Biography

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

Cityscapes

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 Two stories for two Wright houses in Chicago

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 Motor Club Building to become hotel

    August 17, 2014

    It was once Chicago's "temple of transport," a mini-art deco skyscraper that offered a panoply of visual delights, from stylized flowers carved into its limestone facade to a soaring lobby graced with a spectacular mural of highways spanning the U.S.

  • 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.

  • Architect brings fresh spin to Maggie Daley Park

    July 27, 2014

    Strolling through Maggie Daley Park, stubble on his face and a yellow hard hat covering his graying red hair, Michael Van Valkenburgh paused before the contours of an undulating ice skating loop that will weave through a stand of evergreens.

  • Design biennial promises to bring world of ideas to Chicago

    July 20, 2014

    The torrent of architectural news in the last few weeks — the Lucas Museum, Wrigley Field signs, plans for a new skyscraper — has obscured what may turn out to be the biggest story of all: Chicago's push to host an architecture biennial next year. Expected to showcase cutting-edge ideas for cities and buildings, the global exhibition, billed as North America's largest survey of international contemporary architecture, is a potential game changer for a city already known as a design capital.

  • 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.

  • Lucas museum: New hope for the lakefront or Darth Invader?

    June 29, 2014

    Celebrity-starved Chicago is having so much fun with the museum that "Star Wars" creator George Lucas wants to build here that there is a danger of losing sight of some very basic issues: Will the museum enhance the city's lakefront or clutter it? Will the building be a gem or an eyesore? Will the museum's contents have staying power or become meaningless over time?

  • 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.

  • Trump sign could lead to needed regulations

    June 20, 2014

    Some people are tired of the debate over the Trump sign. Not me. It's a healthy discussion, at least if you discount Donald Trump's personal attacks. The debate raises important questions about the presence of commercial signs along the evolving civic gem that is Chicago's downtown riverfront: Like, how big is too big?

  • Trump's sign in Chicago a bad one for burgeoning riverfront

    June 14, 2014

    The arrows I've been shooting at the humongous sign that Donald Trump has stuck on his Chicago riverfront tower are as much about protecting the beauty of the riverfront as bemoaning the ugliness of The Donald's badge of dishonor.

  • Sign points to Emanuel, Trump faceoff

    June 12, 2014

    The last letter in the huge "TRUMP" sign that Donald Trump is putting on his Chicago skyscraper has yet to be installed, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ready to pass judgment.

  • How much should Chicagoans sacrifice for tourism?

    June 8, 2014

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push to attract more tourists to Chicago creates a classic "frenemy" situation: The tourist city is both friend and enemy of the real city. It lures visitors and their dollars, yet in catering to tourist expectations, it threatens to undermine authentic city life. If you doubt this, head to Navy Pier and its theme-park version of Chicago.

  • Chicago peddles bike-friendly image

    May 25, 2014

    For years, these were the faces of biking in Chicago: messengers weaving frantically through downtown traffic, spandex-clad guys racing 21-speeds down the lakefront trail, tattooed 20-somethings zipping coolly along Milwaukee Avenue.

  • 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

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