A. Marek, JCK Magazine


A. Marek

3021 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook, Ill.

Store We Adore

By Ashley Devick

This story appears in the 

March 2014 issue of JCK magazine

A. Marek

Photographs by Callie Lipkin

Luxury retailers in Chicago tend to congregate around posh shopping districts such as the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street on the Gold Coast. But A. Marek—an opulent jewelry boutique located 15 miles from downtown—went against the grain. Owner Barbara Bradford, a staple in Chicago’s philanthropic community, chose to set up shop in the city’s western suburbs, having previously lived in Oak Brook. Her instincts were spot-on. Since opening in 2008, A. Marek has established a reputation that draws clientele from around the city. “It’s amazing how people will take the time to come out and find us,” says store director Romana Malinowski (pictured).

Public Relationships

Customized with crystal chandeliers and pale ­lavender walls featuring a signature fleur de lis motif, the boutique certainly looks the part of a ­high-end jewel box. The displays tell a story of their own. From classical pieces by Buccellati to statement treasures by Cynthia Bach, the jewelry at A. Marek is united by one distinction: All the pieces are heirloom ­jewels from firms that excel at old-world ­craftsmanship (Carrera y Carrera, Oscar Heyman, and ­Picchiotti, to name a few). Despite the ­sophistication of the selection, the space boasts a familiar vibe that is as aspirational as it is welcoming, ­re-creating the ­old-fashioned comfort of ­jewelry buying. “We’ve made it a point to be ­different,” Malinowski says. “But ­different in the sense where it’s how the experience should have been—­how people remember back in the days when they experienced jewelry shopping. At the end of the day, we find that people really want a relationship.”

Door-to-Door Service

Because suburban Chicago isn’t a well-known ­luxury-shopping destination, creative approaches to marketing make all the difference. “We have the most incredible jewels,” Malinowski says matter-of-factly, “but it was really hard to get that word out.” (She calls A. Marek “the best-kept secret in Oak Brook”—a compliment, to be sure, but not ­necessarily the ­reputation a retailer tries to ­cultivate.) Recognizing that the biggest hurdle to getting people into the store was transportation, she decided to make it easy on clients. “We provide car service,” Malinowski says. Many customers, she adds, like to gather a group of girlfriends and make an afternoon out of it; they’ll shop, have lunch, and then travel back to the city together. “When you’re at this level, you should have that ultimate experience,” she says. “I think we really blow people away.”

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

But what would an experience be without something beautiful to try on? Malinowski carefully curates pieces from experienced and established designers from all over the world that demonstrate a commitment to quality and artistic integrity. Expect each item to be authentic and accompanied by documentation to support the quality of the pieces. And if it’s not on site, Malinowski and the A. Marek team will find it for you: “There’s not a thing that you could ask for that I can’t get my hands on, because of the reputation we’ve established in such a short time.”

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Q and A with Dirk Lohan, from Architect's Paper



The Chicago-based architect speaks about developing a style different from that of his grandfather, Mies van der Rohe.


Chicago-based architect Dirk Lohan enjoyed a career enhanced only slightly by his grandfather, Ludwig Mies Van de Rohe. Mies provided Lohan with cigars, martinis, and weekly dinners, influencing his work ethic from the beginning. After his grandfather died in 1969, Lohan took his own career by the reigns, winning projects like the design of the McDonald’s headquarters. During this assignment Ray Kroc successor Fred Turner encouraged Lohan to think beyond a Miesian style, which he did. Other career highlights include the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the redesign of Soldier Field. At 75, Lohan has no plans to throw in the towel. He spoke to Ashley Devick for AN.



Ashley Devick: How has your family legacy impacted your professional career?

Dirk Lohan: I grew up with full knowledge of the existence of my grandfather, who was in America—in Chicago—while I grew up in Germany. But my room as a child was plastered with pictures of his buildings. In fact, one of my favorite stories is that in 1952, after the 860/880 Lake Shore Drive buildings were done, which are really important milestones in 20th century architecture, there was a picture of an inside view of one of the apartments. Looking down you could see Lake Shore Drive with all the cars going by. As a 14 or 15 year old I said, “One day I’m going to live there.” And I do. I moved finally last year into 880 Lakeshore Drive. I have a wonderful apartment on the top floor. The view is exactly like it was when I was 15 years old. That’s a long time ago.

