Cobbler Square Lofts by Serhii Chrucky

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Cobbler Square Lofts in Old Town is a renovation of a Dr. Scholl's shoe factory, completed in 1985 by Kenneth Schroeder & Associates. The factory had consisted of twenty buildings within two square blocks, built between 1880 and 1965. A few of these buildings were demolished during renovation, but the overall character of a multi-generational factory complex was retained. There are three internal courtyards designed by POD, Inc. (a California-based landscape architecture firm) set off-axis 45 degrees to the street grid.

The main entrance on Wells street is a cutaway into the facade of the 1959 factory building, with a glazed atrium in red and blue steel providing a sense of grandiosity as one enters. I believe that in the near future this atrium will be of particular interest from a preservation standpoint. It is an example of Hi-Tech, a sub-style of Post-Modernism, that was uncommon in Chicago during this time period.

Architect Kenneth Schroeder described the design aesthetic as "layering the new against the old," and that was certainly achieved. Thirty five years since the renovation, there isn't a feeling of rupture. Rather, the additions made in 1985 fit seamlessly into the exisiting fabric. If disused factory buildings had any hope of surviving the changing economic and social conditions in large American cities, some kind of modification was necessary. Here, it was done in a manner that added to the richness of the pre-existing built environment. When it soon comes time to reassess Cobbler Square Lofts, it is this point that should be at the forefront of our considerations.

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