Negro Digest offices, State Street
Ebony magazine, 1992
Ebony magazine, 1992
I'm a little late to the party with this one, but the New York Times magazine ran a major feature earlier this year on "The 25 Most Significant Works of Postwar Architecture," which included the former Johnson Publishing headquarters at 820 South Michigan Avenue. The list was a collab between journalists Michael Snyder and Kurt Soller, architects Toshiko Mori, Annabelle Selldorf and Vincent van Duysen, designers Tom Dixon and Es Devlin, and regular Style contributors Nikil Saval and Tom Delavan.
While the list is obviously subjective, its an interesting take on the question of what makes a building "significant." The inclusion of the JPC building was clearly influenced by their efforts to be mindful of the field's historical inequalities and intentional effort to include work by women architects and Black architects. After all, much of what is significant about 820 South Michigan Avenue is less about the building's actual design and more the result of its contextual/cultural significance.
Here's what the New York Times had to say about the building:
"THE FIRST HIGH-RISE BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO DESIGNED BY A BLACK ARCHITECT, THE JOHNSON PUBLISHING COMPANY BUILDING...HOUSED THE OFFICES FOR EPOCH-MAKING MAGAZINES LIKE JET AND EBONY, WHICH REFLECTED AND SHAPED THE TASTES OF COUNTLESS BLACK AMERICANS...
As the piece rightly notes, the significance of the Johnson Publishing building continues to be shaped by just how few high-rises by Black architects have been constructed in the half century since it was unveiled to the public during the early 1970s - a testament to "just how far the profession still has to go."
The piece is accompanied by a nice shot of 820 South Michigan Avenue taken from the Hedrich-Blessing collection at Chicago History Museum. There are some great shots of the interior and exterior of the Johnson Publishing building which are available to view through the museum's online catalogue - definitely worth checking out.
Exterior view of the Johnson Publishing Company building at 820 South Michigan Ave.
Hedrich-Blessing Collection, Chicago History Museum