Monday, June 09, 2008

ChicagoRound: Hidden Architecture

I love a lot of the obvious things about Chicago: The lakefront trail. The free concerts in Millennium Park. Hundreds of big gay homos singing show tunes at Sidetrack every Sunday night.

I also love the architecture—both the giant buildings and the hidden gems all over the city. I particularly love the idea that whenever you walk by a beautiful old apartment or neighborhood hotel, you are probably only feet away from an ornate lobby or a charming little alcove that only a handful of people get to enjoy every day.

The domestic partner's best friend just moved into a beautiful 1920s-era apartment clad in red brick and glazed terra cotta. We helped her move last weekend, and I probably irritated everyone by sneaking off for a few moments to take pictures of her theatrically Spanish provincial lobby.

I imagine in its day, the lobby was pretty stunning. It's still beautiful–and it's been lovingly maintained—but many of its charms are now hidden under no-nonsense carpeting and behind discount-store art.

Here's the charming little alcove just inside the door. It's beautifully cozy, and the rough plaster has been faithfully maintained so its faux-adobe personality remains intact. In unfortunate counterpoint, it was decorated by TJ Maxx. See "discount-store art," previous paragraph.

I love this Mannerist wall fountain. It's the dominant architectural element in the lobby proper, though what I imagine was a complementary terrazzo floor has been hidden under purpley indoor-outdoor carpeting. There's a cherub face mounted near the top of the fountain with little round lips that at one time probably spit water into a basin that in turn overflowed into the base of the fountain. The basin now holds plastic plants.

Turn to the left and you'll see the hand-crafted staircase meandering to the upper floors. Note the detailing on the banister. And the slightly ornate corners of the door frame.

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