You have gone on to have a really successful career of your own. What tools did you learn in your younger days that you carried with you through the years and applied to your professional career?

Well, I think that perhaps the most important thing I learned from him, and the people surrounding him that had been with him for a long time, was the extreme attention to the quality of the work—the care and the attitude that architecture is serious business. As he said, you can’t invent a new architecture every Monday morning. Meaning, it doesn’t come easy. It takes awhile to figure it all out, to try it, test it, and so on. So I think it’s the approach to it that I like to think I share with him.

What was one of the biggest challenges of your career?

Really, every project in a way is a challenge because there is always something new. And I’ve really enjoyed in my career to be able to do very different buildings and not just the same hospital type of thing again and again and again. Almost everything I have done was unique—the Shedd Oceanarium, the Adler Planetarium, or Soldier Field, the football stadium. I had never done a football stadium. For the aquarium, I didn’t know how whales and dolphins had to be kept, but you learn these things.



Those are a wide variety of different projects. So would you even be able to describe your design style?

I’d like to be able to say that it is partially contextual and the other aspect is that I do think of the people that use the buildings. I like to create a feeling of comfort and warmth. Certainly I use warmer materials than my grandfather did. He was more cerebral. Contextual to me means I think about the surrounding buildings, whether it’s in the landscape or whether it’s in the city.

I know that Soldier Field was probably one of your more challenging projects because of all of the public criticism.


Looking back, hindsight being 20/20, would you do anything differently?

Not really, no. I think despite all of the initial opposition to it, particularly from the Tribune, it has died down. And a lot of people have come up to me and said, “You know, it’s really very nice. I like it.” This happens a lot with good or important architecture. People at first say this is so different and so alien or whatever and then with time it grows into the city and it becomes part of the picture. And that’s what happened with Soldier Field.

Do you have one particular building that has always inspired you?

One building I sort of also grew up with, as a young architect student is Crown Hall at Illinois Institute of Technology, which is the architecture school. That is a wonderful building, column free—the whole floor plate has no columns in it.

What about the broader horizon? How long do you think you will keep doing it?

Me? You know it’s interesting. I never would have though that I would be doing this for so long. But it’s a good thing to have something that keeps you going. To get up and go to work is healthy. Rolling over five more times in bed is not so healthy. So I probably will do it a few more years. As long as people think I’m okay. I mean, my grandfather was 83 when he died and he had just gotten the IBM building. He was maybe 80 years old at that time. I’m not yet 80 and still pretty healthy and vital.

So what’s been the highlight of your career?

You’re not going to ask me, I hope, what is the favorite building of those that you’ve done. Because people always ask that and I never know. Generally speaking, the last one. It’s like, your last girlfriend or the current girlfriend is the one you love.

Well, I met a lot of wonderful people who were often my clients. To give you one example I did the corporate headquarters project for the McDonalds in Oak Brook, the whole campus. That was a competition and I was very young. I was in my early 30s. There were people from different places around the country all making designs. And we made a design and went through the period of interviewing with management and the executives. The CEO was Fred Turner, the successor to Ray Kroc. And one day after one or two interviews had already taken place he called. “Dirk, this is Fred Turner.” I said, “Yes, Fred.” “Can you come and see me,” he said. I said, “When would you like me to do that?” And he said, “Well, now.” So I drove out and when I get there nobody was in his office but there was a bottle of champagne with two glasses. And I thought, that’s not a bad sign. Well anyway, he gave me the job. And he said two things: My competition entry was, shall we say, still a little bit Miesian—rigid and rectilinear and things like that. He said, “I want to hire you, but not because I like your design so much. But I think we can work together very well.” That was an interesting little detail. And then he said, “I want your design, not a Mies design.” And that was only a few years after Mies, my grandfather, had died. So he challenged me. And that was wonderful, and it made a difference to me.

