BLACK BY DESIGN
Staff canteen, 820 South Michigan Avenue
"At present time the Colored American Magazine occupies the most elaborate and best equipped rooms and offices of any race publication...an equipment that will easily place it at the head of all Negro Publishing Enterprises."
While Moutoussamy was well versed in the International style which dominated the work of many postwar modernist architects, publisher John H. Johnson was adamant that he didn't want another "glass shirt building." Instead, he wanted a distinctive structure that would stand out among the many impressive landmarks which dotted the city's South Loop neighborhood. Expanding on the advertising efforts of earlier Black press buildings, 820 South Michigan Avenue was topped by an enormous Ebony/Jet sign which was visible along much of the Lake Michigan shorefront between downtown and Museum Campus.
However, the real style was found on the inside of 820 South Michigan Avenue, where an interior design team headed by Arthur Elrod and William Raiser had curated an extraordinary vision of Black cultural mores. The company described the sites aesthetic as a blending of "ancient African art and futuristic furniture design," helping to connected appeals to Black cultural nationalism and diasporic design with a Black modernist chic that was rooted in the 1970s.
Johnson Publishing Building, 1973. John H. White | Documerica
"A poem in marble and glass that symbolizes our unshakeable faith that the struggles of our forefathers were not in vain."
"the rich history and fine tradition of the black press provided inspiration...it was this sense of meshing a bit of the past with the future that became the essential theme for the interior design and choice of furnishings."