Patrick Sisson - Writer, Journalist, Cultural Documentarian, Music Lover

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Chicago Tribune
April 24, 2015

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The latest installation at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, a hip Bridgeport gallery and performance space, may look like another sculptural project at first glance. Neon bent into a glowing blue hand, a demure lightning bolt on its palm, hangs above a stack of reclaimed speakers that recalls a Tetris-like wall of castoff audio equipment.

The artwork is part of the temporary home of WLPN 105.5 FM, a new community-oriented freeform radio station with plans to start broadcasting this summer.

The brainchild of Ed Marszewski, owner of the Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St., and backed by the Public Media Institute, the local arts non-profit that publishes Lumpen magazine, WLPN intends to hit the airwaves with a signal stretching from the Near South Side to Logan Square, reaching more than 1 million potential listeners.

“It was a no-brainer to apply for a license,” says Marszewski. “With a radio station, we’re able to truly amplify ideas of many different authors, activists, storytellers and artists who work within Chicago.”

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Chicago Reader
Feature
March 12, 2015

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“I’m working-class,” says Danny Cimaglio, when asked to describe his occupation. The 63-year-old’s matter-of-fact demeanor and scrappy work history were the norm in Bucktown back in 1986, the year Cimaglio and some friends opened Danny’s Tavern, a funky bar in a solidly blue-collar hood that helped usher in the area’s bohemian phase. In the mid-80s, Damen Avenue was the dividing line between Mexican and Puerto Rican gangs—not a place to buy yoga pants—and Cimaglio and his wife, Barbara, were raising their daughter Anna in a three-flat on Armitage and Hoyne.

Cimaglio stumbled upon the shuttered two-flat that would be the home of his eponymous bar while on a walk with his family. A glance through the front window revealed an abandoned bar, formerly a reputed bookie joint called Art’s Tap, and, before that, a bakery. In the rear of the place, he spotted an apartment; former first-floor tenants had to walk the line of drinkers on bar stools before getting home. But mostly what Cimaglio saw that day was an opportunity.
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Curbed Chicago
Feature
March 27, 2015

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The maxim “less is more” has become synonymous with Mies van der Rohe’s design approach, shorthand for the power of focusing on the pertinent details and the experience within a space. But for those tasked with repairing and restoring the architectural icon’s masterpieces, the phrase could easily refer to the amount of work they need to perform to bring modernist buildings back to their former glory. A cynic may question the true challenge of restoring a steel-and-glass box; it’s a relatively new structure, so it’s not like restoration experts are being asked to repair 19th century masonry or recreate fixtures and flourishes from past centuries.

But when “God is in the details,” re-creating and repairing requires attention to minute measurements and solving extreme sourcing challenges. After talking with restoration experts who worked on restorations of two Mies buildings, S. R. Crown Hall on the IIT campus and the Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago’s Loop, it’s clear that protecting his work offers its own unique issues, some that may result in economic challenges to maintain perfectly faithful facades.

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Line//Shape//Space
Feature
March 30, 2015

At first glance, Eteläsatama, or South Harbor in Helsinki, doesn’t stand out much from the ribbons of scenic shoreline that form the Finnish capital’s border with the sea. Ferries dock nearby, crowds meander over from nearby Market Square, and anyone strolling through can pause and snap a photo of famous cathedrals or the modernist Palace Hotel.

But this 18,520-square-meter site can perhaps lay claim to a distinction no other site in the city—and the world—can. According to Troy Conrad Therrien, curator, Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, it’s been the focus of more cumulative architectural effort than any plot of land in existence. “You could say that piece of soil on Helsinki harbor had more architectural intelligence invested in it than anything since the top of the mountain of the Parthenon,” he says.

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Motherboard
Feature
November 3, 2014

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Affecting articles about poverty, climate change, and epidemics come rolling down our news feeds every day. Some inspire powerful reactions, including a desire to act. But social media tends to limit how we engage with even the most devastating news—we can “Like”, ‘Share’, or ‘RT’. Needless to say, the options don’t quite channel that will into action.

Two tech-savvy Chicagoans want to make the experience of reading—and then acting—more intuitive, with what they’ve termed the Do Public Good Button. It’s a social widget that connects news stories to a marketplace of charities; it’s meant to let readers click, donate, and take action at a potential moment of inspiration. It’s part of a suite of services that Public Good Software, a public benefit corporationstarted by Obama campaign vets Dan Ratner and Jason Kunesh, plan to introduce over the next year with the goal of helping non-profits.

“We come from politics, where there’s a rising tide of disengagement because people feel their individual voice can’t make a difference,” says Ratner. “We wanted to build a system where an individual contribution can make a difference.”

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Dwell

Feature

December 2014/January 2015 Prefab Issue

Tim Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, on August 29, 2014.