Ashley Devick

Pushing Up - Architect's Paper

BlitzLake promotes Hirsch Associates-designed project for Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.


The epicenter of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is the intersection of Clark and Belmont, where people come from all over the city to enjoy boutique shopping and eclectic cuisine. But despite the high-traffic—the nearby elevated train station alone sees 41 million passengers each year—the neighborhood lacked a centerpiece. If developer BlitzLake Capital Partners has its way, however, that could be soon changing. The corner lot, currently home to a large parking lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts, has changed hands after 50 years. Plans for a new mixed-use development are in the making.

BlitzLake purchased the property at 3200 North Clark Street in June, with the notion of building a complex with 100 residential apartment units—a combination of studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms meant to appeal to the young urban professional—115 parking spaces, and 50,000 square feet of retail space. “We wanted to bring a more vibrant, architecturally beautiful building, cultivating the right number of units and retail space,” said BlitzLake Capital managing principal David Blitz. “It’s our intent to put a grocer as the anchor tenant, as well as cultivating the smaller, local shops to promote local small businesses in the retail section.”

The proposed design is 11 stories at its highest point, and features a glass and glazed terracotta facade. BlitzLake is currently waiting for final approval from the alderman and local community groups before moving forward.

Finding the right design for the area proved to be a labor of love. “Initially we proposed a 9-story glass building with no set backs,” said Blitz. The community wasn’t on board. Alderman Tom Tunney encouraged the team to look toward landmark buildings in other neighborhoods as inspiration. He pointed to Wicker Park’s Northwest Building. A presentation from the developers added another art deco tower on a corner lot in a nearby high-traffic intersection: the Bridgeview Bank building in Uptown.

“He wanted something that inspired people to say this was the heart of the Lakeview Neighborhood,” said Howard Hirsch, president of Hirsch Associates, the architect on the project. According to Andrew Myren, project designer and director of design at Hirsch Associates, the final product puts a new twist on an old concept, making some references back to early high-rises in Chicago. The design features a tower on the corner and lower-rise elevations on the streets. The finishes blend in with the traditional terracotta buildings that are prevalent in the Lakeview neighborhood. “We were able to create a building that transitioned to the scale of the neighborhood, while still allowing this taller corner element to be the landmark,” said Hirsch.

Despite the recent modifications in the design, there are still some groups against the new development. The initial rendering was criticized for using materials that stood out in the neighborhood, plus the height was uniform on all sides, blocking views from existing buildings. Now critics are focused on how the new development will impact traffic patterns, property taxes, and neighborhood retailers. Meetings have been held to address the concerns, but those conversations are ongoing.

“For the most part it has been very well received by the neighbors,” said Tunney spokesperson Erin Duffy. “The new revision is just a lot more prominent and I think people are a lot more pleased with the architecture of the building and how it has been designed.”

If approved, the project could break ground as early as this summer, with a lead-time of 15 to 18 months.

Ashley Devick

CURE Foundation - Sarajevo

https://vimeo.com/76989849 The CURE Foundation in Sarajevo is paving the way for the future feminists of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lucky for us, a conference was taking place during our visit so we got to see roughly 80 women from all over the Balkans come together in support of women's activism.

The CURE Foundation also plays host to the art and music festival called "Pitchwise." We were only able to get a taste of the wide variety of speakers and artists they had on hand to educate and support young women. It was a great experience. The kind and progressive nature of these women made us feel very hopeful for the women's movement on an international level.

Roma Women for a Better Future - Tuzla

Visiting the city of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the most unique and wonderful travel experiences I have ever had. We only stayed for two short days, but in that time met a group of absolutely amazing women.

The Roma Women Association for a Better Future hosted a conference while we were there, celebrating the completion of a project they had worked on in conjunction with CARE International. The project provided Roma women with the resources to empower them economically, by giving them agricultural resources or the products needed to start a business that would enable them to support their family's and their community's.

After spending just a short time with them we were moved by their generosity, kindness and welcoming nature.