Can we not open our eyes to our own treasures?
June 8, 2018

Richard Nickel extracting a section of ornament on the upper stories of the Garrick Theatre building. Chicago, Illinois c.1961. Image courtesy of John Vinci


Friday, June 8, 2018. Event starts at 5:30 pm.
Free and open to the public


Architectural photographer and historical preservationist Richard Nickel would have turned 90 years old on May 31, 2018. To commemorate this significant date and to discuss the relevance of Richard Nickel and current preservation efforts, we are organizing an event as part of MAS Context’s 2018 Spring Talks series with Tim Samuelson, John Vinci, and Bianca Bova. The event will take place at the Millennium Park Room (5th floor) of the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602).


Photographer and activist Richard Nickel dedicated much of his life documenting and battling to preserve Chicago’s diverse architecture, most notably the work of architect Louis Sullivan. He died on April 13, 1972, when a portion of the Old Chicago Stock Exchange building collapsed on him while trying to salvage a spandrel panel. As noted by the Chicago Landmarks Commission, “After Nickel’s tragic death, his role in bringing attention to Chicago’s historic architecture was widely recognized. His reputation and importance have continued to grow with the publication of [Richard] Cahan’s biography, the display of architectural ornament he salvaged, and as many of his photographs have become iconic images of the city’s historic architecture.”

In 2010, Richard Nickel’s works, which include negatives, photographs, and research papers, were donated to the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago by the Richard Nickel Committee.

During this event, attendees will be able to see in person some of the ornaments that Nickel salvaged and Tim Samuelson, John Vinci, and Bianca Bova will discuss the importance of Nickel and the stories behind some of the artifacts. Tim and Bianca will also discuss the newly formed Chicago Architectural Preservation Archive (CAPA), an organization devoted to the documentation and stewardship of materials related to the practices of early urban preservationists who gravitated around Richard Nickel.

The event title uses Nickel’s own words from a letter to the editor published in the Chicago Tribune on May 24, 1960.


Bianca Bova is a Chicago-based curator and the associate director of the Chicago Architectural Preservation Archive. She has worked with national and international contemporary arts organizations including Gunder Exhibitions, SiTE:LAB, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and EXPO Chicago. |

Tim Samuelson is the director of the Chicago Architectural Preservation Archive and has served as Chicago’s cultural historian since the late Lois Weisberg—then Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs—created that position for him in 2002. A city treasure in his own right, Samuelson has been involved in local preservation efforts for nearly his entire life, and played a significant role as part of the city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks in the 1980s. In 2015, Landmarks Illinois named Tim himself a “Legendary Landmark.” He has organized multiple exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, including “Bronzeville Echoes: Faces and Places of Chicago’s African American Music” (2018), “Mecca Flat Blues” (2014), “Wright Before the ‘Lloyd'” (2013), “Louis Sullivan’s Idea” (2010, with Chris Ware), and “Isn’t That Amazing! The Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil” (2004).

John Vinci, FAIA, a principal of his own architecture firms since 1969, has an established reputation for excellence in the restoration of historic architecture and the design of new buildings. His restoration work includes Louis Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park and numerous projects for the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr. Vinci’s new buildings include the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, the Arts Club of Chicago and several award-winning residences. Mr. Vinci received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1960. He was elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 1992.


Metal scavengers leaving the building which was demolished three days later; demolished 1961. © Richard Nickel/Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago


Entrance as protesters gather as scaffolding is installed for demolition; demolished 1971-1972. © Richard Nickel/Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago


First Infantry Armory, south michigan Avenue façade; demolished 1967. © Richard Nickel/Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago

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