Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Chicago Art Deco

I'm sure there are many things to appreciate about Chicago, but I fell for the place it as soon as I saw the art deco buildings. We went back on Tuesday to do this tour, but unfortunately with a different docent. To be fair this guy had a tough act to follow, but he just didn't quite make the grade for me. However, what he lacked in dignity, knowledge and common sense (dragging us across streets against the lights and dodging traffic, I mean really!), he nearly made up for with enthusiasm. We took a couple of unplanned, unrelated detours because of this and I'll forgive it only because we did see wonderful buildings.

This guy dated the Art Deco period in the US as only lasting from about 1925 to 1937. This led me to wonder about the difference in this style and the earlier Art Nouveau period from the turn of that century. From research just now, I gather the earlier period was more 'flowery' whereas the later movement was more 'sleek'. This blog has an excellent collection of pictures showing the difference (and oh, no! she's found someplace that sells art deco furniture online...I dare not even look).

Our docent repeatedly pointed out that art deco design aimed for elegance, opulence and sophistication. Hallmarks of art deco buildings were the very ornate portals, grand post boxes -- usually with eagles on them -- and the use of Egyptian designs.

It must be strange to work in a building where people come in several times a day and take hundreds of pictures. In one building the security guards wouldn't allow photos at all. As it was, I took more photos than you want to know about, so I can't be too upset about those restrictions. Besides which, there is a ton of information online about most of these buildings.

I've really struggled with choosing what to show you -- there is so much! In the end, I've decided just to give you a taster of some of my favourites and give you the addresses to look up other websites if you are interested in seeing more. (NB: the pictures don't necessarily correspond with the buildings listed below).

Chicago Board of Trade
135 LaSalle
33 LaSalle
105 LaSalle

The Reliance Building (not Art Deco)

The Pittsfield Building
The Rookery
Chicago Cultural Center - formerly the public library! (not Art Deco)
The Carbide and Carbon Building (currently Hard Rock Hotel)

One LaSalle

The docent was pretty irate about this last address. Apparently building owners are required to have the facades tested to make sure they are secure. However, as long as there is scaffolding up to protect pedestrians, they aren't required to undertake the repairs; this facade has apparently been in place for over a decade, which he found scandalous.

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