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Making prodigious use of light and ornamentation, Root and Burnham designed a central light court to serve as the focal point for the entire building and provide daylight to interior offices. Rising two stories, the light court received immediate critical acclaim. "There is nothing bolder, more original, or more inspiring in modern civic architecture than its glass-covered court", wrote Eastern critic Henry Van Brunt. At a time when Chicago's bold experiment in architecture was looking eastward for affirmation, this was welcome praise. The light court provides natural illumination for the interior offices.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a young architectural assistant working with Adler and Sullivan at the time the Rookery was built in 1886. Architect Daniel Burnham was a friend of Wright patron Edward C. Waller. Waller managed the Rookery; Wright had his offices in the building in 1898-1899. In 1905 Wright received the commission to redesign the lobby in the building; at the time considered the grandest in Chicago. Wright's work on the Rookery recast the entryway in his Prairie style and added a sense of modernity through his simple but effective lighting design. Wright's work on the Rookery is his only work on any building within the downtown cityscape. Among Wright's most significant alterations was the addition of white marble with Persian-style ornamentation. The marble and decorative details added a sense of luxury to the lobby's steel-laden interior, marked by Burnham and Root's skeletal metal ribbing.The entire interior space is bright and open. A double set of curving, heavily ornamented stairs wind upward from the lobby's second floor into the building's interior. A wrap-around balcony on the second floor enhances the feeling of being within the interior of a "clockwork." The Wright remodel opened the building up to more of the available light.
April 18th, 2012
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