Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pontiac Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Pontiac Building, Chicago (1891) Holabird & Roche, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1886 a seismic event of sorts occurred in Chicago, Illinois when construction got underway on a building designed by an architectural firm making a leap into the 20th century. William Holabird designed the Tacoma Building, a groundbreaking adventure in new framing techniques that opened up all kinds of new possibilities in high-rise commercial construction. Demolished just 40 years later, the Tacoma put the young firm on the map, and it was just the beginning.

  [Pontiac Building, Chicago, 542 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the Pontiac Building was built in 1891, the firm of Holabird & Roche had reached another milestone. Bostonians, and real estate moguls Peter and Shepherd Brooks spent a lot of money constructing buildings in Chicago. They had the cash and determination to make an major investment in the city they believed would be country's largest by the turn of the century. Any architect would like to have the Brook's brothers as clients, and for a number of years that's exactly what helped keep Daniel Burnham and John Root busy, Brooks brothers projects. But in 1889, the men from Boston decided to give the team who had designed that unusual looking Tacoma Building a try, while Burnham & Root got busy planning the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition.

[Ponitac Building, Chicago, South Loop Printing House National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The brothers had purchased a piece of property in 1884 and planned on constructing a typical loft building to warehouse product for companies doing business with the massive railyards located nearby. When they hired H&R in 1889, that was the brief given to the designers. Not pushing the framework of existing structural framing technology too far, the architects did try something new by extending the standard single window bay across two structural bays rather than the typical one to one ratio. You can see the experiment on the building's facade. The standard, angled single bay rises through the middle of the building while the double bay gently curves across the facade as it rises to the cornice at the top. Not exactly groundbreaking, but innovative nonetheless. As construction was underway, the nearby commercial office district was pushing its way south, and as a result of the flexible floor plan, the interior was divided into top-of-the-line, leaseable office space.
The partnership between the architects and the brothers proved to be successful. Holabird & Roche designed and oversaw the construction of several Brook's buildings, including a project that broke more new ground in 1893 when construction of the Marquette Building got underway, garnering the team worldwide recognition.

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