After years of inconvenience to the residents of the Hinman Avenue apartment buildings, the Mather project is now complete. The second building on the southwest corner of Hinman and Davis is smaller, more modest (no cupola) and better-designed than the one that preceded it across the street.
The difference has first to do with scale. The building is smaller, shorter than its predecessor to the north. Therefore the rhythm its builders have tried to create in it is more articulate and more successful.
The rhythm is made by the repetition of the protruding curved bays and their French balconies (windows to the floor protected by metal railings). The curvature of these bays seems to be just right: not too ponderous, not too flat.
The two short elevations of the building are similar in length and in rhythm, while the building across the street to the north has one much longer elevation on the Hinman side that is chaotic compared to the simplicity of the Davis street elevation.
The phony Mansard roof did not help the first building nor was the second building helped by the fake elongated windows that combine the top floor with the one below to suggest a tall ballroom-like space on the top. This combining of windows on two levels was an inheritance from the first building – where it made no sense either. If the architect’s intention was to have a so-called topping or crowning element, he could have simply achieved it by changing materials, from brick to stone, for instance.
A bridge across Davis Street would have been ideal but economically prohibitive. What the architect either failed to realize or exploit is the idea of “pairs.” One seldom finds opportunities even in world architecture for this: Across the street the same building type, by the same architect for the same client. Not having recognized this was a rare opportunity missed. Urbanistically, the very corners of the buildings should be identical and suggest a pair.
In Chicago we have only a couple of these pairs. Usually the second architect is modest enough to repeat, copy or simply continue. The corners of Michigan and Monroe, with their gable roofs, are an example. Another is the corner of Michigan and Congress, where the second architect was modest enough to repeat the rhythm of Sullivan’s Auditorium Building on the hotel across the street.
Not to recognize the “pair quality” in the project is a major opportunity lost. An opportunity the architect – if not the client – should have recognized as a once-in-a-life-time chance. It is the City’s loss that they did not.