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Chicken Shit

Chicken Shit

Chicago industrialist John J. Glessner approached the renowned Boston architect H. H. Richardson with the commission for a house. Glessner had done it modestly, almost appologetically, since Richardson’s other Chicago buildings were both large and prominent. Why Glessner imagined his own home would be less noted or notable is anyone’s guess.

At any rate, Richardson’s reply has become legend, attesting his own humility as well as setting the bar for the “worthiness” of a client or commission. He wrote: “I’ll plan anything a man wants, from a cathedral to a chicken coop. That’s what I do to make a living.” Not an ounce of Calatrava or Gehry hubris there. And, though Richardson designed an unbuilt cathedral project for Albany, New York, that coop commission eluded his all too brief forty-eight years with us.

I’ve wanted for some time to assign a studio project in the spirit of Richardson’s light hearted “jest”-ure, but time’s awasting ’cause there aren’t many semesters left to me.

For those who know the traditional ARCH 272 design project (a birdhouse in the styles of renowned architects, most of which have little to do with the starchitects in question), I’d propose a slight variant: a chicken coop, say, in the style of C.F.A. Voysey or Adolf Loos. Now there’s a scary notion: Loos and chickens. Loos would certainly appreciate the “modernity” of the egg’s shape [read “Ornament and Crime” sometime] but I can’t imagine him handling the thing that made it. It’s far easier to conceive Karl Friederich Schinkel’s response.

So last night during reruns of the impeachment hearings [must-see TV], I googled some information on coop-itecture and, then, this morning for a half hour or so this is what I concocted. The vehicle is supposed to be William Halsey Wood, largely because I’ve begun to know his work pretty well, while most others haven’t a clue who he was. Gives me a slight advantage. It’s a long way from completion but I thought you might enjoy a peek.


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