Tuesday, November 25, 2014

West Loop Column Capitals

Column capitals were once very functional.  They signified where the structural load of a building was transferred into the column and down to the foundation.  Typically the capital would be broader than the column to make this transfer more effective.  As buildings became larger more robust structural systems were needed and columns became mainly decorative, although still useful (and popular) in a design sense.  But once free from structural constraints what should  a column look like? The West Loop area has an enormous variety of column ornamentation for building types which hadn't even been conceived until relatively recently.  Many column types have been adapted to these industrial and warehouse buildings.

Cast Iron Column Capital at 210 N. Green

To the right is a cast iron column capital found on a former meat packing building built in 1904.  Cast iron is a great material for decorative uses, since it can be molded into almost anything.  Complex elements like this were typically fabricated from separate pieces that were bolted (or welded) together.  This one uses a number of classical details, such as dentils, egg and dark molding, an oddly shaped keystone, and oak twigs bundled together into a fascia.   It also has some strap-work trim in a diamond pattern.  Although many cast iron columns support a portion of the facade to allow storefront openings, this building has a reinforced concrete structure.   The shaft of the column is only a couple of inches thick.  Interestingly, there's a stone version of the same capital on the upper floors.

Terracotta Column Capital at 564 W. Randolph

The column to the left is kind of a masterpiece. It's an engaged octagonal column, with geometric ornamental mixed with classical details.  The radiating brackets are decorated with Greek keys, and over-sized dentils hang from the bottom.  I don't know whether to describe this as Art Deco, Prairie, or Classical.  Which is kind of the point. This column encloses the steel which actually supports the building.  And again, this is a relatively delicate ornamental material sculpted to match the scale and muscularity of this 1930 warehouse building, but without resorting to established stylistic schemes.

Terracotta Capital at 150 N. Clinton

This column is the strangest one yet.  There's a stepped molding at the top of the column, and a bizarre terracotta medallion below.  The column itself is edged with scalloped terracotta bands.  This one doesn't even pretend to have structural pretensions.  I can't really figure out the ornamentation scheme.  Are those classical festoons arranged on a platter?  Perhaps this is a Louis Sullivan inspired design run amuck  Maybe Art Nouveau...  Again, this is found on a large warehouse building from the 1930s.

Some more column capitals to follow at some point...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rogers Park Roofscape

This is another view from the Rogers Park Metra platform looking to the northeast.  I posted another view to the southeast a few months back, which can be viewed here.

I'm becoming more interested in rooftops and alleys, maybe because they reveal design relationships which are more complex than what's viewed from the street, and allowing some investigation into the nuts and bolts that create a streetscape.   Views across the rooftops are like x-rays, revealing service spaces, private retreats, and structural detail all interlocking with each other.

For some reason I did a colorized version.  Which really doesn't add much information, but looks kinda cool.