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It is hard to believe that the first of the articles by this writer appeared 10 years ago, on Nov. 7, 2001. The writer had always liked and respected the Evanston RoundTable. When, as a member of the group Design Evanston, he was asked to write a few articles for the paper, he asked the editor, Mary Gavin, whether there would be any censorship if he opposed one of their advertisers. Mary assured him that there would be none.
Well, almost. Once during the 10-year period she asked him to change an article to a “Letter to the Editor,” so that she would HAVE to publish it. Needless to say, during the first year or two the articles ended with a disclaimer that the opinions expressed were not those of the RoundTable. After a while the disclaimer disappeared and this writer became a member of the staff (and even received a check for each article).
During the past 10 years his liking only grew of Mary and her husband Larry, and so did his respect for his editor, Natalie Wainwright, who turned the articles into readable English, and for photo editor Nina D’Agostino. Sincere thanks are due to all of you who so generously helped him, to Beth Demes, Claire Bryant, Dorothy Laudati and many others.
In the early issues (2002-04), he wrote about his favorite old buildings, 531 Grove, 904 Hinman and 940-50 Michigan. In one article he took the reader on a tour of the Northwestern University campus, discussing the history and the architects of each building. Never one to avoid controversy, he strongly defended the apartment building with the orange balconies by a respected colleague, David Hovey, titling the article, “They See Red When They Look at Orange.” He was proud that one of the articles was instrumental in killing a design abomination proposed for 1567 Maple.
In 2005 and 2006 he praised a fine apartment building at 817 Hinman by Jim Torvik and a bold remodeling by Andy Spatz and Matt Berry. He continued pleading for an appearance review of proposed structures by a panel of design professionals that would prevent schlock being built. Unfortunately the City Council insisted upon maintaining control over aesthetics – of which they lack an understanding.
A classic example is Sherman Plaza, concocted by three architects and a few City employees masquerading as designers.
In 2007 and 2008 he reviewed books on architecture. He wrote protesting against so-called “loft apartments” – units with windowless bedrooms – and successfully testified before the City Council so that this is now prohibited in Evanston. He reviewed and praised the design of a high-quality synagogue for the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, where the audience looks out on the shimmering foliage of trees, by the architect Carol Ross Barney. Since he considers high-rise apartment buildings downtown a welcome innovantion that adds to commerce, security and civilization without threatening Evanston’s leafy low-rise hinterland, he strongly supported the proposed apartment tower by developer Jim Klutznik and the fine design architect Larry Booth.
In 2009 and 2010 he started to illustrate his articles with sketches: the explanatory diagram of Chandlers Plaza, the Palladio window and the Mansard roof, for example. He praised the elegant beach house by David Woodhouse and complimented the work of Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker. One of his articles dealt with the Perkins dynasty, starting with Dwight Perkins, the designer of many of Chicago’s school buildings, who also established the Park District. Women of the dynasty were also notable writers and painters.
In 2011, he wrote an article on a favored old apartment-building type: the court building. One of the articles was devoted to his complaints and gripes about how our City is run – how automobiles neglect stop signs at four-way intersections with impunity, how the ugly and dangerous circle of black industrial grids “decorates” the center of Raymond Park and how the otherwise handsome brick paving downtown has become dangerous for pedestrians. He wrote an article about the rooftops of our tall buildings that God sees, if nobody else does. Finally, he celebrated the unique and colorful church at 1711 Simpson by Andy Spatz and Matt Berry.
For the writer it has been 10 years of research, fun and interesting work, never less than challenging. Hopefully the economy will improve and more buildings will present themselves for comment, praise and even disagreements.