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Local Book Notes: Skyscrapers, Bike Messengers & Plainfield's Poet

1. Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934, by Thomas Leslie.

"For more than a century, Chicago's skyline has included some of the world's most distinctive and inspiring buildings. This history of the Windy City's skyscrapers begins in the key period of reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1871 and concludes in 1934 with the onset of the Great Depression, which brought architectural progress to a standstill. During this time, such iconic landmarks as the Chicago Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, the Marshall Field and Company Building, the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Palmolive Building, and many others rose to impressive new heights, thanks to innovations in building methods and materials. Solid, earthbound edifices of iron, brick, and stone made way for towers of steel and plate glass, imparting a striking new look to Chicago's growing urban landscape.

"Thomas Leslie reveals the daily struggles, technical breakthroughs, and negotiations that produced these magnificent buildings. The book includes detailed analyses of how foundation materials, framing structures, and electric lighting developed throughout the years, showing how the skeletal frames of the Rookery, Ludington, and Leiter Buildings led to the braced frames of the Masonic Temple and Schiller Building and eventually to the concealed frames of the City Opera, Merchandise Mart, and other Chicago landmarks. Leslie also considers how the city's infamous political climate contributed to its architecture, as building and zoning codes were often disputed by shifting networks of rivals, labor unions, professional organizations, and municipal bodies.

"Featuring more than a hundred photographs and illustrations of the city's physically impressive and beautifully diverse architecture, Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 shows how during these decades, Chicago's architects, engineers, and builders learned from one another's successes and failures to create an exceptionally dynamic, energetic period of architectural progress."

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2. "What's it like being a bike messenger in Chicago?" Mike Stephens asks on Outside The Loop radio

Northern Illinois University sociologist and former bike messenger himself, Jeff Kidder, author of Urban Flow: Bike Messengers and the City answers.

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"During his courier days, Kidder transported everything from a dress for a model to a vial of blood for the Red Cross to a grocery bag full of family photos for actress Kathleen Turner. More typically, however, the messengers carry time-sensitive documents, such as architectural, legal and advertising materials," NIU Today says.

"The reason Chicago has so many messengers is that the companies that now define the city need documents shuttled back and forth in very short spans of time," Kidder says. "A daredevil on a bicycle is the fastest way to make this happen."

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Here's Kidder talking about his work while riding his bike.

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3. Congratulations to Plainfield high school student Raphael Mathis, who was a finalist in the Poetry Foundation's Poetry Out Loud competition.

Here's a little bit on Raphael.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 7, 2013


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