Best of Downtown Awards 2016

On November 10, 2016 Friends of Downtown Chicago presented its annual “Best of Downtown” awards in an event that celebrated individuals and companies that have had a significant impact on the livability and beauty of downtown Chicago. Leading architecture, planning, policy and business people joined together at the Cliff Dwellers Club on Michigan Avenue to recognize the achievements of a diverse group of honorees.

For 2016, Friends of Downtown Chicago revived its tradition of bestowing a life time achievement award, which is named after Mary Ward Wolkonsky. Wolkonsky was a legendary Chicago civic leader who, when she passed away at age 94 in 2002, was widely eulogized for her tireless devotion to Chicago and to the advancement of women in society.  This year’s winner was Blair Kamin, the longtime architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune.  A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale University School of Architecture, Kamin has also been a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. The University of Chicago Press has published two collections of Kamin's columns: "Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago" and "Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age.” Kamin has received numerous awards, including the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, which he received for a body of work highlighted by a series of articles about the problems and promise of Chicago's greatest public space, its lakefront.

Other awards for 2016 honored the individuals and teams behind some of Chicago’s most exciting new developments, including the Chicago Riverwalk, Maggie Daley Park, Wabash Street Arts Corridor and the Chicago Architectural Biennial 2015.

The full list of projects and awards is:

Mary Ward Wolkonsky Lifetime Achievement Award - Blair Kamin
Best Plan - Fulton Market Innovation District Plan
Best Project Implementation - Chicago Riverwalk
Best Renovation or Adaptive Reuse - Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
Best Continued Use - Glessner House
Best Open Space - Maggie Daley Park
Best Program - Chicago Architectural Biennial 2015
Best Streetscape - Wabash Street Arts Corridor
Best Ephemera - Activate
Coolest Thing - Statue Stories Chicago
Commitment to Downtown - Daley Plaza Farmers Market
Welcome to Downtown - SRAM and Kimpton Gray Hotel

 

Tim Samuelson at the Cliff Dwellers

The night belonged to architect Louis Sullivan.  Even though he's been gone since 1924, Chicago historian Tim Samuelson brought him back to life on January 25 at a dinner at The Cliff Dwellers Club--a club, Samuelson explained, whose members were kind, considerate and generous toward Sullivan during his "last days," when his commissions dried up and he'd hit hard times.  Among those charitable members was Frank Lloyd Wright, who had worked for Sullivan early in his career.  Even though the two had tension and disagreements through the years, according to Samuelson.

Members of the Cliff, as well as Friends of Downtown contributed to a standing room only crowd to hear about the work Sullivan did at the end of his career.

Although Sullivan's later life was marred with sadness, loneliness and diminished resources, Samuelson explained that Sullivan did small but significant projects.  One such example?  The two-story Kraus Music Store on North Lincoln Avenue.  While the Carson Pirie Scott building on State Street (now Target) and Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium Theater with may be the buildings that everyone knows and comes to Chicago to see, the work Sullivan did as his life came to an end also stands the test of time.

Annual Meeting 2015

The Friends of Downtown 2015 annual meeting was held on Dec. 17 at Chicago's East Bank Club. 

Outgoing FoD board president Martha Frish gave a recap of the year's activities, including: successful "Jane's Walks" and other related events held in May; and our "Art of Local Architecture on Dearborn Street" walks and our panel discussion, "35-years of Friends of Downtown,' in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, held in October. 

A slate of new officers for FoD's Board was presented and approved, including Adam Lund, President; Lydia Lazar, Vice President; Martha Frish, Treasurer; and Dora Moore, Secretary. Adam Lund presented Friends of Downtown's new website (up and running, as of Jan. 1, 2016) and highlighted its current features and coming attractions. 

Both board and other members attending participated in a lively discussion covering FoD's advocacy role in development issues, the interdependency of the city and its suburbs, creative uses for existing downtown spaces, locating a space to hold our popular "brown bag lunches" and reviving this popular program and possibly, the annual awards. We are moving forward on all of these topics, and 2016 is expected to be an active and meaningful year for FoD.