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Ikea Hacking Gropius in Chicago

By Ben Schuman Stoler in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 20, 2010 7:00PM

We just caught word of local professor Jeff Carter's work in response to the city's continued and basically incomprehensible demolition of the south side "Bauhaus campus." If you've recovered from Olympics oversaturation, you'll remember that Michael Reese Hospital - designed largely by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius (and landscape architect Hideo Sasaki) - was going to be demolished for the Olympic Village. Even after Chicago lost the bid, though, the city decided to go forward with the demolition, hoping developers would snatch up the land and get at it. So far that’s not looking so hot.

Along with Mies van der Rohe buildings at the Illinois Institute of Technology and elsewhere, Michael Reese Hospital (dig its depressing website) was part of the significant impact Bauhaus made to Chicago and Chicago architecture. Architects, historians, and others have tried to obstruct the demolition, but as of today there are just four of the original eight Michael Reese buildings still standing.

Which is why Carter’s work is so endearing, even if it’s not going to change Daley’s mind. Carter builds his pieces in testament to Gropius in Chicago and uses materials from various IKEA sets to do so. The pictures above are shots of Carter's Michael Reese power plant (demolished November last year) and the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower proposal (which wasn't built). The technique’s called “IKEA hacking” and is sort of like those people who can make the Taj Mahal out of a bunch of Lego Star Wars sets. Sort of.

In an email, Carter said:

This idea developed from another project I'm doing involving the relationship between the Bauhaus and IKEA. I've been making models of the 1922 Tribune Tower proposal by Walter Gropius and Adolph Meyer. Obviously, this amazing Bauhaus skyscraper was never built, so I've been using a single perspective drawing of it to make my sculptures, all out of hacked IKEA furniture. During my research, I stumbled upon the Gropius in Chicago Coalition website, discovered the eight Gropius buildings being demolished in Chicago, and the idea just clicked.

Carter is supported by a DePaul University Humanities Fellowship and is looking to exhibit the series in June. He says he hasn't yet secured a space.