Daylighting in Chicago

In an otherwise interesting exchange on lighting in “Leading Luminaries” (by Barbara Eldredge, Derrick Mead, and Martin C. Pedersen, December 2011, p. 40), it was disturbing to see a patently erroneous statement regarding the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing, which opened in May 2009. James Benya’s assertion that the building was a “technical disaster” with “significant thermal problems” because of the glass roof are simply wrong. In fact, the roof has not caused any thermal problems whatsoever, and the building was awarded LEED Silver status due, in part, to its efficient use of energy.

Erin Hogan is the director of public affairs for the Art Institute of Chicago.

I am prepared to stand corrected by Erin Hogan, but I am still in wonder of how a glass-roof building works in Chicago. The Art Institute publicly complained about “woefully inadequate” engineering by Ove Arup & Partners. In my comments, I took the engineers’ side, stating that the fundamental plan was poorly conceived by the architect. Moreover, LEED Silver can be reached by simply meeting the current energy code or slightly bettering it. This is likely not a high-performance building.

James Benya is the principal of Benya Lighting Design.

Changing the Discource
I, too, find architects and designers very self-centered (“Real Discourse,” by Susan S. Szenasy, December 2011, p. 12). Perhaps it has to do with a creativity-focused education—as if design and creativity have nothing to do with the world, but only with one’s talents. As an academic and a practicing professional, I often chair panels with designers who end up talking about their own work. I think they should focus more on the process than the design itself. A lot more R&D—with an emphasis on reality—has to come into design work.

In December and January, Metropolis was saddened to learn of the deaths of several important architects and designers. Andrew Geller worked for Raymond Loewy’s firm for 35 years and designed a series of one-of-a-kind beach residences on Long Island. The Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta was a disciple of Luis Barragán and a prolific international designer. Roderick Robbie was the architect of the SkyDome in Toronto and of the Canadian Government Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal. The architect Gene Summers worked alongside Mies van der Rohe on several landmark skyscrapers, including the Seagram Building. Anne Tyng was an architectural theorist who worked with Louis Kahn. Sori Yanagi was known for his elegant household products, including the 1956 Butterfly Stool. And Eva Zeisel was a legendary industrial designer; see p. 14 for an appreciation of her life and work.

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