Roger Ebert on Architecture

Roger Ebert has written a blog post on his love of Chicago architecture. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s written,but it’s hard to be too critical of someone who wrote this:

I walk around Chicago, and look up at buildings of variety and charm. I walk into lobbies of untold beauty. I ascend in elevators fit for the gods. Then I walk outside again and see the street defaced by the cruel storefronts of bank branches and mall chains, scornful of beauty. Here I squat! they declare. I am Chase! I am Citibank! I am Payless Shoe Source! I don’t speak to my neighbors. I have no interest in pleasing those who walk by. I occupy square footage at the lowest possible cost. My fixtures can be moved out overnight. I am capital.


I disagree with his judgement of Mies, but I have to concede that he’s spent more years living with and thinking about great architecture than I have — these are issues he’s clearly been mulling for years. And, Roger Ebert has read Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats, which is more than I have done.

Frank Lloyd Wright gets only a brief mention, but Louis Sullivan is prominent (the title is a Sullivan quote). Ebert contrasts the work of Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe with a perspective I haven’t seen before. I wish I agreed with it more, because I’d love to steal Ebert’s line, “Sullivan allows whimsy. Mies slaps its hand with a ruler.” Included with the column is the trailer for Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture, an excellent boost in visibility for the film.

Aside from the column itself, the pay-off at the end is a link to the website of Justin Kern’s website The Windy Pixel, (Ebert’s piece links to photographs of the University of Chicago, but I’m partial to these shots of the Chicago Cultural Center).

The post also links to this YouTube clip from Building for Democracy: The Small Town Banks of Louis Sullivan.