Bertrand Goldberg is best known for designing the round stacked platter Marina City complex in downtown Chicago.


Bertrand Goldberg with the model for River City.


But his career was long and varied. And as I learn about him, one thing that is clear about his base philosophy is his belief that architects could shape our world for the better – create structures and systems for better living.   Because of my regular visits to The Velvet Lounge, I had ample opportunity to admire one of Mr. Goldberg’s Utopian jewels from the “L” platform.


View of the Raymond Hilliard Homes from Cermak-Chinatown "L" platform


The honeycombs are luminous at night and comforting in the day. The Raymond Hilliard Homes is a city commissioned Public Housing complex. Commissioned in 1966; with construction completed in 1967.  Of course the striking contrast between the beauty of this form and the punishing brutality of the typical housing complex is quite stunning. Goldberg himself felt very strongly that the poor need not be punished for being poor by being forced into  hostile containment rather than functional and inspirational housing. As stated by Goldberg in a 1965 promotional piece, “their architecture must meet them and recognize them, not simply store them.” (1)


Photo taken shortly after the structure's completion.


The complex was designed to house elderly residents and families in the belief and hope that the wisdom of the old could be shared with the young. Indeed the housing complex is still a comfortable mixture of young families and the gracefully aging. The outer shell of the building supports it, hence the quote in the title. The inner core of each floor, apparently has a common space.

This structure is about 44 years old and yet it still eclipses, in its aspirations for the future, the majority of contemporary public housing structures, and it still functions as a comfortable home for its residence.

I visited the complex and wandered its grounds, but was not granted permission to photograph the landscaping and the residence who barbecued, sunned on benches or played in the jungle gym.

The truly spacial discovery however was the tiny amphitheater that is integrated into the landscaping.

Even though this site is not open to the public, and is very close to the first solar flare march, I find it an ideal site to pay homage to one of Chicago’s most honored creatives – Fred Anderson. His place, The Velvet Lounge, is just down the street from this place – you can see the honeycombs from the club’s front door. With anyluck, our march will be approved soon, and Solar Flare Arkestral Marching and will be performing A March for Fred Anderson.

The thing that sealed the deal for me is Goldberg’s connectin to San Diego!


La Jolla Theater


His design for what was called “The San Diego Theater” but what was, I suspect, intended to be The La Jolla Playhouse at UCSD, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a shame it was never built. The designs and speculative sketches did, apparently, win awards in their day.

Lovely speculative drawing by Goldberg for the San Diego Theater

Certainly the most wildly expressionistic of his unbuilt projects was his design for the San Diego Theater, a 1969 community theater to be built in La Jolla, California. The three stage complex, along with its classrooms and set construction areas was to occupy a vast serpent-like structure of concrete sprayed steel bones, its biomorphic profile undulating over the hills.

UCSD prides itself on modern architecture. Somehow this proposal did not survive the vetting process. Typical, and disappointing. It would be so nice to have a little bit of this amazing Chicago architect – this Utopian dreamer – in San Diego.