame, I’ll leave you with something on the other end of the stylistic spectrum.  Shallow bay windows normally found on turn of the last century skyscrapers are set next to a tall rural gable to make up the front facade.  The bucolic villa type meets urban detail.