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

( 2 )

Overview

"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 ...

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Overview

"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

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471144267
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,134,555
  • Product dimensions: 8.29 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Cahan spent years researching Richard Nickel's photographs, documents, and letters, interviewing Nickel's family and friends, and visiting the Louis Sullivan buildings that so attracted the photographer. Cahan graduated from the University of Illinois. He worked as a reporter and editor for several weekly and daily newspapers and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines. In 1981 he wrote the book Landmark Neighborhoods of Chicago. He presently is the picture editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. He lives in Skokie, Illinois, with his wife, Catherine, and children, Elie, Claire, and Aaron.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2014

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2000

    A Treasure for Architectural Preservationists

    Richard Nickels was a strange fellow, and I don't know if most people would be comfortable in his company. He desperately wanted to save what he considered to be Chicago¿s architectural landmarks, but in the end grew terribly disconsolate, finding few allies in Mayor Daley or others within the city¿s power structure. He managed to save many bits and pieces before the wrecker¿s ball arrived, some of which went to Southern Illinois University, but tons of which ended up in landfills after his death. Do you need this book? If it sickens you to see a beautiful old building torn down, then yes. If you read ¿Lost Chicago¿ and were amazed at the priceless treasures we¿ve squandered, then yes. If you think the now burgeoning architectural salvage industry is a good thing, then yes. Nickels fought to save buildings, but when that failed, he saved everything he could. The book doesn¿t claim he was a pioneer or innovator in that regard, but then I haven¿t heard of anyone else who dedicated their life to the field. The Trading Room from the Stock Exchange Building ¿ where Nickel¿s died ¿ survives in the Art Institute of Chicago today only because of his efforts. We almost certainly owe him a far greater debt than the book has claimed, since he helped to publicize the threat to our architectural heritage and started building a consensus towards preservation and salvage. The book will amaze and annoy you. You¿ll learn much more about Nickels¿ personal life than you would want to know. You¿ll wish he had finished some of the writing projects he started. And you¿ll wonder how much more he might have accomplished if he had lived a bit longer. It¿s a book that makes you think, and one you won¿t soon forget. - tjm

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