Sunday, 16 September 2012

Chicago - Art deco Elevator Doors

I have never seen so many exquisite elevator doors as I did in Chicago.  It could be because I was looking out for them, but it certainly didn't take a lot of effort to end up with the batch below...

Now these don't look art deco but exceptional nonetheless -

and see how impressive a whole bank of them looked!


  1. Beautiful photos (and elevator doors)! I think the one in our hotel may have had peacock wings, but now I can't remember if it was a door or an elevator.
  2. Thanks, Peggy. Did you stay at the Palmer House hotel? I have a photo of the peacock doors in an earlier post. Check out the post under Chicago - Interiors.
  3. Can you tell me where you took the last two photos (single elevator and then bank of them)? Thanks!


Chicago - Stained Glass Museum

We hardly ever go near ferris wheels any more although they are very photogenic.  We wouldn't have gone to the Navy Pier with its ferris wheel if it were not also the home of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows - another must see freebie in Chicago.  You can see some of my faves below.

Tiffany panels 

St. Cecilia playing the organ 1937 above and King David playing the harp below -
art deco designs by Conrad Schmitt Studio in Wisconsin

One of a pair of panels designed by Louis Sullivan 1889-90

A pair of very Wright windows
The two panels below are excellent examples of Wright's brilliant use of both the plane and the diagonal for which he was famous.  These were from the Oscar Steffens House.  1909

Designed by George Grant Elmslie 1920  - use of the disc is very similar to Wright designs

Another Tiffany

Navy Pier building

And the ferris wheel of course!


Chicago - the awesome Chicago Art Institute

Like many other large museums, the Art Institute of Chicago could take you days to go through.  We spent two half days here on a 5 day visit to Chicago and barely skimmed the surface.  There were many impressionist works but the modern art collection is impressive.  What I'd found most fascinating though was the collection of 68 exquisitely decorated rooms of miniature period furniture in the Thorne Room in the basement.  I could spend hours going through each window case - they are great fodder for the imagination!  Below are some of my favourite pieces at the Institute.

Renoir's The Wave

Degas Dancers

The Captive Slave by English painter John Philip Simpson, 1827.  This was a very bold statement at the time as it was six years before the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the British Parliament.  Ira Aldridge, the free-born son of  a New York lay preacher who posed for the picture would go on to an important career on the London stage.

Unmistakable Frank Lloyd Wright hanging here and there

The famous Jackson Pollock drip, pour and splash...

I love this!  Gerhard Richter's Woman descending the stairs

Don't forget to turn around and look outside the wall to wall windows in the new wing to catch another perspective on the magnificent Chicago towers (they might be behind blinds if you visit in late afternoon)

Neat design - a collapsible stool

A granite buddha from the 12th century
and here are some of the miniature rooms...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Chicago - Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the highlights of our Chicago trip was the visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, about 20 minutes from downtown Chicago on the train.  It was very easy to get to on public transit and there is no need to take a bus tour.  You would want to walk to the house anyway when you get to Oak Park because there are a lot of houses in the neighbourhood that was designed by Wright.  The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust provides a self-guided tour that includes a list of houses with street numbers so you can do a walking tour of the historic district.  Some of the houses have very obvious Wright design elements but a few of them were quite common, on the outside at least. 

The Studio Tour had to be booked in advance as there were limited tours in a day and it had to be guided.   The rooms are not very big relative to the size of the group and no pictures were allowed at the time of our visit.  But they will now allow photography for a $5 fee, worth paying if you are a  photographer.  The Wright house had a lot of interesting nooks and crannies but the highlight for me were the windows, both in the house and in the studio.

The visit to Wright's Unity Temple was a wide open self-guided tour and it was quite fun.  I could take all the photos I wanted and even got a stint on the pulpit!  I love the windows and the lighting.  The Church has set opening hours so check it as you walk by on your way to the Wright Home and Studio to make sure you don't miss it.

Entrance to the Home and Studio

Lots of these amazing windows

The approach to the octagonal study

The walkway to the studio

Some Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes in Oak Park

The Unity Temple - the solid wall on the lower level was meant to cut out noise

Entrance doors to the Temple

Inside the temple 

Inside windows atop the church hall
Next post:  the last one on Chicagot - the Stained Glass Museum on Navy PierSATURDAY, 25 AUGUST 2012

Chicago - Interiors

With a guide book in hand, we visited a number of buildings in the Chicago downtown loop.  The interiors are pretty spectacular.  One of the most memorable building was the Chicago Cultural Centre with its two Tiffany domes.  It was also the former home of the Chicago Public Library and is truly quite a unique building.  It now houses the main Visitor information centre in downtown Chicago.  Entry is free and there are often free concerts in one of the gorgeous domed halls.  We were lucky to happen upon a rehearsal for a lunchtime concert.

The Tiffany dome inside the concert hall of the Chicago Cultural Centre

Concert Hall

The hallway and stairs outside the concert hall 

The second Tiffany dome at the cultural centre

The interior of the Chicago Board of Trade Building - textbook art deco!

The stunning Frank Lloyd Wright designed lobby inside The Rookery Building at 209 South LaSalle Street

Looking down and then up the even more spectacular Oriel Staircase designed by John Root inside the Rookery Building (you may not be able to see this as it is closed to the public)

Inside the Private Bank on LaSalle Street

The lobby ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton

Peacock Doors at the Palmer House Hotel
Declarations of freedom of the press inside the lobby of the Chicago Tribune Building

The skylight in the library reading room at the Chicago Art Institute
The lobby entrance of the beaux arts Hilton completed in 1927


Chicago - Awesome Architecture!

I visited Chicago several years ago and still haven't got over how smashingly striking the architecture in that city is.  I haven't been to any place since that blew me away quite like Chicago did.  Few words are needed here, just look at the photos.  I will post photos of the interiors of some of these buildings in the next post.

You can start with the amazing egg sculpture in Millenium Park - you could spend hours just snapping pictures of it from every angle - and admire the reflection of Chicago's buildings.
Take a walking tour, guided or by yourself and look at the abundant and resplendent art deco buildings - or any old building for that matter. Most of them are within blocks of each other.  

The Chicago Board of Trade Building 1920-24 textbook art deco

This one below, the Reliance Building, was built in 1890-95!  It was one of the first skyscrapers to have plate glass windows covering most of its surface.

The famous Wrigley Building (1920-24) with its two towers and bridge in glazed terracotta.  Supposedly the building is hand-washed on occasion to preserve the terracotta!

The iconic Chicago Tribune Building and entrance completed in 1925 (neo-gothic) 

The NBC Tower - considered one of the finest reproductions of the Art Deco style (1989) 

The Crain Communications "Smurfit-Stone Building" (also known as the "Vagina Building") with the Trump Tower in the background

This building is just called 333 Wacker Street.  You wouldn't know it's so spectacular when you're at street level.  This view was from the river when we were on the boat.

Be sure to take the river cruise with the Chicago Architectural Foundation with knowledgeable docents giving you background details on buildings and history. 

See the buildings from an entirely different angle.  Note condo on the right with boat garage below.

The two round towers of Marina City beside the river - the bottom floors are all garages

Lake Point Tower condo on the Lakeshore

Amazing juxtaposition of buildings showcasing each other everywhere you turn

The buildings look surreal near sunset
Chicago skyline - the tallest is of course the Sears Tower

Next post: the interiors

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