Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More from Springfield Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

In today's Springfield Journal Register

Extensive interior refinishing and redecorating; a new baptismal font; a sanctuary accessible for people with disabilities; and a new altar, pulpit and bishop’s chair. The tabernacle will be refurbished but will stay in its present location"

This does not sound good.

Notice in the attached drawing, the altar rail has either been removed or replaced with a rounded form. Also, "sanctuary accessible for people with disabilities" is generally a code phrase for lowering and chopping the sanctuary.

Anyone have a more definite plan from Springfield about this?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sneak Peak from LaCrosse

Architect Duncan Stroik sent some pictures today from the rapidly moving completion of the great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (click on thumbnails for larger images). The building is set to be dedicated on July 31st, 2008 though it should be finished a month or so before that. If anyone is still in the "it just can't be done any more" school of beautiful liturgical art and architecture, this will gently nudge them out of it. The building partakes of a recognizable language of classical architecture, with its great baldachino framing the mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the rear wall behind in much the same way that the baldachino of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome frames the great Chair of Peter. Of particular interest is the level of design and craft found in the baldachino itself, where a coffered dome forms the underside of the canopy. It has been many decades indeed since something this sophisticated has been built in the United States. In the architecture of the new springtime, this building proves that not only has the ground warmed, but the seeds are sprouting and coming to flower.

From Denis McNamara

Friday, February 22, 2008

100 Years of Architectural Beauty

Atlanta, Illinois is a City (believe it or not) of 1650 residents in Logan County in Central Illinois (about 10 miles from my hometown of Wapella)

While Atlanta (much like Wapella) has been hit with 10's of tornadoes, floods, a rare economic boom, and a common economic bust, well-built buildings do survive. Right off of old Route 66, in Atlanta, stands one of the most beautiful libraries in the State of Illinois.

The library (yes, it is Octagonal) was designed by the late Bloomington architect, Paul Moratz, and dedicated on March 28, 1908. The Bloomington Pantagraph celebrates the 100th anniversary here, in a testimony to civic pride and appreciation of fine buildings and their relationship to function in the community.

This from the Lincoln Courier:

Although several of Moratz’s buildings featured rounded portions, the Atlanta Library is his only known octagon-shaped library.

Many private residences were built in an octagon shape in the mid-19th century, inspired by eccentric writer and speaker Orson Squire Fowler.

Fowler’s promotion of the buildings mirrored the era’s fascination with modern technologies, efficiency and fitness. He explained that an octagon-shaped structure offered “one-fifth more room for its wall,” plus better air circulation and more light.”

Those features may also have swayed Moratz and his clients when they chose the footprint for Atlanta’s library.

The building was erected at a cost of $9,500 ($216,605 in 2007 dollars) by Joseph Reichel of El Paso.

The upper floor houses books. Over the past century, the collection has grown to 13,200 books, periodicals and audio-visual materials.

Last year, the library recorded 4,600 visits. Forty-eight percent of all check-outs were children’s materials.

My understanding is that the interior is superb, but I cannot find a photo. And if you think you can build this for $216,605 you are kidding yourself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Great Shot of ICKSP

Here is a very good Milwaukee Blog, celebrating great Architecture and generally being positive about traditional architecture, and even a dose of photos from Chicago.

What a shot of Institute of Christ the King! South Woodlawn in Chicago never looked so good (even with the political signs) Click on the image of the Schlacks Church to enlarge.

Denis McNamara in Catholic New World

For those of you who can't get enough Denis McNamara, the good Dr. lectured to 1200 at St. Stanislaus Kostka explaining the liturgical significance of the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy:

There's rich meaning within church walls

What do the Kennedy Expressway and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have in common? Both are close, though in different ways, to the new Sanctuary of Divine Mercy that will be built next to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1351 W. Evergreen Ave., in the heart of Chicago. On Feb. 2, Denis McNamara gave a presentation to a crowd of more than 1,200 in St. Stanislaus Kostka about the theological significance behind the sanctuary's design, which will resemble the Old Testament temple. Once the multi-million dollar chapel is complete, perpetual eucharistic adoration will begin inside.

There is more in the print edition of the Catholic New World, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Denis McNamara in First Things

Yes, that is our own Dr. Denis McNamara, popping in at First Things in Joseph Bottum's column. Bottum writes about an upcoming lecture "Living with the Dead: Why Cities Need Cemeteries and Nations Need Memorials", so who would be better than Dr. Denis to describe the relationship of buildings to Faith, Tradition, and Liturgy.

What better way to celebrate St. Patrick's day than to study the memorials to our ancestors!

March 17, Georgetown University, ICC Auditorium, with Joseph Bottum, the New Criterion's Roger Kimball, chairman of the NEA Dana Gioia, and Dr. Mc.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

RIP Bill Weitzel

William Weitzel, building manager at 333 N. Michigan has died at age 71. Mr. Weitzel, one of the true gentlemen of the Real Estate Industry was responsible for reviving one of Chicago's great Art Deco skyscrapers at 333 N. Michigan.

