Blair Kamin has been the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic since 1992. A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale University ...

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Blair Kamin

Blair Kamin


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Kamin: Jeanne Gang's Wanda Tower design needs work

Kamin: Jeanne Gang's Wanda Tower design needs work

December 19, 2014

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week pronounced the proposed Wanda Vista tower by architect Jeanne Gang “a great building,” he didn’t just misjudge a promising but problematic preliminary design for what would be one of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers — he gave away the store.

  • A look at plans for Chinese developer's massive skyscraper on Chicago River

    December 18, 2014

    Something was missing Wednesday when city officials unveiled drawings of a Chinese developer's plans for a massive, mixed-use skyscraper along the Chicago River: the 89th floor.

  • Maggie Daley Park a seed with potential to blossom

    December 14, 2014

    At this awkward stage in its young life, the new Maggie Daley Park brings to mind a gangly teenager. Energetic? Absolutely. Graceful? Not yet.

  • Architecture stories that towered above all in 2014

    December 12, 2014

    In 2014 architecture put the recession in the rearview mirror.

  • Maggie Daley Park architect says it's still a work in progress

    December 12, 2014

    Maggie Daley Park will open to the public Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the northeast corner of Grant Park downtown. As this high-profile park is unveiled, we had a few questions for Michael Van Valkenburgh, the landscape architect for the project. He heads Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), which has offices in Brooklyn and Cambridge, Mass.

  • Art Institute's exhibit on cities offers striking insight on today's unrest

    December 11, 2014

    Buildings going up in flames. Militarized police forces. Demonstrators disrupting routines of city life.

  • Auditorium Theatre at 125, still an architectural gem

    December 6, 2014

    It's easy to pick the instant when Chicago's ongoing run of architectural greatness began.

  • National Park Service shows some spine in Wrigley Field rehab

    December 3, 2014

    Ever since Rahm Emanuel took control of City Hall, replacing a mayor who pushed the City Council to approve protected landmark status for Wrigley Field, the Cubs have pretty much had their way with plans for the venerable, now century-old, ballpark.

  • Chicago seminary rebirth a sophisticated mix of old, new

    November 23, 2014

    One of the finest new works of architecture in Chicago isn't a brand-new, "look at me" building by a globe-trotting architectural star. It's a subtle, sophisticated mix of old and new, from a relatively obscure Boston architect, that teaches valuable lessons about how aged buildings can be creatively reinvented and stitched into the fabric of our lives.

  • Alternative site for Lucas Museum could help stars align for everyone

    November 14, 2014

    There's a better spot for the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts than the one that led to the much-derided "Mount Lucas" design and prompted Friends of the Parks on Thursday to file a lawsuit in federal court against the plan.

  • City unveils boathouse plan for Bridgeport

    November 10, 2014

    The architecture world applauded when Mayor Rahm Emanuel dedicated a striking, Jeanne Gang-designed boathouse on Chicago's North Side last year. But the project raised a troubling social equity question: When would the mayor make good on his promise to open a comparable facility on the less affluent South Side?

  • George Lucas' museum proposal is needlessly massive

    November 6, 2014

    I think I can explain the widespread public revulsion toward the just-released design for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. This isn't the typical shock of the new. People are mad because they instinctively get that this cartoonish mountain of a building would be glaringly out of place amid the horizontal sweep of Chicago's lakefront.

  • Lucas Museum design an architectural mountain on city's lakefront

    November 3, 2014

    If you expected filmmaker George Lucas to give Chicago a low-slung museum that would slip quietly into the fiercely contested ground of the city's lakefront, I have news for you: You expected wrong.

  • Navy Pier transformation offers more open space, lake views

    November 1, 2014

    Last Monday, with the temperature in the high 70s and the forecast sounding nasty, I did what any self-respecting architecture critic would do: I headed to Navy Pier for some serious research. Outdoor, sun-splashed research. The kind you can't do in February — or on a snowy Halloween.

  • Illinois Capitol rehab wins architectural awards

    October 23, 2014

    Revenge is sweet, but winning design awards isn't bad either. Just ask the architects of the much-maligned restoration of the Illinois Capitol's west wing.

  • IIT offers another major architecture award

    October 23, 2014

    By virtue of its jaw-dropping stock of landmark buildings, Chicago is a global architecture capital. Now it's becoming an architecture awards capital.

  • One World Trade Center 'a bold but flawed giant'

    October 18, 2014

    NEW YORK — Ever since that awful day, when the hijacked jetliners tore into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the decision to rebuild was made, the question lurked: Could a new skyscraper deliver more than just a blunt statement that Americans won't be intimidated by terrorists?

  • Mies chapel at IIT gets winning renovation

    October 4, 2014

    If you like your chapels with stained glass and gargoyles, then stay away from the "God Box."

