The Plant - Architecture Installation

About two weeks ago I helped my studio professor, Mary Pat Mattson, setup an installation at The Plant. The Plant is a former pork processing plant on the edge of the Chicago Stockyards and served as the site for our project. The whole place is overbuilt - 2 1/2' thick columns, stainless steel, solid brick floors, and cork insulation throughout. Pretty cool.

We hung 3/32" stainless cable on 1/2" embedded anchors; to go with the overbuilt theme. The lower end is held in tension by a brick, there are more than a few laying around this place. Lighting is accomplished with simple clamp lights. I anchored some conduit to the ceiling with pipe clamps and tapcons for the lights to secure to.

I should have brought a bigger tripod and a note saying "yes it's a camera, please move along." I need to re-edit this too...

Pre-public arrival.

Jason talking to the documentary film maker. He's been following John Edel around for a few years and says he's going to make something in 20. Should be interesting. John is a really cool guy. He manages his pie in the sky thoughts with a down to earth attitude that's impossible not to admire.
Nice and blurry, just the way I like me. Photo Credit: Vija.

Changes in Hours at Chicago Public Schools

My wife works for CPS and just had her first day back yesterday. Long story short, at some point in the day the head of the CPS teachers union gathered all the psychologists, speech language therapists, etc. into a room, shut the doors, and told everyone that they should be outraged that their workday and number of days worked will be going up while wages will only go up 2%. Never mind the failing schools - people needs to get paid. So let's break that down:

Average salary is $68,200 (2009)(starting salaries are nice too)
Days worked per year 170 (176 is required in IL but CPS gets special permission)
The work day is from 8:30-2:45 so 6.25 hours
1062.5 hours/year (53% of a 40 hour a week job with 2 weeks vacation)
$68,200/1062.5 hours = $64.19/hour

Rahm Emanuel's Changes:
The union turned down a 2% increase after they were told they would get a 4% increase, so average salary would be (by 2009 numbers) about $69,600
Days worked is going to 180
Work day will now be 7.75 hours
1395 hours/year (70% of a 40 hour a week job with 2 weeks vacation)
$69,600/1395 hours = $52.77/hour

I understand that working more and not really getting paid much more is frustrating, but my wife always has to clock out, lest she be reprimanded by union workers, at the end of the day then stay and do her work. I don't know... $53 an hour plus benefits and summers off with job security sounds fairly okay to me. It reminds me of a quote by Michelle Rhee at the end of Waiting for Superman where she says something similar to 'the amount of harm we visit on our children so that adults can be civil to one another is astonishing.'

Finch Brewery - Process Photos

I went to a BBQ at Finch's Brewery a few weeks ago at 4565 N. Elston. Afterwards I asked one of the owners if I could photograph his brewery and oddly enough he said yes. And that's why small companies rule. This is the digital portion of the results.

The warehouse was really nicely done. I've been in a lot of factories so I have a fairly good idea of what a good fit and finish looks like industrially. These guys spent some money up front and ended up with a really nice place. They're busy too. The day I was there they had about six or seven employees working - it didn't hurt that they were all really nice and entertained my usual battery of questions.

This is their main room where all cooking and fermenting happens.

Keg washer. The kegs get rinsed with pressurized acid to eat away any build up, then iodine to sterilize them, and (if I remember all this right) are finally rinsed with water. This same station handles keg filling.

After being washed the kegs are stored in the fridge to get the ready to be filled.

Beer making is at least 50% sterilizing everything. Hence, there's sterilizer everywhere.

This is the grain grinder.

It has it's own dedicated room (Update: this is supposedly because grinding grain causes a fine dust to accumulate in the air that becomes an explosion hazard).

Their milled grain connects directly to a silo via a system very similar to those vacuum tubes used at banks. I'm not actually sure what mechanisms move the grain around. I'm assuming an auger attached to a motor.

The silo sits right next to what I'm going to call the cooking station.

Cooking station. Update: The vessel on the left is a boil kettle where the wort is boiled to the desired gravity. The one on the right is a combination mash/lauter tun where the grains steep in water to extract their starches (sugar).

