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Unsolicited advice

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2009

* Dear spammers,

This is definitely not your best work…


I require a partner to transfer $8.6m that belonged to a dead customer of my bank.

Reply for more information on the procedure.


Liu Yan.

Yeah. I’ll get right on it - just as soon as I finish writing a very large check to Rod Blagojevich’s legal defense fund.

* Dear Gov. Quinn,

You should definitely pay attention to the editorial in today’s Sun-Times taking you to task for not following through with your “fumigation” pledge

We understand the governor might be facing a tough political reality.

Many of these Blagojevich hires still on the payroll have political sponsors — politicians Quinn may not be eager to offend just before the primary.

So far, the governor has been removing these folks piecemeal, but it may be more effective to get rid of them all at once, as part of a single effort.

Governor, you’re a man who has built his political career on doing the right thing.

Do it again.

That piecemeal approach has been counterproductive. When he tries to fire one staffer, that person’s sponsor(s) raises holy heck. Quinn should dump several at once to dilute the response and prevent it from focusing on a single person or ethnic group or special interest or whatever. And he should do it soon.

* Dear State Board of Elections,

I will support your appropriation request if you promise to hire an entirely new Internet staff and revamp that awful site of yours…

The Illinois board overseeing elections has put a price tag on campaign finance legislation. That legislation would make campaigns file fundraising reports far more often, and put new limits on most donations. […]

In a report dated last week, the agency says it would need an extra $1.5 million next year, a chunk of this for computer programming changes it says are “absolutely essential” to comply with the bill, and for the hiring of six staff members. In future years, the document estimates a cost close to $800,000 a year.

Seriously, dudes, your website is just so horrible on so many levels that it ought to be put out of its misery - and ours. Get a freaking clue already.

* Dear education establishment,

A friend of mine in Kansas City, MO sends her daughters to a French immersion charter school. It’s an excellent school and you won’t find anything like it in Illinois. So, while I always hesitate to agree with the rabidly and reflexively anti-union Chicago Tribune editorial board, I have to say their idea appeals to me

[Sen. James Meeks] plans to push to remove the cap on the number of charter schools in Illinois. The legislature raised the cap this year. But there should be no cap at all.

We’ve known for decades that the industrial model for schools just doesn’t work. How about something new?

* Dear Eric Zorn,

I agree with you about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His buildings may have inspired decades of Soviet building projects, but they are a blight on the landscape here. So, like you, it doesn’t really bother me that one of them is being torn down

I have to say, in full knowledge it will marks me to some as a rube, that Mies has never done much for me. He may well be the equivalent of Mozart, as Lifson suggests, but I’ve never found his buildings particularly interesting to behold… I’m not saying we should tear them down, but, well, even after reading Lifson’s impassioned post, I find myself unexercised.

* Dear Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch,

I wish there was a way to censure you for your goofy rants and false leaks on Chris Kelly’s suicide

Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch previously said Kelly took a combination of pain reliever and rat poison, but a toxicology report from the Cook County medical examiner’s office only found pain medications in his system. The office said he overdosed on salicylate, used in such medications as aspirin, and acetaminophen, Tylenol’s main ingredient. A toxicology report also showed diphenhydramine, commonly sold as Benadryl.

Your turn.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Obamarama - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 11:47 am:

    Dear DSCC/DNC,

    Why did you give Roland Burris my email address? Because I know I never signed up for his mailing list.

  2. - John Bambenek - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 11:48 am:

    Dear Andy McKenna-

    Stop running your campaign as if it were an Internet meme… “The hair”?, really?

  3. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:01 pm:

    Dear Governor Quinn,

    Regarding the need to fumigate asap: remember when Harold Washington kicked you to the curb when he fired you as Revenue Director? I believe the headline was: “Mayor to Quinn: Get a Job.”

    You, of all people, know how to do this. You learned about fumigation from a master. Do it. Now.

  4. - cassandra - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:13 pm:

    Quinn is hanging onto too many of the Blago appointees—in fact, if you go down a couple of layers of bureaucracy, Blago appointees are still running a substantial part of Quinn’s day to day government show. Not good.

    However, it’s probably not fair to say he could fire a large number of them “if he wanted to,” as
    one commenter stated in the article. He can (and should) fire the at will employees appointed by Blago. The ones who have gotten themselves shifted into the bargaining unit are pretty much impossible to fire unless they do something really horrendous—and their union will fight every discharge case to the max. The four year termer holders have civil service protection during their terms and no protection at the end of their four years.

