When Bare Bulbs Were Really Chic...

I got the opportunity to tour the Auditorium Theater this past Saturday as part of the "Great Chicago Places and Spaces" event. When the Auditorium Theater was completed in 1889, electric lights were still something to marvel at. A very early example of public space built specifically to take advantage of electric lighting, designer Louis Sullivan did absolute magic with the simple bare bulb, elevating it to a status of high design. Unfortunately, the soft glow of vintage style lighting makes for quite difficult interior shots without a flash which would wash out the image.

We had the fortune of taking the extended tour which included several rooms in the former hotel which is now Roosevelt University. This room was once a lounge for the hotel guest, now is serves as a library for the university. You can see the magic of Sullivan in this space as well. The arches originally were gold leafed and had electric bulbs just like the theater. Unfortunately, the openings for the bulbs have been filled in with plaster, and the gold leaf painted white.

Here is a close up of part of the ceiling in a room off of the library. The walls are carved mahogany.

The view from the 10th floor library is fantastic. Of course at the time of construction, Lake Michigan's shore was about where the bridges over the railroad tracks are now. In-fill extended the shoreline out quite a ways.


Anonymous kasia said...

bare bulbs abound in the newly renovated lobby of 35 east wacker. the building is still undergoing some work, but the lobby is pretty stunning - just look up. al capone had a speakeasy at the top of the center tower - it's now a conference room for the architect helmut jahn.

11/09/2005 11:43 PM  

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