Design Top 5 - Chicago
by sabine7 / April 7, 2008

Last Summer we asked MoCo Loco contributors what their favorite places were in their city. This Spring we're asking them to identify the top five design places. Starting with Joshua Wentz, here below are his Top 5 Design places for Chicago.

1. Architectural Artifacts Inc 100%
2. A. Okay Official 100%
3. Prairie Avenue Bookshop 100%
4. The Boring Store
5. Millennium Park/ Frank Gehry Music Pavilion

Details after the jump...

Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N. Ravenswood,

Part of looking at the design of tomorrow is rooted in studying the design of the past, and there's really no better place to get an eyeful of the past than Architectural Artifacts. This is the only place I know of where one can find a 19th century mantelpiece (or a room of them!), furniture from the 60s, costume jewelry, old letterpress forms, an aquarium full of billiard balls, apothecary jars, and a table full of building sign type within a hundred feet of each other. The store is essentially four floors full of amazing design finds- some very pricey, some you can walk away with the same day.

A.Okay Official, 3270 N. Clark,

I heard about this store a month or so ago and it became one of my favorites almost instantly (and one of my bank account's least favorites). Specializing in designer vinyl figures, street-inspired artwork and clothing, artist monographs, and in-store customized kicks, A.Okay Official is a very welcome addition to the Chicago scene. The store is still in its first year and is currently expanding to include a gallery/event space. Keep an eye on this one.

Prairie Avenue Bookshop, 418 S. Wabash,

I'm guessing that most architects in and around Chicago know and love Prairie Avenue, and once inside, it's easy to see why. The have a good selection of periodicals and art books, an enormous architecture and interior design collection, and a floor dedicated to rare and out of print publications. Its library atmosphere is welcoming; it's nice to go to a book store without being hassled, annoyed by blaring pop music, or being forced to sit on the floor because the one chair they've got is already taken. Anyone interested in picking up great design books, both new and old, needs to visit Prairie Avenue.

The Boring Store, 1331 N. Milwaukee,

I'd love to tell you more about The Boring Store, but there's really nothing to tell. It's definitely NOT a secret spy shop, whose storefront was NOT designed by the amazing illustrator Chris Ware. Inside, you certainly won't find hilarious and semi-useful novelty items, nor will you find clean, utilitarian package design. Yes, there's really no reason to visit The Boring Store at all.

Millennium Park/ Frank Gehry Music Pavilion, Welcome Center: 201 E. Randolph Street,

This choice might seem like either an obvious choice or a designer cop out, but hear me out. Everyone knows about Millennium Park, and everyone has their opinion about the urban Gehry Virus that infects almost every major city in the world. However, for me, this is one of the most enjoyable commercial public spaces in the city, and that wasn't always the case. When I first heard about the plan for a Frank Gehry designed bandshell, I was rather annoyed. I don't particularly enjoy his anti-vernacular approach to design and I felt that it was especially inappropriate for Chicago. I let my negative feelings about the designer keep me away from what is a terrific space in my favorite city.

While the shape eventually grew on me, what won me over was the overall use of Millennium Park, coupled with the sound quality of the pavilion. Regular art exhibits surround the infamous "bean" sculpture, the gardens are enjoyable, and even seeing the security roll around on Segways is quite amusing. I've heard several concerts there, and have always been completely amazed by how good the place sounds. It's a great place for tourists and citizens alike to experience good design and what is becoming the modern urban aesthetic.

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