Friday, February 4, 2011

Monumental Lighting #3- 212 W. Washington

This 1911 building has a lot in common with the one at 311 W. Washington.  Both were commissioned by the Chicago Telephone Company and both were designed in the historicist mode by their favorite architects, Holabird & Roche.  And of course, both have huge metal lanterns flanking their main entrance.  While 311 Washington was used for switchboards and mechanicals, this 20-story building was the administrative headquarters.  It has the same quasi-public feel that all of these phone company buildings assumed.

This view is a little narrower than I would have preferred (reference photo taken from the 12th floor of a nearby parking garage),but you can see that it's in keeping with the classic skyscraper formula of base, shaft and capital.  This has been somewhat obscured by hanging metal balconies along Washington, which accompanied the 1990s condo conversion.  It was a pleasure to eliminate these from the sketch.  Several of the lower floors were hollowed out to provide indoor parking, which they've made no attempt to hide.  It looks pretty odd from the street, although probably most people don't notice.
The main entrance to the building is indicated by these two story arched openings with decorative keystones.  Above are stone balconies hung with stone festoons.  The 3-story base is capped with a substantial projecting cornice.  The rusticated stone blocks really give the building a distinct identity.  The ornamentation is best described as a combination of Classical and Rennaissance Revival. 

Looking at this drawing I realize how much I've let this project get out of hand.  My first intention was just to focus on the decorative entrance lanterns in the Loop.  Then I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if a reader could place these in context with the rest of the building?"  So I decided to include a couple of rough sketches.  This rough sketch took a week and a half to finish.

Of course the whole point was to look at the lanterns, and these are particularly good ones, weathered to a noble green patina.  Leave it to Holabird & Roche to get the details right, from the dome decorated with a leaf pattern (similar to the keystone design) to the acanthus patterns and scrollwork.  And the brackets that support the lights are works of art in themselves.  I'm also impressed that they accomodated the lantern attachment by eliminating a portion of the rustication to create a unbroken area of flat stone.  It also points out how artificial (a modernist might say unnecessary) the ornamental scheme is to the structure of the building. 

I think this will be the last entry in this series.  I have reference photos for one more building (on Washington, of course), but it's probably time to move on to some other things.

No comments:

Post a Comment