Friday, January 27, 2012

Is the Johnson Publishing Building Worth Saving?

A couple of weeks ago we did a quick post about Johnson Publishing moving North on Michigan Avenue. As many know, Columbia College bought the building. Well we recently read a great post on the Chicago Archetecture Blog about whether or not to save the "ugly" building:
So now comes concrete elephant in the room: Is the old Ebony-Jet building worth saving?

Even if, like me, you’ve never read any of Johnson Publishing’s publications, the company’s contribution not only to Chicago history, but to the evolution of the nation, is formidable. But is the building as iconic as its exiting resident? Probably not. Johnson’s historic icon is the red Ebony-Jet masthead, not some generic Midwestern office building.

The official architecturally-correct term for this building is “brutalist.” But we have to face facts here, the building is just plain ugly. But that’s OK because some people like ugly buildings. Just like certain breeds of dogs are ugly, but they’re still cherished and loved by their owners. Embrace the ugliness.

I know a few people who admire 820 South Michigan for its linear forms, for its strong horizontal members supported by just to rows of vertical beams, and for its welcoming double-height lobby. I’m happy there are people in the world who can appreciate a building on that level. But remove the glass, and what do you have left? A parking garage.

It isn't the most attractive building, but still seems salvageable if you ask us. Should be interesting to see what Columbia does with it.

(Hat tip: WL!)


Anonymous said...

One of the truisms in architecture is about aging architecture: when a building is 50 years old, it's considered old and completely out of style; when 100 years old, it is treasured. In the 60s, the attitude towards architecture of the turn of the century mirrored what is said about brutalism today. Twenty years ago retro architecture from the fifties was being torn down because it was hopelessly out of date. Who knows but that brutalism won't be treasured in thirty years time?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:50

You could have saved us the hoity toity bs and just said the building might gain interest in 30 years

Sorry, i just hate it when people try and act smart

Anonymous said...

I hate it when people who are threatened by smart people hate on people for being smart. How awful that someone knowledgeable share their thoughts.

Maybe you should stick to the "Whoville" section of the RedEye.

Anonymous said...

God forbid that some Midwestern meathead learns something about architecture! I have a soft spot for brutalist-style buildings, and given the cheap-looking thing that they'd likely throw up if they replaced it, I'd prefer the heft (even if the heft is a bit heavy) of the Johnson building.

Another Anon said...

Im scoring this one for the 1st Anon. I agree with the original statement completely and in no way thought it was "hoity toity".

Also, my 8 year old uses the term "hoity toity".

I too dislike when people "try and act smart", but I also respect those who can communicate effectively.

Anonymous said...

riiiiiight. pretty sure the first anon is also the last three anons. LOL-- pretty pathetic.

Internet tough guys always could bring a smile to my face.

Anonymous said...

ah, the irony of an anonymous poster calling out other anonymous posters for remaining anonymous. how meta! (though i doubt the ignoramus from 11:29 will appreciate it).

Anonymous said...

anon @ 1:14

stick to your one bedroom loft and your brutalism books, loner. There is no reason why you need to keep posting like a little baby trying to prove your worth

cry baby

Anonymous said...

Although the iconic resident is moving, I say leave the building as is so our children's children can be reminded of its historical significance. In my opinion, that building should remain, as it is a symbol of african-american history and success (even if it isn't prettiest).

Anonymous said...

I live in a BEAUTIFUL building close by. This structure looks like a multilevel parking garage. Remove it, or reface it!

Anonymous said...

What significance does Jet and Ebony Magazine have on my white kids? If anything its a racist magazine in that it caters ONLY to african Americans.

Its ugly and I say tear it down, I would also hope that entire stretch of south Mich gets a bit of a facelift

romlondcchi said...

It could certainly be given a facelift without tearing it down. When I see tourists photographing the buildings on Michigan Ave.(an unapologetically reductivist way of determining beauty and/or aesthetic value), Johnson Publishing isn't one of the stops. Brutalism is a vestige of the cynical architectural theory that our buildings should "reflect the brutality & 'suckiness' of the times" - as opposed to reflecting greater aspirations for Humanity (what Classicism does, for instance) - and Brutalism is/was always intended to be ugly. It's callous. We should scrub it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Columbia will consider a new facade, like they are planning for the old Spertus Institute building.

Anonymous said...

There are phenomenal brutalist buildings out there, but this is just crap... a terrible example of the style.

Anonymous said...

@anon 11:29am

you are a total tool....that being said this building looks like a terrorist hideout in Blackhawk Down ...tear it down ...the city wont miss it

Anonymous said...

This building is an eye sore, it's ugly AND looks cheap! Tear it down and build something worthy of a Michigan Ave address. Why beat around the bush just call it what it is….

Anonymous said...

I love sloopin! The authors post interesting and usually non controversial information and readers go ballistic toward one another in the comments! Sloopin keeps me informed, sloopin readers keep me entertained.

Anonymous said...

I think someone mentioned this, but the South Loop needs a better transition from the loop into the sloop and there are about 2-3 buildings that could bring some 'pop' from Congress to Roosevelt. Currently where OYSY and Tribute use to be are good starts, but the Johnson Pub Bldg could help bridge the gap to Roosevelt if they of course upgrade the facade (or tear it down) and build something "cool" that also allows for students to sit at a cafe of some sort on the patio/sidewalk, etc..

Anonymous said...

Tear it down. A parking lot would look better than that building. It is an eyesore.

Anonymous said...

Columbia College had a letter from their President out there, giving some insight. (IMO, they are turning out to be quite the good neighbor)

Not a fan of the building style, but also respect other people right to architectural opinions or personal beliefs with the history of certain buildings.

In this case, if Columbia did have the desire to tear it down, taking a the preservationist view, opposers of tear-down might point to the Michigan Ave skyline Landmark Designation, or as you indicated might point out the significant history of Ebony Jet's operation in this location. But then Johnson Publishing should be required to maintain the building to original standard, and actually spend money doing it.

On the flip side, one would counter, if it holds such historical status, why would Johnson Publishing sell out and not just stay in the building and bring it back to it's shine and luster, improve it and improve the building and rent out the space? (imo they lose their right to argue against tear-down since they sold it). You also had the opera house building next door was torn-down 3 years ago, when it could have been saved.

If they really wanted to improve it, they could have gotten in line with their hands out like others did for your tax money to use for their facade repair.

There is much recent history with being awarded Near South TIF Funds for such renovation incentive and facade projects including:
* Blackstone Hotel - Michigan Ave
* Spertus Museum - Michigan Ave
* L'Oreal USA Products - 21st & Wabash
* Filmworks Lofts - 13th & Wabash
* Roosevelt Hotel (gross) Roosevelt & Wabash

makati office space said...

I guess it's alright for as long as it serves its purposed and wouldn't be unreasonably costly to have replaced or renovated.

office space for rent in makati said...

They also need to consider the structure. Renovation has to be done accordingly.