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A letter (May 3, 2013) recently remarked on a comparison in “Eye on Evanston” between Evanston Place and the building at Chicago Avenue and Kedzie Street. In that article, this writer credits Evanston Place as a building that works and has worked in its surroundings, and maintains that the other has not.

This is a good opportunity to discuss why the differences between those two architectural examples bring into question the basic concepts of how ‘good’ architecture is defined.

A basic concern that applies to every building is how the building deals with its own mass -– standing alone or in relation to its immediate environment. Architecturally, Evanston Place is well-organized volumes. To minimize visual impact the volume is broken into two smaller towers, each with its own entrance. Each is a ‘T’ shape that allows daylight into the center of the elevator lobbies. Another issue is color and texture: The buildings are predominantly brick-clad, including the balconies, in order to fit better into the residential environment.

The building at Chicago Avenue and Kedzie Street is confusing. Its volume is disregarded and the use of two-color bricks is unjustified. Finally it is topped with superfluous ornamentation. On this structure, decoration is substituted for clarity. Spaces are created that bear no relation to each other, as well as buildings that have no coherent relation to each other. The building tries for an elegant, wealthy look it does not achieve. The confused use of color, the breaks, the general visual shapes indicate a lack of design discipline. 

When the apartments are rented the developer will be gone, the contractor off to another job, the architect will be massacring another building and the residents of Evanston will be living with this visual monster for our lifetimes, at least. Not a nice prospect.