  • Walgreens' designs prove an upgrade for shoppers

    September 28, 2014

    Not long ago, you always knew where to find a Walgreens — at the corner of happy and homely.

  • Two stories for two Wright houses in Chicago

    September 20, 2014

    Frank Lloyd Wright's houses enchant us with their inventive geometry yet torment many of their owners with leaking roofs and other functional woes. Like all landmarks subject to the passage of time and the pounding of the weather, they require a mix of sensitive treatment and substantial funding to creatively make the past a part of the present.

  • Fall architecture: Several grand openings on deck for major cities

    September 12, 2014

    The fall architectural calendar is packed with major events in Chicago, New York and Shanghai. Here are 10 worth watching.

  • Chicago's Museum Campus planning hardly an exercise in democracy

    September 11, 2014

    The guy in the black shirt had a confused look on his face. "Are you from here?" he said, which is what tourists ask when they're in desperate need of directions.

  • Architects' visions often not carried into death

    September 5, 2014

    I spent Friday with a trio of Chicago architectural giants: Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It wasn't a very lively encounter. Each of them has been dead for decades. The setting, though, was stirring: the serene, exquisitely landscaped Graceland Cemetery, where the three greats are movingly memorialized.

  • Batavia uses Dutch concept to revitalize downtown

    August 27, 2014

    The Fox River town of Batavia may be the last place you'd expect to find a radical experiment in resuscitating a dying downtown. And yet, by American standards, a block-and-a-half stretch of Batavia's River Street is radical indeed.

  • Chicago's Thompson Center in sad state

    August 13, 2014

    If our buildings reflect us as truly as a mirror, as the architect Louis Sullivan once said, the image emanating from Chicago's run-down James R. Thompson Center speaks with painful honesty about the sad state of the state of Illinois.

  • Chicago's sliced high-rises make a bold statement

    August 8, 2014

    A few years ago, reflecting the fizzy optimism that preceded the Great Recession, Chicago's skyline was lit up by "balcony wars." It had architects turning the prosaic balconies that typically mar the face of residential high-rises into all manner of eye-catching projections, from the undulating curves of Jeanne Gang's Aqua Tower to the dot-dot-dash patterns that enliven Ralph Johnson's 235 W. Van Buren.

  • Millennium Park: 10 years old and a boon for art, commerce and the cityscape

    July 12, 2014

    Millennium Park, which turns 10 Wednesday, is the best thing former Mayor Richard M. Daley ever did. But as this month's titillating trial over a controversial contract for the Park Grill shows, the popular park has never fully detached itself from charges of wild overspending. They cling to the spectacle-filled public space like chewed pink bubble gum stuck to the sole of an elegant Manolo Blahnik shoe.

  • Chicago plans global architectural expo for 2015

    June 24, 2014

    Aiming to boost tourism and elevate its status as a design center, Chicago next year will mount a global exhibition of cutting-edge architecture that will strive to duplicate the cachet and commercial success of a cultural spectacle in Venice, Italy.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright's tower worthy of debate, and a trip

    April 23, 2014

    RACINE, Wis. — One of Frank Lloyd Wright's most beguiling and troubled buildings opens to public tours for the first time next week, and when it does, it will raise an eternal, vexing question: Which matters more, beauty or utility?

  • 'Chicagoisms,' a small gallery stuffed with big architectural ideas

    April 9, 2014

    In the wall text of an engaging but uneven new architecture show at the Art Institute, there's an imagined conversation between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and an unnamed adviser.

  • Japan's Shigeru Ban wins Pritzker Architecture Prize

    March 24, 2014

    Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has used high-strength cardboard tubes to make temporary housing for victims of natural disasters and refugees fleeing conflicts, on Monday was named the 2014 winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the field's highest honor.

  • There's reason to celebrate lakefront path project

    March 19, 2014

    When Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin announced Tuesday that work was finally about to start on an elevated lakefront path near Navy Pier, one moment—apparently unscripted—spoke to the value of the $60 million project.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright home to open balcony in March for tours

    January 3, 2014

    The balcony above Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park studio will be included in public tours for the first time in 40 years, the Chicago-based non-profit group that operates Wright's Home and Studio will announce Friday.

  • Urban planning takes back seat in Chicago, new book contends

    October 31, 2013

    Chicago, the city of Daniel Burnham and his oft-quoted epigram, "make no little plans," doesn't have a planning department.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice cast his influence over Chicago suburbs

    October 1, 2013

    Chicago loves to call itself the cradle of modern architecture, but what exactly is modern architecture? The steel and glass skyscrapers of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe? The Prairie School houses of Frank Lloyd Wright?

  • New Ronald McDonald House serves families, not skyline

    July 17, 2012

    Does a good cause inevitably lead to good architecture?

  • A daily Chicago Journal about the buildings and urban spaces that shape our lives

    May 12, 2012