WTTW is pleased to announce the premiere of a new half-hour documentary hosted by popular Chicago history and architecture expert Geoffrey Baer, profiling the life and work of acclaimed architect David M. Schwarz, the 2015 winner of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame. Street Smarts: Architect David M. Schwarz premieres on WTTW 11.1 on Thursday, March 19 at 8:00 pm, repeating Friday, March 20 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 29 at 5:30 pm; the program also airs Friday, March 27 at 10:30 pm and Thursday, April 2 at 9:30 pm on WTTW Prime 11.2 (Comcast 370/RCN 37).
How did an architect raised in the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, with Ivy League training and an office in Washington D.C., wind up nearly single-handedly transforming downtown Fort Worth, Texas? In this new documentary, Baer examines the work of David M. Schwarz, an architect who has devoted his life to healing the harms of sprawl and rapid growth that have challenged American cities for decades.
Many architects have drawn up ambitious plans for American cities, but few of those architects if any have seen as much of their plan realized as Schwarz in Fort Worth. Dozens of his buildings now stand in the Sundance Square district (he also designed the square itself on a former surface parking lot). His most dramatic building there is Bass Hall, a limestone edifice featuring two forty-eight foot tall decorative angels blowing into herald's trumpets. But most of his Fort Worth buildings blend seamlessly into the background. His desire to be a good architectural neighbor has resulted in a downtown that more than one commentator has described as “looking like it’s been there forever.”
The success of Schwarz’s work in Fort Worth has led to commissions around the country for concert halls, ballparks, civic structures, and more town plans that draw on the styles of American architecture from the late 19th century through the 1940s, including Art Deco, the 19th century Chicago School of skyscrapers, and commercial building types found in cities across the country, often in brick and stone.
The firm has designed and built many professional sports facilities, including the home of the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, and the American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of the NBA Dallas Mavericks and the NHL Dallas Stars. And Schwarz's resume includes a number of smaller urban plans, such as Southlake, Texas, a residential/retail/business community that its developers say was inspired by the town square in the movie Back to the Future.
The emphasis across all of the firm's work is walkability and the experience of people, whether they are in the building or passing it on the street. “Everybody’s favorite sport is people watching,” Schwarz said. “I think understanding that we work in service to the city explains an enormous amount about our work.” Producer Dan Andries says, “Stepping out of the production van with the cameraman the first morning in Fort Worth we could see what we couldn’t see from architectural photography and Google maps; the way Schwarz’s buildings fit together in the block by block streetscape of the Sundance Square area. We were eager to work capturing that. Plus it was much warmer than Chicago.” Host Geoffrey Baer found Schwarz a compelling person to interview. “He is so deeply aware of the effect his buildings will have on everyone, not just the client or the occupants,” Baer said. “His commitment and passion for making places humane and livable for everyone really comes through when you talk to him.”
In addition to Schwarz himself, interviewees include Craig Williams, a partner at David M. Schwarz Architects (DMSAS); firm architects Sean Nohelty and Gregory Hoss; Schwarz's Fort Worth client Ed Bass; Southlake developer Frank Bliss; former Texas Ranger co-owner Tom Schieffer; Cook Children's Medical Center President Nancy Cychol; architect Robert Miller; and UIC professor emeritus Robert Bruegmann.
WTTW has also developed a robust companion website where audiences can explore the works of the architect in images, video and text. Visitors can view a photo slideshow, watch web-exclusive video and the program in its entirety, and trace a timeline of Schwarz’s career. Also included will be a special interactive section on wayfinding, one of Schwarz’s specialties.
Major funding for Street Smarts: Architect David M. Schwarz is provided by the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture through the generous support from The Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust.
Street Smarts: Architect David M. Schwarz is produced by Daniel Andries, written by Daniel Andries and Geoffrey Baer, and hosted by Geoffrey Baer. Director of Photography and Editor is Tim Boyd. Associate Producer is Liz Reeves. The film’s original soundtrack is composed by Nicholas Tremulis, produced and edited by Rick Barnes and Andy Shoemaker, and recorded at Rax Trax Recording.
Geoffrey Baer is a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and program host for WTTW in Chicago. He is best known as the host and writer of WTTW’s popular feature-length specials about Chicago architecture and history including Chicago’s Lakefront, Chicago by Boat: the New River Tour, Chicago’s Loop: a Walking Tour, Chicago by ‘L’: Touring the Neighborhoods, Biking the Boulevards, Chicago Time Machine, and most recently Where in Chicago, as well as six programs covering virtually all of Chicago’s suburban areas. He took viewers on a culinary tour in The Foods of Chicago: a Delicious History, which was nominated for a coveted James Beard Award, and explored the surprising side of the city in Hidden Chicago. In May 2013, he hosted the national PBS special 10 Buildings That Changed America. He and WTTW producer Dan Protess are currently working on a new three-part series for PBS to air nationally in 2015. Mr. Baer also appears regularly on WTTW’s flagship nightly public affairs program Chicago Tonight answering viewers’ questions about Chicago architecture and history in a segment called Ask Geoffrey.
Daniel Andries is a Senior Producer at WTTW, where he has worked since 2000. His work over half a decade as Series Producer of Artbeat Chicago, WTTW’s weekly arts magazine series, earned a number of Emmy Awards for himself, the show, and its producers and hosts. His 2012 documentary Architect Michael Graves: A Grand Tour, co-written with Geoffrey Baer, was shown nationally on PBS, was a selection of the Chicago International Television Festival and won two Emmy Awards. He and Baer also made documentaries on architects Robert A.M. Stern, Thomas Beeby and Italian architect Pier Carlo Bontempi. His documentary Jeanne Gang: The Sky’s The Limit, produced for PBS, won an Emmy for its videography and was featured in the 2012 Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York. Other work includes Cannot Live Without: Illinois Artists at Work, Beauty Rises: Four Lives in the Arts, Remembering Ed Paschke, arts reporting for Chicago Tonight, Executive Producer for Arts Across Illinois and producer of Arts Across Illinois: CenterStage and The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Daniel previously worked with Geoffrey Baer as producer of Chicago by Boat: The New River Tour and The Southwest Suburbs: Birthplace of Chicago. Other credits include Out & Proud in Chicago, Irish Chicago, and DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis.
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