By Garret Eakin
We all have cabin fever, so chase those blues away by attending a series of free lectures presented in collaboration with the Pleasant Home Foundation. The three intriguing talks will be offered at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Room at Oak Park Public Library. Drive over and park in the underground, protected from the elements.
Douglas Gilbert the well known preservation architect is the chair of the foundation's Program Committee that has created this fascinating series.
According to his proposal, "The lecture series is part of our focus in 2014 on 20th-century Modernism. The concept is that George Maher was a 'modern' architect at the beginning of the 20th century and to explore how modern architecture evolved through the rest of the century. In addition to our lectures this winter, our fall house tour will be featuring homes ranging from Art Deco to Mid-Century Modern to International Style. And we are planning a special field trip for members this summer."
The idea behind the lectures is to explore the radically different quality of architecture developed during this interesting period. The architects broke barriers of traditional architecture with open plans, new materials and rich interior spaces. The bland modern box was reconsidered, rendering the domestic interiors as comfortable rooms full of character. River Forest, Riverside and Oak Park are a treasure trove of these inventive structures.
The Pleasant Home Foundation is dedicated to restoring, preserving and operating Pleasant Home as a historic house museum while presenting a year-round schedule of tours, educational programs, community events and cultural performances. Pleasant Home is one of the Oak Park community's most famous and beloved landmarks, a dynamic educational and community institution, and a popular location for weddings, special occasions and corporate events.
Keith Bringe's lecture tomorrow night (Feb. 20) will focus on Chicago Art Deco architecture built between 1915 and 1940. These rare and newly discovered archival images will surely be a feast for all Deco fans. Drawing from the archives (3,000 photographs) of the Art Deco Survey, Bringe, the former executive director of the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, will expose the quality and quantity of this modern streamline style, sprinkled throughout Chicago. Art Deco is a "futurist" style, which means its optimistic belief in the future makes it shamelessly modern.
The articulate and entertaining Anthony Rubano from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will present a lecture on March 6, titled, "Through the Picture Window: Postwar Suburban Housing." Post-war tract homes were the building expression of the mid-20th-century American ideal. The massive demand for family housing and endless sources of land created an explosion of economical, efficient and ordinary domestic structures. Such "Modern" housing was shockingly rooted in repetition and function, with little concern for the delight of architecture.
The beautiful room featured on the announcement flyer was designed by Modernist architect Paul Schweikher in 1938. This iconic structure, composed of brick, wood and glass, displays a composition of minimalist elements favored by the Modernist movement. Schweikher's work is beautifully composed in human scale and texture. His massive cantilevered brick fireplaces anchor the dramatic spaces, establishing order and pleasure. Susan Benjamin's lecture on Feb. 27, titled, "Modern Residential Architecture: The High Style Beauties" is sure to be an outrageously entertaining talk.
This "free" lecture series is open for all to enjoy, so get out and meet friends in our beautiful warm library. I will be there to enjoy the presentations from these seasoned professionals and to thaw out a bit.
Garret Eakin is a practicing architect, Historic Preservation commissioner and an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute.
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