Imagining another kind of architecture

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In my day, there were no architectural biennials. “Going to Grandmother’s” loomed large in my childhood.

Visiting her gorgeous apartment building at 4304 S. Forestville Ave., in Bronzeville. Playing in the flowering courtyard, swinging on the huge iron gate, garnished with elaborate, overlapping geometric circles and Celtic crosses. I called them “curlicues.” Up to the apartment, little fingers tip-toeing across the carved ebony fireplace.

I was well into adulthood when I learned that “Grandmother’s” was the Francis Apartments, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and built in 1895 for white, middle class families.

Later, came racial change, then disinvestment and disrepair. The Francis was demolished in 1971.

It hurt, my mother recalls. By then, “they didn’t care. …it was ‘just black folks.’ ”

When outsiders think South Side, they think blighted housing projects and slums. Now, think about a once-decrepit bank building at 68th Street and Stony Island Avenue. It has been designated to serve as a neighborhood site for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial.


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