Pulitzer winner doesn't have to look Farr for good urbanism

Not all New Urbanism occurs in greenfields or sprawl mall retrofits. It also occurs in cities, strengthening existing urban fabrics.

For example, Farr Associates gets a nice shout-out from Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, for their adaptive re-use of the old Sears power plant on Chicago's West side.

The firm oversaw a $40 million transformation of the old plant into a charter school named the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center, in the Homan Square neighborhood. In Kamin's estimation, Farr Associates "has recovered the architectural glory of the old power plant, especially in a soaring turbine room with glistening white brick walls and tall, arched windows." The building, he notes, also won LEED Gold certification.

More from Kamin:

The wisdom of the foundation's decision to reuse the power plant is now fully apparent, thanks to Chicago architects Farr Associates, who worked with the Midwest office of MacRostie Historic Advisors.

A palace of steam is now a palace of learning, even if some details, like the steel entrance staircases, are disappointingly mundane. Yet old arched windows have been sensitively replaced with double-glazed, energy-efficient glass. And the building's 185-foot-tall, brick chimney has been handsomely restored.

To their credit, the architects didn't strip the building of its grit. On the north facade, for example, smudgy lines formed by old lean-to buildings haven't been erased. Round terra cotta decoration enlivens the brown brick exterior with details like bolts of electricity.

Read Kamin's entire review here, learn more about efforts to revive Homan Square here, and mazel tov to the Farr Associates crew.


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