This is a PLC (programmable logic controller) LCD screen. Everything is automated - it's incredible how similar this is to the concrete plants I work at - the output here is just more interesting.

No open flames at Finch's hence the steam boiler. Never seen one of those before...

This is a heat exchanger that removes heat from the freshly brewed wort (pre-beer) so that yeast can be pitched. This is a much bigger version of the tiny copper coil that Evan and I use to chill our massive 5 gallon batches. Finch's does a 1000 gallons at a time. If you don't cool it down the yeast will die and fermentation will never start - at least not with the bacteria that you want. I think they run city water through this then chilled glycol (more on that in a bit). I think I'd increase my surface area and lower my delta T (city water is pretty cheap) but they seem to have their system pretty well worked out.

The grain needs to get cleaned out of the mash/lauter tun. A tad bigger than our 3 gallon stock pot.

These are their 1000 gallon fermenters where their beer will sit for several weeks.

The yeast gives off CO2 as it converts sugar into alcohol, but air cannot be allowed back into the fermenter. Hence, an air lock. In this case a 5 gallon bucket filled with sanitizer. This one was really bubbling off.

These are 5 gallon kegs that I would normally help Evan fill with beer. In this case this is what they use to hold their yeast. 5 gallons of yeast to 1000 gallons of beer! They propagate all their own yeast.

That's a food grade hose. Everything is stainless, seamless, and sterilized.

This is part of their glycol system. The fermenters are jacketed. That is, double walled. Chilled glycol is circulated around them to keep them at whatever temperature is wanted.

Glycol supply and return lines

A solenoid and control precisely control the temperature.

This is the reservoir/make-up tank for the glycol. As you might be able to tell from the number of photos I was really impressed by this system.

Once fermenting is done the beer can be either bottled or put into kegs. This is the canning line.

If the beer is to be kegged it makes its way to the manifold (bottom). All the fermenting tanks connect to this. Very nice. Much easier to open a valve and let gravity and pumps do the work.

Dr. King Legacy Apartments

So I went to take some photos the other day as spec work for an architecture firm and I noticed that my widest angle lens was going off at about 1/60th for a 1 second shot... The great thing about old school manual cameras is that they can be repaired (unlike newer far more complex digital models). The bad news is... that they're complex.

I haven't gotten my color 4x5 film developed yet, but hopefully will soon. The rest of these are from my digital SLR.

This is the west elevation of the Dr. King Legacy Apartments by Johnson and Lee Architects.

Southeast corner looking west.

Northwest corner looking south.

This building is built in a not so great neighborhood - it's at roughly 16th and Kedzie. What makes it interesting is that the architects were able to stretch their dollars so well. The facade is basically just brick with a little bit of limestone and what I assume is some sort of aluminum or steel cladding around some of the windows. The spacing is even throughout, so no added cost there. The facade is fairly flat and the change is color is just different brick. This is public housing so you can imagine they weren't splurging. So again, I commend them for being able to produce something this pleasing on a budget that permitted little more than a brick and concrete box.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Teachers unions and getting rid of terrible teachers; cops and the drug war - judges too; populist politicians who spew idiocy, racism, and anti-science rhetoric so that they can garner the support from voters who hold similar opinions; the mega-rich in America and issues of fairness/taxes (see: Koch brothers); home contractors and using truly new materials, technology, and ideas to build responsible homes; etc. The further I go in school the more I realize how difficult true change is to accomplish - especially as the area of interest gains prominence. We had a lawyer that specializes in litigating claims related to architecture speak to us. His message over and over was that lawyers and judges, given opposing opportunities, will make legal decisions based on which allows them to stay busy and make more money. It was a way of predicting the outcome of any given trial that proved quite accurate.

So now the constructive part - how do you incentivize people to change their deleterious but self-preserving actions for the benefit of all?

Just a dreary shot of Chicago from the roof of Vetro.

Backlog of Readings

Stuff White People Like - #34 - Architecture.

The secret world of Trader Joe's.

Short mockumentary on plastic bag migration.