    Since it seems as though Quinn is afraid to fire the at-will folks (since he hasn’t done so over the months he has been in office) the next test will be how many four year term holders will be (or have been) shown the door when their terms come up. This is an opportunity to bring in some new talent untainted by the Blago years—at lower cost, too. There is a huge pool of job-searching talent right now that he could tap into.

    But this is Illinois. My guess-he’s renewing all or nearly all the terms and will continue to do so. These jobs are golden these days and Democratic hacks with connections take priority at the trough.

    In the area of personnel management, Quinn is turning out to be not only the accidental but also the unreform governor.

  5. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:17 pm:

    Dear Chicago Tribune, Sen. Meeks, Consultant Proft, and my good friends at CapitolFax Inc:

    Removing the cap on charter public schools is a noble sound bite.

    But given that:

    - The state was forced to slash funding for launching charter public schools this year due to budget cuts;

    - CPS and other school districts skim administrative charge backs off of every charter public school dollar, providing as little as 75% in per pupil aid to fund charters; and

    - The base level of education funding is so low in this state that even though charter public schools tend to outperform other schools in their neighborhood, they don’t offer the same high-quality education kids get in Wheaton, Naperville, Barrington, etc;

    Frankly, its just a cheap political sound bite.

    If the Chicago Tribune and Dan Proft want to take a bold stand that will ensure every child has a sound education, they should back a voucher system that allows Chicago public school children to attend not just parochial schools in Chicago, but public schools in Wheaton, Naperville, Riverside, etc., and let the dollars follow the child.

    THAT would be revolutionary.

    I’ll organize the carpools.

  6. - Ben S. - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:23 pm:

    Re Burris’s e-mail list–was it a campaign e-mail? I got one from his office today and I have a feeling it was because I’ve written him before. I don’t think the DSCC/DNC would put you on his campaign list seeing as he’s not running for re-election…

  7. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:27 pm:

    Dear Those Running For Office on Both Sides: Please stop sending your campaign updates and information to my state email address. Just because you have my buis. card does not mean you should hand it off to your campaign staff and put me on your email list. Read the card, does the give you a hint this in not a pers. email address?

  8. - Moving to Oklahoma - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:28 pm:

    Dear Sun Times / Chicago Tribune.

    Please open a “southern” division of your newspaper in the lower 19 counties of Illinois. I know you don’t have the money, but someone could make a killing in the lower 19 counties with a paper that actually has a staff. Its probably not fiscally possible, but think it over.

    The Southern Illinoisan is killing me down here.

  9. - Obamarama - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:34 pm:

    Ben S.:

    It was not a fundraising email. It was advertising his “new website” which had a .gov URL. I’m pretty cognizant of who I give this particular email address to–hence my assumption it was either the DNC or DSCC’s Illinois email list.

  10. - siriusly - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:34 pm:

    Dear David Hoffman:
    Yes I signed up to be on your email list for supporters. But I expected that at least some of the emails I got from you would be about issues. Can you give us some reasons to vote for you already? The election is in 9 weeks. Time to start your campaign. Really.

    47 - Right on as usual!

    YDD - clearly you don’t have children. You and Jeff Berkowitz can take your voucher backpack (aka dead horse) and keep kicking it. Recent studies show Milwaukee’s voucher system hasn’t improved education for those kids one bit.

    That said I agree with Rich and Meeks, lift the charter cap. But don’t stop there, let’s roll back some union power and get longer school days and calendars too.

  11. - OneMan - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:36 pm:


    As long as two other things happened…

    The voucher would be enough to cover the capitol nut for your plan, that is the local taxpayer would not be burdened for building the local school buildings that were used by out of district kids.

    At more than one level if some kid and his family was motivated enough to send him to my schools (Oswego) from some significant distance away and it did not raise my taxes significantly I would be happy to have them.

    However, it seems you are saying no choice is better than some choice. That seems illogical to me.

  12. - OneMan - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    Dear Andy McKenna,
    A) It’s the economy not the hair.
    B) Don’t be afraid to use your actual voice in a tv ad.

    GOP Candidates for Governor,
    Spend a few bucks on Google ad words (no I don’t work for them). I think it might pay off for you.
    How about Illinois Budget, Illinois Late Payments, Illinois Unemployment etc…

    Also if Adam is not the nominee, you should steal his idea about every check online instantly, I would say do the same thing for past due bills.