 

When you’re a grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright and planning to build near Taliesin—Wright’s studio and architecture school near Spring Green, Wisconsin—you have no shortage of design resources. Tim Wright, a documentary filmmaker who teaches at Taliesin, and his wife, Karen Ellzey, managing director for a commercial real estate firm, live in Boston but had a set vision for a flexible second home on a rolling hill seven miles from his grandfather’s estate. After consulting with several architects, they decided that a prefab house would best respect their plan for a flexible home that would sit lightly on the land, and they settled on Blu Homes, a start-up based in Vallejo, California, to execute it. Blu Homes’ steel-framed structures, manufactured in a factory north of San Francisco that  once churned out nuclear submarines, fold out on hinges like a pop-up book. Wright and Ellzey chose the Balance model for its flexible floor plan, spacious interior, and modern design. Unlike some other prefabs, it didn’t resemble a “glorified trailer,” Wright says, and the company’s energy and drive were a draw. The components were trucked out on two semis in 2012 and assembled in seven and a half weeks. Wright and Ellzey’s house, Blu Homes’ first Midwest project, is a 2,984-square-foot statement in simple living that cost a relatively modest $475,000, including the foundation and the added 1,184-square-foot basement.

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Chicago Reader
Story
September 29
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Bowie at Neo in August 1980 with Noni Martin and Noe Boudreau (Photo Courtesy of Ken Ellis, Taken by Gavin Morrison)
As much as David Bowie exuded his own charisma, he understood how fashion could be harnessed to magnify his power and presence: an Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat, faux-punk finery dotted with cigarette burns; or a black jumpsuit by Kansai Yamamoto sporting flared legs and thick grooves, making the wearer appear like some kind of anthropomorphic vinyl record. Amid the costumes and sensory overload of “David Bowie Is”, the retrospective at the MCA, it’s understandable if visitors blithely pass by a lowly white loincloth, a literal undergarment included in one of rock’s most eccentric and influential wardrobes.

But while this piece of fabric may be dull in comparison to Ziggy Stardust’s costumes, it’s a piece of local history. During August 1980, Bowie stayed in Chicago for roughly a month while performing the lead role in the stage show The Elephant Man, the story of the life of Joseph Merrick, a man whose serious deformities made him a freak show curiosity in 19th-century London. Bowie’s audience has celebrated many of his otherworldly characters and the liberation and freedom they have come to symbolize; with this performance he was exploring the concept of alienation, central to his role as the Thin White Duke and to his time in Berlin.

“Watching David Bowie become the Elephant Man, it was so much more than a cap, a hood, and a loincloth for me,” says Julie Weiss, the production’s costume designer. “It was seeing the soul of Merrick scream the line ‘I am not an animal! I am a human being!’ He understands what it’s like to be an outsider. When the audience saw David Bowie playing Elephant Man, they were reminded of the shame we should all feel rejecting those who are different.”

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Dwell
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April 5, 2014
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It’s difficult to tell someone jonesing for coffee to slow down before their morning cup and appreciate the prep process. But after they get their hands on Chicago industrial designer and strategist Craighton Berman’s new Manual Coffeemaker No1 (MCM), they may begin to appreciate the wait.

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Manual Coffee Maker The first entry in his new Manual houseware lines, the MCM exemplifies Berman’s approach, slowly crafting products at the intersection of design and food.

The first entry in his new Manual houseware lines, the MCM exemplifies Berman’s approach, slowly crafting products at the intersection of design and food that examine and magnify interaction points. Available on Kickstarter through April 18, the streamlined, sculptural MCM cuts a striking silhoutette on a countertop. But more important to Berman is how using it, and the routine of a counter-clockwise pour of steaming water, feels.

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Manual Coffee Maker sketches by Craighton Berman

“I’ve been telling people it’s at the intersection of slow food and design,” he says. “It’s about playing up the ritual more. I’m interested in a more slowed-down version of coffee.”

Berman’s coffee obsession adds a creative new concept to an already-crowded product category, steeped in classic designs from the likes of Chemex and Bialetti, and continues his streak of Kickstarter promotions; he’s also successfully launched a salt-and-pepper set and The Campaign for the Accurate Measurement of Creativity. As the Manual line expands, Berman hopes to explore an array of housewares, such as cutting boards and bar tools, that “celebrate the ritual and the process.” He’s currently refining a bottle opener made from Illinois steel and leather from Chicago’s Horween Leather Company. Like the MCM, which will patina over time as errant drips of coffee slowly color the wooden base, it’s a piece that ages well.

Manual Coffee Maker Sketches
Manual Coffee Maker sketches by Craighton Berman

Dwell
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April 17, 2014
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Stacked like a cubist version of a custom phonograph, Resonant Surface 01 by architects and designers Christine Yogiaman and Kenneth Tracy looks like a bespoke, steampunk soundsystem. But when you talk to the creators about their installation, which debuted in a Dubai courtyard this March during the Sikka 2014 art fair, it’s clear they’re broadcasting bigger ideas of cultural remixing and reinventing.

“We’re drawn to this aesthetic,” says Tracy. “I like how the Islamic patterns comes from geometric and abstract patterns, without icons or human forms.”

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Chicago Reader
August 28, 2014
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You can hardly throw a game token ten feet without hitting a vintage arcade bar in certain Chicago neighborhoods. The barcade boom has been a boon for lovers of old consoles, and it’s also piqued people’s interest in new indie games created by up-and-coming developers (as evidenced by the popularity of the ten-player arcade console Killer Queen at Logan Arcade). On September 6 at Bit Bash, Chicago’s first indie-gaming festival, it’s all cutting edge all the time.

No tokens needed.

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