THREATENED: Logan Square SOM-Designed Blue Line Station Threatened With Replacement

An aerial view of the Logan Square Blue Line station, taken in the 1970 when it was built, 1970, Pao Chi-Chang and Myron Goldsmith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) Photo credit: Logan Square Preservation

“The Logan Square CTA Blue Line station will be getting a rehab at the corner of N. Kedzie Ave and N. Milwaukee Ave. Planned by the Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago Department of Transportation, the renovation would be the first major work done to it since it opened in 1970.

“With Jacobs Engineering designing the project, the design is not entirely finalized, but the released renderings indicate a new exit canopy structure. Showing a curved roofline, the canopy covers the stairwell and elevators coming up from the station platform underground with skylights and colored glass. (Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 8/29/23)

“The Logan Square Blue Line station has seen better days. Thanks to decades of heavy use and typical Chicago weather, today’s station is known for its leaky ceiling, crumbling walls and cavernous feel. But when it was built in the late 1960s, the station was considered an architectural marvel, according to Miller.

“‘When it came time to design, those train stations at Logan Square and Belmont and other stations in the middle of the Expressway, they produced these wonderful steel and glass Mies van der Rohe style canopies — canopies that were meant to be glass boxes … pure white, very airy and lots of glass,’ Miller said.

“A design team led by Myron Goldsmith at the famous architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, or SOM, is responsible for the modern design. But it was Pao Chi-Chang, an architect said to have worked closely with Mies van der Rohe, who was so passionate about the project that she lost her job trying to maintain its integrity, according to Miller.

“The preservationist said Pao Chi-Chang is the one who helped come up with the canopy design with all of the glass and white details. The rest of the team deemed the design too expensive, so they made cost-cutting changes. Convinced those changes would diminish the quality of the design, Pao Chi-Chang snuck into the office one weekend and changed all of the details back, according to Miller. The project went into production without noticing the switch, but Pao Chi-Chang was fired once they found out what she had done.

“‘She impaled herself for architecture’s sake,’ Miller said. ‘If it cost a little bit more, in her mind’s eye, that wasn’t as important as having a pristine building along these transportation lines that would last several lifetimes, if not more.’

“Last it would, but perhaps not as gracefully as Pao Chi-Chang had hoped. The canopy has been painted blue and the glass and steel pavilions have been replaced with plexi-glass. Those changes, coupled with harsh lighting overhead, makes the Logan Square Blue Line feel especially outdated.

“But Miller said it wouldn’t take much to bring the Myron Goldsmith, SOM and Pao Chi-Chang bold vision back to life: ‘If you were to go back to the pure white paint, crystal clear glass, they would look like brand new stations, straight out of the vain of IIT and Mies van der Roe, one of the world’s most recognized architects of the 20th century.’ (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 6/15/18)

Preservation Chicago encourages CDOT and the City of Chicago to respect, retain, and restoring the existing L station canopy entry by pioneering female architect Pao Chi-Chang and Myron Goldsmith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) in 1970. This is an example reflecting the Mies van der Rohe courtyard building studies, which were part of Mies’ curriculum at IIT.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

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