  13. - OdysseusVL - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:42 pm:

    People need to do a bit more research on Mies. Sure, some of the stuff that he inspired looks awful. But his good stuff (I’m thinking of the two classics on LSD at Chestnut) are stunning. But to see why makes them stunning requires an understanding of what was before and what he was trying to establish with those buildings.

  14. - OdysseusVL - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:42 pm:

    With regard to the French school — although it is a private school and not a charter, Chicago does have a great option:

  15. - I-55 - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:55 pm:

    @47th ward - and how did that turn out for Walker? Sometimes you learn from history. Why give Hynes any fuel or base to work with? Quinn has the regulars and the reformers as shown by endorsements from Ald. Mell and Rep. Schakowsky, why rock the boat right now?

  16. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 12:59 pm:

    I-55, I seem to recall the Speaker’s displeasure with some of these folks. If I was heading into what can only be described as a make-or-break legislative session, I’d go out of my way to meet the Speaker at least half-way.

    And he may have “the regulars and reformers” now, but at best, these are temporary alliances. In his heart, Quinn is a reformer. The regulars know this. Rocking the boat is also part of the Quinn brand. Well, at least it was his brand until he went all “New Coke” on us.

  17. - Niles Township - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:21 pm:

    That piecemeal approach has been counterproductive. When he tries to fire one staffer, that person’s sponsor(s) raises holy heck. Quinn should dump several at once to dilute the response and prevent it from focusing on a single person or ethnic group or special interest or whatever. And he should do it soon.

    While not a profile in courage, that is what Feb. 3 is for.

  18. - Niles Township - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:21 pm:

    Or perhaps even, next November.

  19. - Outside Cook County - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:37 pm:

    Dear Media:
    You might find an interesting story in financial activities of Broadway Bank (the one owned by the State Treasurer’s family). They’ve lost a tremedous amount of money in the past year, and their capital level is now woefully low.
    While this burdens many banks, it’s particularly interesting regarding the performance of a bank whose results were part of the justification for electing such a newcomer to the political scene.

  20. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:43 pm:

    One Man -

    Vouchers do not entitle all children to attend ANY school, only those that have empty seats.

    So yes, despite the panacea-in-the-sky pontifications of the Chicago Tribune, vouchers will not get CPS kids into Lincoln Park High School, nor are they likely to be attending Francis Parker School either, unless that voucher is going to cover Parker’s $20K tuition.

    Perhaps instead of pontificating from atop the Tribune Tower, the McCormick Foundation should start writing Big Checks to allow educationally deprived Latinos and African Americans to attend their favorite private schools.

    Anyone know where the editorial board send their kids?

    - YDD

  21. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:58 pm:

    Dear NEA,

    Don’t feel like you have to videotape the annual conference gavel-to-gavel.

    Dear IEA,

    Don’t feel obliged to clean up after the home office.

  22. - You Go Boy - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 1:59 pm:

    On the topic of buildings..interestingly (though not surprising) the A.I.G. building on the west side took it’s name off the ornate, and large brick “nameplate” on the property several months ago. The building, by the way, looks like The Son of Stratton Building” - a large eyesore. Fitting, somehow.

  23. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:04 pm:

    Rich, do you consider the Sears Tower, Hancock Building, IBM building(or whatever it’s called now), and countless others in the skyline to be “blights on the landscape” here? A large percentage of the buildings in downtown were heavily, heavily influenced by (or directly designed by) Mies. This city would have an entirely different look without him, and not in a good way.

  24. - Vote Quimby! - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:07 pm:

    Dear Moving To Oklahoma,
    Fight back against the evil Lee monster by starting small, infrequent newspapers. Start in the town you live in, encourage others in nearby areas to do the same. Build a network of loosely-affiliated, independent news sources and build a website out of that. Good luck!

  25. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:09 pm:

    ===countless others in the skyline to be “blights on the landscape” here?===

    Except for Hancock, yes. IBM is beautiful? Are you nuts?

  26. - Patriot - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:12 pm:

    Dear Fran-

    Please let someone rest in peace. Penning articles on hearsay, innuendo, and conjecture is doing nothing but fan flames out of a spark. And it is not appropriate to frame your borderline slander in “buckshot” and the like when the method used was a gun.

    Dear Daley-
    Stop persecuing a medical officer for simply defending herself against your accusations. Act rational, you’re an elected official.

