Chicago Architecture

By Sokol, David M. | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Chicago Architecture


Sokol, David M., Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


Chicago Architecture North Shore Chicago: Houses of the Lakefront Suburbs, 1890 - 1940. By Stuart Cohen and Susan Benjamin. (New York: Acanthus Press, 2004. Pp. 336, illus. Cloth, $77.00).

Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury. By Neil Harris. (New York: Acanthus Press, 2004. Pp. 352, illus. Cloth, $75.00).

The Charnley House: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Making Chicago's Gold Coast. Edited by Richard Longstreth. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. Pp. xxi, 249, illus. Cloth, $55.00).

The Chicago Bungalow. Edited by Dominic Pacyga and Charles Shanabruch. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. Pp. 261, illus. Cloth, $45.00).

Sprawl: A Compact History. By Robert Bruegmann. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Pp. 306, illus. Cloth, $27.50).

The American Skyscraper: Cultural Histories. Edited by Roberta Moudry. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Pp. Xvi, 298, illus. Cloth, $75.00).

In the last few years, there have been a large number of substantial and interesting books devoted to the history of the architecture of various major cities and their environs. Some are devoted to single buildings by famous architects or large firms, others cover a location in the City or a particular suburb, some explore the range and impact of a particular building type, and some attempt to use architecture as the defining characteristic of an era. Many of these are monographs, others have essays by various experts, and an increasing number are the lasting record and analysis produced in conjunction with exhibitions at our major civic museums. The American Skyscraper fits several of these categories, being an edited book with essays by respected scholars that covers one particular architectural form, and which attempts to place the skyscraper as much in a cultural context as an historical one. Not only that, the rise of the American skyscraper helped define urban culture and had both deep and far-reaching implications for the growth of the city, the suburb, and many of the architectural forms spawned by that relationship. Thus, and with Chicago being the pre-eminent city in which many of these patterns took shape after-and because of-the Great Fire, this book suggests a form and even a forum to examine the development and growth of the urban apartment, the bungalow, suburban great houses, and urban mansions. Sprawl: A Compact History is the bookend to the study of the skyscraper, as the growth of suburbia and exurbia are the other side of the density issue. This volume, though a monograph written by one scholar [and a departmental colleague of this reviewer] instead of a group, takes equal pains to provide both a world-wide historical and a cultural context in which to place the examination of the move toward decentralization that has become the hallmark of much of post World War II residential development around and near our large, medium, and even small cities. However, there are differences beyond the number of authors involved, and the orientation of each is defined by its subtitle, Cultural Histories versus, A Compact History. Thus, while both volumes introduce us to a number of issues regarding the two forms of building, the former treats issues relating to the development of the skyscraper from the points of view of the patrons, artists, the business community, etc., and is essentially either neutral or positive about various aspects of physical and its accompanied social planning, the latter sees planning as an elitist exercise that tells people where to live and how to act. In addition, Bruegmann's monograph looks at sprawl primarily as a social phenomenon and is more concerned with understanding why the opportunities for private home ownership built away from the central cities has led to a radical split between its supporters [the residents] and the social reformers and planners who have generally seen such residential patterns as an unmitigated disaster. …

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