About “Siblings: The Chicago Two-Flats”

Posted on September 02, 2013 by Bench Bookkeeping | 0 comments

This piece has been rolling around my head for, I don’t know, a year, and Katie finally convinced me to go for it. Once I started drawing I couldn’t stop. I think this may be the beginning of a major series on Chicago residential architecture, which I absolutely love. Most of it comes from periodic building booms:

The overall rate of [Chicago construction] expansion was greatest between the 1830s and the 1920s, when Chicago grew from a tiny settlement into one of the world’s largest cities. In 1840, there were fewer than one thousand structures in the Chicago area. This figure passed 10,000 around 1854 and 100,000 during the 1880s. By the end of the 1920s, the city contained roughly 400,000 buildings, most of them one- or two-family dwellings. (from the Encyclopedia of Chicago)

The period of time with the dramatic expansion of the city (1900-1928, the start of the Great Depression) coincided with very interesting strains of design and architecture, like the Arts and Craft movement, the Prairie style homes, Art Deco–and some exemplary American work that moved away from the old European Victorian homes that once dominated our neighborhoods.

Many people outside Chicago know Chicago for the architectural masterpieces in the loop; some of them know the suburb of Oak Park for the architectural masterpieces of Frank Lloyd Wright; but too few know the superbly well-built homes and commercial buildings that stand throughout the neighborhoods and show off touches of careful craftsmanship in their woodwork and ornamentation.

With this piece, I wanted to honor the unsung architectural heroes of Chicago’s neighborhood. In this case, I drew inspiration from Lincoln Square, but these two-flats are everywhere. What interests me is not just their character in itself, but also their context, the fact that they often stand among others like them with different brickwork or different colors, in a way siblings.

chicago two-flat illustration

Siblings: The Chicago Two-Flats



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