    Dear Black candidates for CC Board Pres-
    Stop framing every arguement about race. America just elected a black man from the southside President of the free world. Show some respect to the general electorate.

    Dear Ald Carothers-
    Resign. Now. You have no business overseeing a police dpt budget while you stand accused of felonies. Youre a rat, nothing more.

    Dear Former Ald Banks-
    Your limo driver? Really? That’s your legacy to your constituency?

    Dear Kirk-
    Keep your eye on the prize. Stop pandering to win a primary when the prize is the moderate general crowd.

    Dear Quinn-
    Don’t reject a sound fiscal CTA cut budget. You’re broke, and so is the state.

    Dear McKenna-
    Please explain how you are an outsider.

    Dear Former G Ryan-
    You’re a convicted criminal. You deserve no public pension. Stop whinning for one when you cheated us all out of honest services.

    Dear all elected officials in Illinois-
    Serving your respective constituency Is a privilege. It’s a tough job with little pay. If you want to get rich, stay in the private sector.

    Dear Unions-
    Your current strategy is perhaps the worst PR campaign in memory. When the economy tanks, we tank, and hence your members tank. Your ideas of employment utopia are from the middle ages, and “us against them” is a disservice to your very same members. Live in the now.

  27. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:14 pm:

    ==IBM is beautiful? Are you nuts? ==

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s “sister building”, so to speak, the Seagram in New York is considered by many to be one of the best. His designs helped shaped this city and give it character. And, disagree if you must, but I think they are outstanding works, especially lit up at night.

  28. - Scooby - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:16 pm:

    There’s a bit of a fallacy here with “Blagojevich holdovers”. Blagojevich’s management style was based on talking to as few people as possible and the few he actually did talk to are pretty much all gone and/or indicted. What’s left are some at will employees hired under Blagojevich. I’m sure some of them are clout hires, that happens with at will employment. But what’s essentailly left are not really Blagojevich people so much as they’re Democrats. Any new Governor has a couple hundred at will jobs to fill and many of them are knowledge specific at various agencies and after 26 years in the wilderness the Democrats don’t exactly have a deep bench. Had Vallas beat Blagojevich in 2002 and gone on to win the general a lot of the same people would have been hired. And if you do run out these at will employees, they’re just going to be replaced by other at will employees, so I don’t get what all the fuss is about unless all you’re after is some cosmetic change.

    Quinn’s track record for at will employees isn’t entirely strong. When he got his battlefield promotion he looked at his Lt. Gov staff and then made most of them agency directors. One guy came in on a random Friday to ask a friend about getting a policy position and they made him head of the State Police. So all this fuss about a blanket firing of Democratic at will employees to theoretically be replaced by a talent pool that doesn’t exist seems silly to me.

  29. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:26 pm:

    I don’t disagree Scooby, but tell that to the veterans who got bumped by Blago’s “interns,” many of whom are still clogging the hallways in the Thompson Center.

    Again, wasn’t a key part of the original Quinn brand his staunch support for Illinois veterans? Why does Quinn need to be prodded to right this wrong?

  30. - OdysseusVL - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:34 pm:

    “===countless others in the skyline to be “blights on the landscape” here?===

    Except for Hancock, yes. IBM is beautiful? Are you nuts?”

    It sure kicks the nuts of so much new construction in the Loop. The IBM has character — an idea behind it. So many of the new buildings (for instance all of the new ones on Wacker) completely lack any that. Mies was attempting to do something beyond just having people say “What a pretty building!” Take a look at the awnings on the Mies buildings, and notice that most have large plazas. All that was on purpose, as part of his plan. Spartan in many ways, but definitely interesting if you look closely.

    One other note — people who wander into Streeterville should take a look at his 860 and 880 LSD buildings, and then take a look at the building directly west. The contrast really is beautiful. The architect of that one clearly knew he was putting a building on the same block as the Mies, so he took some of the Mies ideas, kept some, and sort of screwed around with others.

  31. - OdysseusVL - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:37 pm:

    Dear Dan Proft, Dan Hynes, and others in IL running for IL gov who tweet:

    Stop tweeting about national issues. I could not care less what Proft or Hynes thing about what is happening in D.C. I only care what they will do if elected Gov. of Illinois. The front runners are inspiring nobody, so we need somebody to step up from the pack. However, when that pack is just tossing out standard D.C. lines, nobody cares. Tweet about Illinos. With regard to national issues, do what the rest of us do: Go to a bar and complain.

