Urban Reality in 1104
“Columbia conducts education in close relationship to a vital urban reality and serves an important civic purpose by active engagement in the life and culture of the city of Chicago.” When one trudges down windy South Wabash Ave, there is no mistaking the presence of a creative institution, shaping future artistic professionals within its urban walls. Unique graphic design and “Columbia College” insignia upon the sides of multiple buildings prescribes the South Loop as Columbia College Chicago’s stomping ground. One particular building in particular encompasses the college’s mission of “urban reality” situated farthest south at 1104 S Wabash.
This building, upon first visage, is a beautiful eight floor, terracotta style structure with large, full-scale windows on the first floor. If it weren’t for the large orange letters laden across the large windows spelling out the school’s name, this building would blend in seamlessly with Chicago’s hodgepodge of pre-modern architecture. However Columbia has modernized this building from the inside out, using colorful fire escapes, and the lime green interior of the first floor, which is more than plainly visible from the street.
On-lookers passing by are able to sneak a peak inside to see a wide open study area near the front door flooded with natural light through the large windows. Also visible on the first floor further back is a cozy stage and eating area, perfect for curious passers by to catch a glimpse of entertainment from within. When one enters the building, they will find the Glass Curtain Gallery to the left where multiple art and film exhibitions are held, it is always convenient to be able to stop by and see what students of the college have been working on. The first floor of the 1104 S Wabash building is inviting and illustrious, keeping students connected to the urban outside environment.
This building is not only well structured on the outside, but is also well organized and set up on the inside. Each floor has a specific purpose within the building corresponding to respective classes, or concentrations. There is a floor designated for animation, foundations, and location sound and so on, as well as an elevated computer lab on the 1st floor. 1104 S Wabash is considered the “film building” of the college but is not restricted to specifically film related purposes. It is not uncommon for music performances and poetry readings to occur on the 1st floor stage, once when I visited this building there was even a “Blogging Workshop” for prospective bloggers of the school.
Historically this building was commissioned by Mary Ludington for the American Book Company in 1980, and the frame was built to withstand the weight and vibrations of the printing presses. This is practical for use of the film department because of the mass amounts of film equipment and hardware located on each floor. The film cage (located on the fifth floor) is open to specific students to rent equipment from and houses scads of heavy lighting and camera equipment. Students who study in this building rent equipment from the cage and go out working on various projects within the city. This building lives up to the college’s reputation of integrating its students with the city of Chicago not only by the architecture, but also with its accessibility.