It does our heart good to see the name of Lucien Lagrange, architect to Chicago’s wealthy (think The Park Tower, 840 N. Lake Shore Drive, The Elysian, The Fordham), attached to plans for a two-high-rise development at 1712 S Prairie Ave. While Lagrange’s designs for projects in and around the Gold Coast have been boringly retro, his design for the project on Prairie — which once upon a time was THE place for wealthy homeowners to be — is suprisingly forward-looking. Or maybe this is not surprising so much as ironic. Lagrange has shown at projects like Kingsbury on the Park and Erie on the Park that given the right developer and location, he has a gift for work that’s as eye-catching as it is fresh.
The irony is that what might be Lagrange’s most progressive work is planned for the South Loop’s Prairie Avenue Historic District, still home to a handful of Chicago’s oldest and most famous houses, including the Clarke House and Glessner House museums and the Marshall Field Junior mansion, which is being converted into six townhomes.
Developer Frankel & Giles hopes to build more than 500 units in two glass towers — one reaching 45 stories and the other about 33 — on the stretch of Prairie once known as “Palace Avenue.” Lagrange has designed terraces of alternating sizes that create the illusion that the towers are tilting away from each other. Everyone should be relieved to know that neither has a mansard roof, the architect’s calling card on ultra-luxury high-rises. The development also would include 16 townhouses, more characteristic of the nearby historic mansions, adjacent to the leaning towers.
Yesterday we told you about South Loop residents protesting the development of a high-rise in their neighborhood. The president of Prairie District Townhomes, located across from the proposed development’s site, has already voiced his opposition to 1712 S Prairie Ave. The proposal is under review at the Department of Planning and Development, but has not yet been approved.