On architecture and two lighter topics

What do architecture, spelling, and window cleaners have in common? Not much, except this post. Snippets solve the dilemma of not having enough to say on a single topic.



Without featuring all kinds of skyscrapers in a city known for its architecture, my Chicago Greeter tours of the Loop would be missing essentials. Yet I’ve been ambivalent about architecture, associating it with glitzy corporate buildings and high-end residences. The rich hire architects and the middle class chooses from a handful of floor plans. Sometimes I notice proposals for rethinking public housing, but they get much less attention than multimillion-dollar houses and corporate headquarters.

It wasn’t the enlarged, light show–enhanced model of the central city or the oversized models of the world’s most innovative skyscrapers that most attracted me during three visits to the new Chicago Architecture Center at 111 East Wacker Drive. It was the modest exhibit on the second floor at the top of the stairs, “From Me to We: Imagining the City in 2050.” The title seems to acknowledge that architects up to now have focused on individual buildings rather than whole communities. It may also signal a shift to thinking that architecture should contribute to meaningful lives for everyone — poor and rich and those in between. In a wall of display boards, select local architects imagine a future Chicago with compact, denser neighborhoods; fewer cars and more walking, bicycling, and alternative transportation; and today’s streetscapes repurposed for recreation.

“From Me to We” is a temporary exhibit, to be followed in the same space by other displays about the future development of cities, which, an accompanying map shows, will keep adding people. Maybe the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial will also have exhibits on the same topic.

Of course architects will keep designing expensive residences and office buildings, but it’s nice to learn that some of them think about the needs of those who aren’t well-heeled clients.



I might have correctly spelled erysipelas, a word in the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week, because it is listed as the cause of death on great-great-grandfather Silas Goss’s death certificate. I wouldn’t have reached that round, however, if I’d had to spell tettigoniid in an earlier round. Eight finalists — middle-school students — handled the spelling of obscure words for 20 rounds, so the spelling bee ended with all of them declared winners.

As much as I admire the eight of them, I wonder how useful their spelling skills will be. In a 45-year career in the editorial business, I don’t think I ever encountered palama, cernuous, and pendeloque, all in the final round. If I had, I would have looked them up. That’s always the best practice with tricky spellings.



You take your pleasures where you find them, and right now I’m excited about having clean windows.

Disappointed with the streaky results from vinegar, a squeegee, and wadded-up newspaper, I washed windows much too little. Luckily, the building takes care of washing all outside windows except the glass by balconies.

I recently read that a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water will do the trick, and that the squeegee is for removing excess water, not for cleaning. I took a bucket of soapy water out to the balcony Saturday and didn’t even need the squeegee. A wet cloth to wash and a another cloth to dry were all I used, rinsing out the washing cloth between every section. That it took only 15 minutes, and that I’m enjoying looking through the glass, instead of at dirt and grime, should motivate me to wash windows more frequently.



“Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. . . . This is a man who also tried to exploit Londoners’ fears following a horrific terrorist attack on our city, amplified the tweets of a British far-right racist group, denounced as fake news the robust scientific evidence warning of the dangers of climate change, and is now trying to interfere shamelessly in the Conservative party leadership race by backing Boris Johnson because he believes it would enable him to gain an ally in Number 10 for his divisive agenda.”
— London Mayor Sadiq Khan, writing in the Observer

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