Letter grades for vehicle efficiency.

HP hold The Navy hostage to the tune of 3.3 billion (3,300 millions).

Apparently Microsoft thinks it's a good idea to let people pirate their stuff because, you know, it increases your market share. In fact, they didn't let people pirate Vista and it hurt Microsoft somewhat badly, or perhaps no one wanted to steal such a terribly designed OS.

The Chinese envision a double decker bus with cars passing underneath.

Young, single, childless women earn more than men their same age. So further proof that the vast majority of the wage discrepancy is due to the fact that womens' priorities shift after having a child.

Scientists have built a computer program that suggests potential research hypothesis after doing a complete reading of the relevant literature. Pretty awesome.

Short - it's actually quite hard to tell if someone is drunk.

Sustainable building at

Winter Break!

I'm on winter break, which means I'm still going to school every day; like an idiot. The wood shop and dark room are empty so I've been making prints and picture frames out of exotic woods.

This one is African mahogany and is really small - about 6" x 5". Inside is a palladium print I made of my grandfather and his three brothers.

This frame is made of maple and is meant to hold an 11" x 14" print.

Here are the 8" x 10" prints I made. This one's Vija.

And some sailing in Chicago.

Next up is a massive bubinga frame for a 16" x 20" print, and for the first time I'm going to try to enlarge some 70-90 year old large format negatives. And I need to think of something to laser cut.


"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule-and both commonly succeed and are right." - H.L. Mencken

Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics that Obama endorsed, so the far-right cheered gleefully. I don't even need to explain how childish and unfortunate that is. I thought we were all Americans after all. Anyways, that quote hit a nerve as I've noticed this repeatedly in recent years. It's just so selfish. It doesn't matter where you stand on the political spectrum. It's sad to watch our government in a self imposed gridlock that they use to sustain their own power at the expense of the well being of our nation and the world.

The context of that quote was that the founding fathers (as they're often called, but I really don't like the term) had quite the disdain for political parties... but started them none the less.

"[T]he worst enemy [of democratic governments], potent engines by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will... subvert the power of the people." - George Washington

"If I could go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all." - Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the Democratic-Republicans; the predecessor of the modern day Democratic Party.

This is a photo I took the other week of the housing projects just south of 22nd St. on State St. (in Chicago) being torn down. I ride by them every day on my way to school and I anguish over the fact that I want to take more photos, especially at night, but shouldn't because it's just a stupid risk. there's a good chance I'd be mugged. On another note - this is part of the CHA's (Chicago Housing Authority) revitalization and rehab program that utilizes bailout funds (or so say the signs surrounding neighboring developments), so here's a look at how that's doing.

Edit: Chicago losing the bid for the 2016 Olympics impacts me very directly. This summer and over the next few years I'll be looking for an architecture internship/work. Being at IIT, the closest and most prominent architecture school to where the Olympic site would have been - I was more or less guaranteed work. Now I'm shit out of luck.

Also, my family owns an engineering business - Reed Engineering... we nor any of the other tradesmen we know will be riding that wave now. The Olympics would have brought more people into the trades in the Chicago area and given them the experience of working with the older skilled workers; creating a whole new generation of skilled tradesmen in Chicago. I knew a few people who were planning to pull a lot of overtime and take early retirement so that all the up and comers in the union could get decent work. I guess this is common practice. Now that won't happen and as a result Chicago's ability to build sound complex buildings will suffer. This is why the best architects go to Europe. There the skilled workers have years of training and they know their buildings will be built correctly.

This is a huge problem for the trades and architects and I've seen it first hand. The knowledge is disappearing and, because of what I feel is a general disdain for blue collar workers, it isn't easy/possible to gain back. Hell, I'm proof. I'm about half (that's just a guess, I figure it'd take me 7 years to learn most of what my dad does - I worked for about 3.5 years with him) way done with my steam apprenticeship that I'll never finish. Our work is specialized to the point that we can charge more than most doctors and lawyers if we so choose (we rarely do, why is a debate for another time). That ends a three generation blue collar family business.