I got to know Mr. Weitzel last year and early this year, as he granted me unprecedented access to photograph the private Tavern Club at 333 before its dismantling. The Tavern Club, lunch haunt to such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright and Carl Sandburg was one of the most beautiful Art Deco interiors in Chicago, complementing its superb view.

William Wetizel, a Fenwick and Loyola grad was the brother of Bishop J. Quinn Weitzel, and is survived by his wife Marilyn, a son, Bishop Weitzel and a sister.

Thanks Bill Weitzel for being such a gracious guide to Chicago Architecture!

A Lack of Planning Coming soon to Wilmette

Last Friday a rather informal, (but official) meeting was held at Chinoiserie Cafe in Wilmette in the 4th and Linden Business district to discuss propozed zoning changes to this small district. After some good coffee and rolls, 3 of our village trustees put forth a rather unknowable plan to raise building height limits in the neighborhood and decrease parking requirements. All of the trustees in attendance attempted the Orwellian feat of explaining how increasing the allowable height, actually controlled the building size in the neighborhood. Nor was anyone actually going for the mass transit accessibility story, while several cars in front of adjoining apartments were ticketed for one reason or another.

There was something of a hush over the meeting, as very few in the neighborhood are sold on the idea that increasing congestion is a positive development. Several in attendance noted that at least 3 stories were required to make a profit on a new development. I asked if anyone had done the calculation as to how many additional units could be placed in the district under the new zoning.

As no one had done the arithmetic, I took an hour yesterday to calculate.

Total new sq ft available for apartments (condos) 2,264,220 sq ft.
Total new apartments at 1500 sq ft per unit: 1500 Units
At 80% coverage: 1200 Units

This is at 3 stories in height. No one actually thinks developers would stick to 3 stories, as some "concessions" (per the Trustees) may be exchanged with the developers in exchange for variances.

I came out asking myself, why would anyone in the neighborhood want 1200+ additional units built here. The short answer: No one in the neighborhood is asking for this. The Village Trustees have taken it upon themselves to pave the way for high density development, not keeping with the neighborhood.

As one of the Trustees said "you have to play the developer's game", to which I reply, "No you don't. It's our Village, not theirs".

How about it Wilmette? You looking for 1200 more cars parked in your neighborhood?

Photo's tomorrow.
Here are some photos I shot today at 4th and Linden. The area has a certain charm about it, small shops, pedestrian traffic, parking generally available. As you can see, it is not a architectural masterpiece, but certainly tolerable.

Spanish Mediterranean Arts and Crafts Mixed Use Commercial and Residential. Very pretty terra cotta, fits well in Wilmette. I doubt anyone is proposing to build such a structure today.

Adamseque 1 story decorative tile retail building. Would most certainly be torn down, or facadectomied in a zoning change.

Quaint, but rather outdated grocery store, most certainly a candidate for teardown (or replacement even without a zoning change). No residential on this block. The Lanon Stone facade is repeated throughout the 4th and Linden Neighborhood.

Soviet Style residence, 5 stories, does not match much of anything in neighborhood. Probably a bit too traditional for any new developer, but lack of parking and drab design are very much in fashion in similar developments in Evanston. Anyone want 40 more of these beauties?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Please Stop Before Wrecking the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Jospeh McCarthy was renowned for his American Style Catholic buildings very favored by Cardinal Mundelein such as at Mundelein Seminary. However, he did step into the derivative European Sytle in Springfield Illinois at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and he stepped decisively. This is his greatest work, in my opinion (to be copied by the The Lincoln Library by the way 70 years later).

I get asked all the time "how can we rennovate our Church". In most cases (Post WW2) , the whole thing needs torn down and rebuilt. In this Cathedral, the answer is "with a vacuum cleaner". This is as near perfect as an Illinois Cathedral gets. Vacuum, dust, sweep, but do not make any changes to the masterpiece as McCarthy designed.

So when I get one of those anonymous emails telling me

"They want to remove the old high altar entirely as well as the communion rails and add some sort of semi-circular steps to the sanctuary"

I think it is time to do one of two things.

1) Shout "STOP" at the top of the Capital Building before this interior is ruined (Seriously call Bishop Lucas and politely suggest he consider the Liturgical Intent of the original architect)

2) Start raising funds now so that 20 years from today we can put this Church back into order after it is wrecked.

It may be just the case that the Diocese of Springfield has too much money searching for a home right now. In which case, I can list 10 structurally damaged Churches in dire need of foundation work where the Springfield Diocese can park their money.

Bishop Lucas, please keep this Cathedral in tact. It is a beautiful, liturgically significant structure, sacred to Central Illinois and the Catholic Church. Please let it remain this way.

Photo Courtesy Mark Scott Alben, Rome of the West

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Masonic Architecture in St. Louis

Come on admit it. The Masons have made some outstanding classic structures throughout the United States (and the World). Right across from St. Louis University, stands the New Masonic Temple, a massive 80 year old structure from the days of mass Masonry.

Click on through the title, the stained glass is also quite beautiful. I have been by this building many times, and it is generally not open, but it does look like tours have been held there.