Saturday, February 02, 2008

They're From Around the Way

Shanty "Pre-Fab Quickies"
Work has been crazy, but I wanted to post a few quick items so my 2 readers won't think I've fallen off my drafting stool and have forgotten about the blog. I'll call these quick posts, "Pre-Fab Quickies." Corny, I know..

Not unlike former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, I've always loved Chicago. Once you get to know the City, it's easy to see why visitors and natives alike can list-- with considerable ease, those items, places and people that shape why Chicago is fabulous. Over the last few months, I've added a few reasons to my list. (I'll share a few of those reasons in later posts..)

For those who want a quick visual slice of Chicago, I encourage you to visit the Flickr pages that have "Chicago" as part of the tag. This designer is particularly fond of the fabulous amateur (and pro) photos posted of Chicago Architecture on the Flickr site. The photos are just fabulous. (This one reason why I love the internet..) What makes so great is not just that images are there for all to see, but that Flickr has a way to search for images by topic, subject, interest. One such example is a photo by "Menlo" on FLickr of Marina City (shown above left).

Crooks Don't Go Away, They Just Find New Chumps

From the continuing saga of "Lies My Contractor Told Me"
, come more contractor horror stories. (You can also substitute the word "Developer" for "Contractor". ) My friends and clients know that I've been warning them for 15+ years that it's not a matter of IF, but WHAT your contractor will lie to you about. (The "when" starts almost immediately..)

That is why I was so glad to stumble on a really good Cable TV Construction show from Discovery HOME Channel called, "Holmes on Homes". The entire premise of the show is about lying, incompetent contractors, and the damage and danger they've been leaving behind. The show takes place mostly in Canada, although one episode was recently shot in the US.

Enter this burly, Canadian Alpha male contractor named Mike Holmes to the rescue. In each episode Holmes breaks down (for some unlucky homeowner) how and why the previous contractor's work was wrong/unsafe/not code-compliant, etc. Then, Holmes and his crew rip out the crummy work and do it the right way (more or less).
Apparently, there are a lot of incompetent, lying contractors and developers in Canada too. (Pheeew --it's not just the Chicago area that has its share of lousy contractors. Again, feel free to substitute the word "Developer" for "Contractor".)

While the designs are builder-esque, the craftsmanship of the work seems very solid. Check your local listings for air times. (In Chicago, the show is on cable TV daily, with several repeats during the day. How did I miss this show the first 6 years ??) Alternatively, you can buy the DVDs from the previous 6 seasons from

A lot of people think I'm crazy when I tell them I've never NOT had a contractor lie to me about some aspect of a project. And it doesn't matter [to the contractor] the client demographic, location, project size, complexity, dollar value (of the project), nor project type: public vs private, commercial nor residential.. I have found that nearly all contractors lie -- at least here in the state of Illinois. It must be a genetic requirement for being a contractor. Nonetheless..

Newbie homeowners (and those looking to work with a contractor) really need to educate themselves before they buy into a development or hire a contractor. When you don't, this show explains just how badly a project can go when an incompetent contractor is hired by an unprepared homeowner.

SouthSide Blogger

I stumbled on a fun blog that Chicagoans and Condo owners (regardless of locale) should check out: "I Hate My Developer".
(found at

"I Hate My Developer" chronicles one southside Condo Owner's trials with her Condo Association's developer, city officials, contractors and neighbors. It's smartly written, and very funny. It's both comedy and tragedy (in a good way.)

See, I too, live in a Condo.. and I've often thought the story of the shenanigans in my not-so-little condo community would make a great 21st century reality TV show. If we could get Hollywood to document (and pay us) for all the drama we get to live through as residents, all of our Association's financial problems (and special assessments) would be alleviated in the first season's airing.

Think: Melrose Place (the 1990s TV Dramady soap opera) with all the racial conflict of a Clinton / Obama Democratic primary battle, set in Chicago's multi-cultural Hyde Park. This show could be good stuff, people.

First, you have to understand that I live in a LARGE, 700+ multi-unit complex-- which makes consensus gathering nearly impossible. Competing agendas and wide-spread incompetence makes for lively Association meetings. Don't get me wrong, as an architect, I love the architecture of the building. The complex is done in a sort-of International, Miesian-lite kind of style.

It's a late '50s modern high-rise with a largely glass facade, and NewYork styled, tiny galley designer kitchens without the starchitect pricetag.
Who needs to live in the high-priced Mies van der Rohe 860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartments when you have Meisian-lite here on the southside? All the drama, but none of the property tax, gawker tourist problems. The southside is such a bargain.

Secondly, we have all the cliche reality show storylines that make for a hit show. We've got generational, race and class issues, prostitution, comic relief (from incompetent Board Members, employees and residents), we've had murder, suicide, domestic violence, and the occasional resident celebrity siting.

As a prequel to the series, we'd have to re-enact the episode where a 50+ year-old Board member tries to open-flame bar-be-que in one of the apartments. (Did I mention we don't have balconies-- and this person was cooking on a carpet and claims to be a Univ. of Chicago graduate ?) That episode would probably earn high ratings, ala the Jessica Simpson Chicken-of-the-Sea Tuna type humor. So many story lines are possible...

Our "building" is home to a cadre of D-list (mostly local) celebs, authors, TV/radio personalities, and we even have a few "has-been" national celebs. Our building is often used for TV/ movies shoots, and we have some of the best lake-front views of the City of Chicago. (I have a wonderful view of Lake Michigan.) We're a stones throw from the University of Chicago campus, the World famous Museum of Science & Industry, the DuSable Museum, and Presidential Candidate Barack Obama lives in the neighborhood.

I have episode outlines...I just need someone to option the show. Takers?

©2008 All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I just discovered you after entering an architect's website. I live in your area, and I'm on the verge of rehabbing my home. If you could offer recommendations for good architects, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.


Shanty Minister said...

Bridgette, thanks for visiting ! Feel free to spread the word.. ;-)

Regarding Architects-- of course I'm an architect (a real one-- I don't just play one online). So, feel free to contact me at:
info at shantyworld dot com

I can send you a link to my "other" web site. We're based in Chicago. Thanks !