  32. - Old Milwaukee - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 2:43 pm:

    Dear Chicago Sun-Times,
    During the last gubernatorial election cycle you endorsed Rod Blagojevich and Todd Stroger. In hindsight, you would concede those don’t look like very good choices. You should have been forced to stop printing for a year.

    Do some homework this time and get it right.

    Your loyal, diminishing readership.

  33. - OdysseusVL - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 3:04 pm:

    Dear Andy,
    Could you explain how you can be the party chair and still be an outsider? Isn’t the very job of party chair to know everybody and to know what is going on and be able to guide your party because of that inside knowledge? By claiming to be an outsider, are you admitting that you were the worst party chair ever?

  34. - Jake from Elwood - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 4:13 pm:


    I require that no buildings designed by Mies Van Der Rohe be granted state landmark status.

    Reply for more information on retaining ugly old buildings just because they are designed by one of the old modernist standardbearers.


    JFE Yan.

  35. - Scooby - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 4:18 pm:

    ==but tell that to the veterans who got bumped by Blago’s “interns,” many of whom are still clogging the hallways in the Thompson Center. ==

    The veterans preference applies to coded positions, not at will positions so that’s an apples and oranges situation and you can’t blanket fire coded spots.

  36. - Will County Woman - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 4:19 pm:

    Dear Mayor Daley:
    Resign, Resign, Resign! It is clear that you are no longer having fun, and your tirades have made you less than a sympathetic figure. The public does not trust you and you will continue to poll low/poorly all of next year. You won’t be able to turn anything around.

    Dear Brenden Reilly:
    You really ought to run for Mayor in 2011. Daley is vulnerable. Remember what you said when you became an alderman?

    Dear Alderman Manny Flores:
    I like you, but if you’re thinking of running for Mayor next year, I suggest you pack it in. Brenden Reilly would be tough for you to beat. He took Mayor Daley on early on in his first term over the Millenium Park/Children’s Museum issue has established his fearless cred. You just started speaking out this year on the parking meter and olympics stuff, so you’ll won’t be able to shake the “rubberstamper” tag as easily as Reilly. You’re a young ambitious and bright guy. I’m not sure what’s next for you politically, but whatever it is, it isn’t the Mayor’s Office. You might want to consider Sec. of State four years from now.

    Dear Devin Hester:
    *Blushing* Football is definitely a contact sport. I could offer some unsolicited advice, but I can’t keep it G-rated. So, moving on….

  37. - Will County Woman - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 4:26 pm:

    ooops I hit the “say it” button too fast

    Chicago/Illinois Media & BGA & Fox32:
    Stop with the double standards. If you are going to harp out Stroger’s flaws, be sure to harp on Quinn’s, Daley’s etc. as well. You’re supposed to be watchdogs, remember?

  38. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 4:34 pm:

    Fair point Scooby. Thanks.

  39. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 5:36 pm:

    Cassandra- re: “the next test will be how many four year term holders will be (or have been) shown the door when their terms come up”

    I’m an SPSA. I had a 4-year appointment from Edgar. Then a 4-year appointment from Ryan. Then a 4-year appointment from Blago. Then my job was taken off the term system.

    So do I need to be fumigated after 21 years in state government? Just who is a Blago appointee after all?

  40. - Objective Dem - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 5:41 pm:

    In regards to Mies, it is important to note the difference between personal taste and artistic importance. I personally don’t really like Hank Williams or Muddy Waters music. I haven’t ever really listen to it and I don’t know much about it, but I just don’t like what I have heard. But I strongly believe that society should value and save their recordings because of their artistic importance.

    Even if you don’t like his buildings, I think everyone should recognize that Mies was one of the most important and influential architects of the 20th century.

    I also think the IBM building is very beautiful in many respects. For instance the level of detail is amazing. The lines between the stones on the plaza continue inside as the lines between the stones on the inside. Everything is very precise and elegant but strong and masculine at the same time.

    One other issue is we need to recognize that cultural tourism is very important (always has been). We should be destroying our cultural history without good strong reasons.

  41. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 6:28 pm:

    I agree about Mies. He’s like James Joyce to me. A lot of smart people rave about him, but I just don’t understand.

    The glass-and-steel cereal box in uninspired at best, Stalinist at worst. But I like Big John. That was Skidmore.

