They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture

They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture

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by Richard Cahan, R. Cahan
     
 

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Praise For They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture

"Richard Nickel, whom I had the delight of knowing during his all too brief life, is one of the unsung heroes of Chicago architecture. He was not an architect himself, nor a designer. He simply took pictures, but what pictures! He was, for want of a better

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Overview

Praise For They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture

"Richard Nickel, whom I had the delight of knowing during his all too brief life, is one of the unsung heroes of Chicago architecture. He was not an architect himself, nor a designer. He simply took pictures, but what pictures! He was, for want of a better description, one of the most sensitive of architectural photographers. More than that, his life—and ironically, tragically and poetically, his death—were fused to Chicago architecture. How he died tells us how he lived: for the beauty in the works of Sullivan, Wright and the others. His story is one that must be told."
Studs Terkel, author

"He was completely understanding of architecture and genius and of the quality of the work he was dealing with. He was single-minded in his pursuit and dedication to quality in history, art and architecture. That is an increasingly rare quality."
Ada Louise Huxtable, former New York Times architecture critic

"Richard was an excellent photographer—sensitive and intelligent, and a very good craftsman".
John Szarkowski, former Director, Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York

"Richard Nickel was one of those who saw architecture, and who passionately and skillfully pursued its portrayal. He was one of a very small number, and to make his work known would be a fundamental service to architects, students, and teachers as well as to the art of architecture."
Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., architectural historian

"All I Could Say was that I Didn't Want the Building Wrecked."
Richard Nickel on the Garrick Theater to a reporter in 1960

Richard Nickel loved photography, and his love of photography was bound up in a special devotion to buildings, especially the buildings of Louis Sullivan. Nickel lived during a turbulent period in Chicago. The city, like many other cities across the United States, was endeavoring to "renew" itself in the 1960s. It tried to make development attractive and encouraged new structures where the old had stood. But it was also a city awakening to its own past, recognizing the artistic achievements of its own citizens. These age-old forces—the need to change and the need to revere what has gone before—became Nickel's battleground and, finally, his end. In this compelling biography, Richard Cahan helps us understand Nickel's crusade, beginning with a portrait of the young Nickel growing up on Chicago's West Side, where he was born in 1928, and through his army service as a paratrooper and photographer in the mid-1940s. It continues with his studies in the 1950s at the Institute of Design, his attempts to save buildings such as Adler and Sullivan's Garrick Theater and Holabird and Roche's Republic Building, his salvage efforts in the 1960s, and his death in 1972 while salvaging material from Sullivan’s Stock Exchange Building.

Cahan skillfully interweaves other histories—from a discussion of early photography to the development of the Institute of Design—and draws portraits of other key players, from Mayor Richard J. Daley and László Moholy-Nagy to photographers Frederick Sommer and Aaron Siskind, Nickel's close friends and associates.

The chronicle of a life that describes the early days of the historic preservation movement, They All Fall Down is more than a history of one man—a "martyr" to preservation. It is a portrait of an era.

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Editorial Reviews

Donna Seaman
You wouldn't expect to read about a photographer when you research American architecture, but Richard Nickel is an integral part of the story. A shy yet passionate man, Nickel developed a deep love for architecture and great skill as an architectural photographer. He also became one of the first to publicly demand the preservation of landmark buildings in Chicago, his hometown. Nickels would, undoubtedly, have been remembered for his stunning photographs and preservationist zeal, but his tragic, martyr-like death in the rubble of the once magnificent Stock Exchange Building in 1972 ensured his immortality. Cahan tells Nickel's story with tremendous empathy, setting it within a history of Chicago architecture, especially the work of Nickel's idol, Louis Sullivan. Nickel set himself the task of finding and documenting all of Sullivan's creations but soon discovered that many of those glorious structures were suffering from neglect or, worse, were about to become victims of urban renewal. The master photographer became a witness to those thoughtless demolitions, meticulously documenting the demise of buildings he loved. Not content with pictures, Nickel also became a devoted salvager of Sullivan ornament, enabling museums to preserve fragments of Sullivan's art. Now Cahan has preserved Nickel's memory in this handsome volume illustrated by more than 70 of Nickel's photographs.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471144267
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
09/28/1994
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
8.29(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.97(d)

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