April APT event at AIA Chicago

I’ll be presenting a public lecture at the AIA Chicago on 9 April at 5:30 called “Light and Air in Chicago Skyscraper Planning, 1879-1934. It’s sponsored by the Association for Preservation Technology’s Western Great Lakes Chapter–these folks have been huge supporters of this research and the Q&A is always refreshingly thorough. Hope to see faces familiar and new there…

8 thoughts on “April APT event at AIA Chicago

  1. Great presentation last night. Later, it occurred to me that the one early building with no light courts (to speak of) – the Mart – is not an office building. Is that significant? As the devil’s advocate might ask, “Could it be that the Mart did not have light courts because its showrooms did not need to be as light as offices in an office building?”


    • Good point, and you’re absolutely right to point out that the Mart’s function was radically different from many of the buildings I showed. In fact, many department stores (esp. Carson’s) had much deeper floor plates than contemporary office buildings. Still, they needed reasonable illumination levels to show off their merchandise–in some cases this was achieved with higher windows, or windows made of prismatic (Luxfer) glass that ‘threw’ light further into the building. Electricity played a larger and larger role, too. I think the super-deep floor plates of the Mart show this–but the right comparison is to department stores or to the original Field Warehouse by Richardson. Glad you enjoyed the talk!


      • Thanks. Last night’s graph charting the prices of glass and electricity was good support for your explanation of the decreasing size of windows. Similarly, a graph charting the increasing brightness (?) of electric lighting would go a long way to support the idea that light courts became more about ventilation and less about lighting. Is such a charting possible?


  2. There is some data on candlepower during the era–in particular a thorough book by Louis Bell, and several articles in Record and other journals. According to Bell, carbon filament bulbs threw about 300-500 candlepower per square inch, while tungsten filament bulbs produced 1,000-1,100. I think you’re right that that supports the light court argument–in addition to their longer life. (Even the brightest gas fixture, for what it’s worth, only produced 20-40 candlepower per square inch…)


    • Thanks. You know you’re bucking conventional wisdom that says only fluorescent lights were bright enough to light the innermost offices. So I guess I should have asked for a comparison between tungsten filaments and fluroescent. Very interesting stuff. And a whole year before the book comes out?!


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