  42. - macoupin county - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 7:52 pm:

    Quinn is not going to fumigate, just last week Bernie Schoenberg had an article about the Director of Traffic Safety at IDOT using his state building to hold a laborers union meeting where he also has a full time job which is clearly a conflict. While the meeting was going on, the wife of the head of the Laborers who is the Directors assistant paraded him around. (no conflict there!) Quinn did nothing!

  43. - Cheswick - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 9:13 pm:

    Dear John Shimkus, take control of your “campaign” web site, dude. Simply copying and pasting your Vote-Smart survey answers for your policy statements is lame-o-o. If this is not your campaign website, then you should get a real one and try to get it ranked higher than the others. P.S. I wouldn’t vote for you even if I could, so you can trust my advice.

  44. - Its Just Me - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 10:40 pm:

    Dear Conservatives,

    For the past few election cycles you have refused to let go of your “principles” and vote for a moderate Republican in the primary, or in the general for that matter. Okay, you had your turn, now let the rest of us Republicans actually win an election, okay?

  45. - Mies fan - Tuesday, Nov 24, 09 @ 11:34 pm:

    Mies made a mark on Chicago every bit as important as Sullivan or Wright. From buildings he worked on like the IIT campus, IBM, Lake Shore, to buildings designed by his contemporaries or students, like Marina Towers, the city gets a great deal of its visual character from his aesthetic. Mies is the guy that coined the phrases: “Form Follows Function” and “Less is More”.

    You have to understand that prior to Mies, the skyscraper, nominally a Chicago invention, was trapped into imitating and appropriating styles from other architectural movements, full of adornments and useless doo-dads that had no context, mostly wrapping a wedding cake of brick and stone skin over the steel skeleton, and adding gargoyles and whatnot.

    Mies was key and a leader in the development of the glass curtain wall design aesthetic for skyscrapers and industrial buildings (and residential homes as well). He found the beauty in the pure, honest structure of the tower itself, in the honesty of materials like steel and glass, in the zen-like simplicity of form in perfect proportion to space. By shedding the superfluous layers he made the buildings honest and open, yet strong. This is why Van Der Rohe designs stand up so well as architectural fashions come and go: like the little black a-line dress, like a fine sports car, like a Knoll chair, or rather a Barcelona Chair, (look it up) anything simple and elegant, they are classics that never truly go out of style. And his school of design, his way of working, influenced a world, all from Chicago. Generations of architects build their portfolios on his design theories to this day. The guy deserves a nod. The allusions to brutalist soviet-style architecture are not apt at all: a Mies building is like a ballerina compared to heavy, clunky brutalist design aesthetics. Or like a Formula One racer to a dump truck. And it’s ironic to compare Mies designs to brutalism: Mies was developing these ideas at the Bauhaus school and fled Hitler’s rise, because the Nazi’s hated his new look in design and Hitler’s architect Speer LOVED the brutal and the monumental, as did the Soviets. Mies designs also included details from furniture and window treatments as well as well-contemplated plazas and open spaces to set the building off and not crowd the street. Many later imitators did not follow all the same concepts, overridden by dollars per square foot concerns, they built right to the edge of the property line to maximize leasable square footage, with no thought to passers-by or neighboring buildings. You can’t blame Mies for that. Mies designs hold up as opposed to many of the tarted-up “neo-classical” or “postmodern” attempts to hang useless unrelated decoration on a building like it was a cartoon.

    Now, as to the little brick hut they want to tear down, I don’t think it needs to be preserved, but should be properly recorded and annotated before they take it down. It’s no Crown Hall. Saving it would be like those people that save a tissue Elvis once blew his nose with. There’s being a fan, and being creepy-obsessive. The criteria for deciding on demolition should be a combination of: does the building still Work, does it do what it was designed to do, and how well does it demonstrate any or all of the “Mesian” attributes, and does it have relevance or significance in terms of when during his career Mies designed it, what period, is it a lone example or one of several similar ones. And finally, is it beautiful; functionally, objectively and subjectively. The Test Cell hut doesn’t seem to meet any of those, it’s not as important as say the Farnsworth House.

    Probably more than you wanted to know, but Chicagoans should be aware of their especially rich architectural heritage; it is one of the things that makes us world-class, tourists from every nation flock to see what marvels we’ve built here. The variety and the depth of styles are an encyclopedia of how to build great buildings, built to last, and built to say something true and lasting about themselves and us. Take the riverboat architecture tour some nice day and learn more about it, you will be filled with pride in your city.

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