Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trip 70: Hyde Park and the University of Chicago

Date: September 19, 2010
Trip: 70
Landmarks Visited: 6
Landmarks To-Date: 197
Landmarks Remaining: 156

On Sunday morning I drove down to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago campus. I think U of C has the quintessential college campus. Every time that I go there I think maybe I should have followed one of my grad school professor's advice to become a college professor myself. It can't be all bad to work at a place as beautiful as U of C and to be surrounded by eager young people all day.

After seeing the campus again today, I also have a suggestion for the landmarks commission. I think that the commission should consider landmarking some of the campus' brutalist buildings. The landmark list includes many examples of classical and neo-classical architecture, but I haven't seen any brutalist buildings on the list. I don't really think Chicago has many to begin with, other than on the campuses of U of C and the University of Illinois Chicago.

1. K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple

My first stop was to see a temple. It was surrounded by Jersey barriers and crowd control fencing. I thought it was probably just security for the Jewish holidays this weekend, but as I crossed the street toward the barriers, a police officer motioned that I should go back to the other side of the street. Then I read a security sign that said something to the effect that if you entered this area you agreed to submit to searches of your personal property.

The temple is on a corner, and I'm guessing that the Obama's house is down the side street. I know that they're house is in Hyde Park, but I don't know what street. Still, I'm surprised at the level of security given that I don't think the Obama's are in town. Usually I'll hear something on the news if they're visiting. If security is like this all of the time, the neighbors must be really get frustrated.

So unfortunately I wasn't able to get close enough to get many good photos. I did find it interesting that this temple looks very similar to a mosque. It has a large dome in the center and a tower that looks like a miniature minaret.

2. Hyde Park-Kenwood National Bank Building
This is another bank building that might not be consider so unique if it were in the financial district. But its scale and architectural detail are pretty impressive for a residential area like Hyde Park.

3. Site of First Self-Sustaining Nuclear Reaction

4. American School of Correspondence
This building really is not very impressive relative to many of its neighbors on the U of C campus. So I figure that a little research was in order to find out why it was selected for landmarking.
Founded in 1897 it is a nationally accredited distance education high school. The school was a pioneer in field of home study. It was founded on this site, but later moved to near Lansing, Michigan. It is still in operation today.

5. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
I think the word chapel is a misnomer when it comes to this building. Based on its size, it could almost be called a cathedral. It's a building I would more expect to see in an old European city than in Chicago.

Notice the row of sculptures above the stained glass window at the front of the chapel. I also like the outdoor pulpit around the back of the chapel. I don't know if this was intended for outdoor services, or if it's just a decorative element.

6. Robie House
This is my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright house that I have seen in person. (I have only seen Falling Water in photos, so this opinion may change same day.) I know that he had a focus on creating private outdoor spaces for the residences of his homes, but I think this sometimes led to his homes looking like fortresses. I think this is especially true of some of his Oak Park designs.
But the the Robie House is very inviting from the street. And yet even though it's on a very open corner, Wright managed to create private courtyard spaces for the residents. I also think that it fits its neighborhood well, while not looking like any of the homes around it.

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