The Thompson Center: Populist Postmodernism

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The Thompson Center: Populist Postmodernism

May 28, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT

a glassy modernist building

The “Postmodernist People’s Palace” has been controversial since it opened in 1985. Helmut Jahn’s glassy spaceship was designed to reference the dome of the state capitol and to symbolize government openness and transparency.  The building’s dizzying circular atrium (described as “a place some people love to hate”) is simultaneously an icon of the Postmodernist architectural movement and a visible reminder of the effects of deferred maintenance.

Due to the pandemic and the planned sale of the building, a full tour experience of the Thompson Center was not possible. This event will combine presentations and visual media that explore the political, cultural, and technological history of the James R. Thompson Center – and address ongoing threats to the building’s preservation. The event will conclude with a live Q&A.

Presenters: Elizabeth Blasius and Jonathan Solomon
Duration: 1 hour with live component and Q&A

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Elizabeth Blasius is an architectural historian based in Chicago. Blasius has worked extensively in the public and private sector consulting clients in following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Much of her work relates to how these laws come into play in the recovery and mitigation of the historic built environment during a natural disaster, event of climate violence, or terrorist attack. Blasius formerly served as the Midwest editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, and has had her work featured in Curbed Chicago, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Line and MAS Context. Blasius has served on the board of Logan Square Preservation since 2015 and the Docomomo US/Chicago board since 2019. Blasius is a founding member of the James R. Thompson Center Historical Society. She received a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, and a Bachelor of Art History, also from SAIC, in 2004.

Jonathan Solomon is an architect and partner in the Chicago-based firm Preservation Futures. His diverse experience includes award-winning adaptive reuse design; consultation on neighborhood planning studies for the Government of Hong Kong; and preservation advocacy in Chicago. Solomon has two decades of international experience in arts leadership and has directed schools, taught, and developed programming with institutions worldwide. Solomon has a lifelong interest in overlooked spaces and conversations. He was a founding editor of 306090 Books for 14 years, and a curator of the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010. His 2004 book 13 Projects for the Sheridan Expressway explored alternative futures for a disused roadway in New York; and in 2012 he co-authored Cities Without Ground, a guidebook to the unique pedestrian walkways of Hong Kong. Today Solomon is Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an editor of the journal Forty-Five, and a director of Space p11, an independent art gallery located in a vacant storefront in the Chicago Pedway. He is a member of the board of the Emmett Till House Museum and a member of the Institute for Community Controlled Development at Blacks in Green. Solomon is a registered architect in the State of Illinois and a member of the American Institute of Architects.

Photo credit: Thumpr455 via Flickr


May 28, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT
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Docomomo US
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