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Review of "Marina City "
By Lauren Viera
Tribune reporter
Published June 5, 2009

Modern architecture buffs are a rare breed. Often armed with impeccable handwriting and slightly anal-retentive attitudes, the purists among them would rather discuss the merits of Le Corbusier's five points of architecture than Frank Gehry's fish fetish. After all, modern architecture was born in the 20th Century -- not the 21st.

It's unlikely that anyone but those die-hard mods are going to truly appreciate "Marina City," a recently acquired collection of architectural drawings and photographs of the iconic Chicago super- block, on view at Architech Gallery.

Marina City's architect, Bertrand Goldberg, isn't a household name among the proletariat, and his drawings -- at least the ones shown here -- aren't aesthetically pretty. But for that aforementioned niche of nerds, the chance to study these drawings (not to mention, the possibility of owning one of them for a relatively reasonable price) is a thrill.

Spanning from 1960-65 (the buildings were designed in 1959 and construction was completed in 1964), the drawings on exhibit here are what gallery owner David Jameson refers to as "more cerebral" than the majority in Goldberg's archives, owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. Jameson acquired his working drawings in 2005 from Goldberg's extended family and acknowledges their second-dibs stats.

Still, they're originals, smudge marks and all. And that's worth something, isn't it?

Keeping in mind Architech's raison d'etre (it's more of a showroom than a gallery), it's fitting that "Marina City" is less glory, more grit. Goldberg's famous corn cobs, whose iconic status was most recently renewed on the cover of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" recording, were revolutionary at the time of their conception.

Concrete was Goldberg's medium of choice, and with it he managed to mold the tallest residential buildings in the world, and a mini-city in which to house them. It was a lengthy process, and it wasn't necessarily a pretty one.

The fact that Goldberg was tapped in 1995 for a rehab of Marina City's theater (currently occupied by the House of Blues), 30 years after the original's completion, is testament to his staying power as an architect. What he proposed, however, is testament to the fact that his career -- and his life -- was nearly over. Some of those 1995 drawings are here, too, though they never came to fruition.

Still, it's fun to look.

"Marina City" is at Architech Gallery, 730 N. Franklin St., Suite 200, 312-475-1290, architechgallery.com. Through Aug. 29.

lviera@tribune.com

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David Jameson
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin suite 200
Chicago, IL 60610
312-475-1290
ArchiTechGallery@earthlink.net

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