As City newspapers reported, the new Walgreens Company officially opened what it says it believes to be the first store in the United States to produce at least as much energy as it consumes. The three-story-high-ceilinged store is not only beautiful, but its attractiveness is in bold contrast to the style-less, mixed-up apartment building north of it that ends at the corner of Chicago and Kedzie.  The desperate attempt to create “variety” on the apartment building is a failure. 

The Walgreens store, separated from the apartment building by a simple one-story wing of stores rehabbed with white fascia and uniform lettering, contrasts starkly with the stylistic confusion and banality of the apartment building.  Inside, the Walgreens is impressive as well, in its openness and its successful integration of the visible mechanical system into its interior design.

If only the talent of the designer of the apartment building had been equal to that of the designer of Walgreens. For sure, a bold solution would have followed. 

This juxtaposition raises questions: Is experimental architecture strictly a marketing tool?  Do buildings have aesthetic sensitivity?  And, on what basis do developers hire their architects?  And how do they know that the confused exterior is preferred by the renter over a clean, simple, attractive one?

Unfortunately, there is no adequate research on the subject; consequently location and price determine the success of most rental apartment projects and the one Evanston will live with is typical.

The Metropolitan Planning Council’s Aug. 6, 2013, issue of The Connector reports that Walgreens “hopes to use this store as a testing ground for some of the latest technologies, products and materials, with the ultimate goal of finding ways to incorporate these ideas into the company’s design standards.”

Reading Walgreens’ goals puts developers to shame.