It is a sign of the high quality of Evanston buildings that in the more than 10 years this writer has covered architecture here there has been such a limited number of buildings to criticize – though the very first article (Nov. 7, 2001) judged the 515 Main St. building (northeast corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue) severely. The blame for that went to the lack of appearance review. After 10 years of unrelenting criticism, Evanston is no closer to having appearance review by design professionals instead of aldermen.
Heading the list of examples of bad Evanston architecture is the apartment building at 2935 Central St. on a desirable corner site. It is stylistically confusing, tasteless and incoherent. Aesthetic peer review could only have helped the architect improve it.
The five-story apartment building with blue and white metal siding on the corner of Asbury Avenue and Dobson Street is not as bad, but it fits very poorly in its surroundings.
The three-story apartment building that was squeezed into the former movie theater site at 817 Chicago Ave. is uniquely tasteless in its choice of colors.
Some poorly designed buildings cause less pain as time passes. Such a one is the apartment complex just north of the Jewel on Chicago Avenue consisting of three buildings of red brick and grey concrete block. What is so irritating to this writer is the fact that the middle building protrudes into the space of what normally would be public sidewalk. It is hard to imagine how this happened.
Considering the size of Evanston, the number of poorly designed buildings that offend is small. Even these could have been avoided, or at least ameliorated, had an advisory committee of architects helped the City Council make decisions about design. This is especially important today when condominiums are not economically feasible, and rentals are the coming market. An owner might ask, “So what if the building is some neo-romantic concoction?” But the answer is that the renter is not long-term-committed and the people of Evanston will be left holding the neo-romantic bag – as it is likely to do on the east side of Chicago, south of Kedzie.