Stickbulb introduced a suspended light sculpture inspired by and made from the striking ruins of a storied Chicago factory. Designed in collaboration with RUX, the founding creative team behind Stickbulb, Fire and Ice hangs in the balance between destruction and creation, historic and contemporary, visceral and cerebral. From some angles, the form appears to collapse under its own weight, while from others it reveals its strength and geometric resolve. This light sculpture follows the success of their 2017 Ambassador installation at Collective Design turning 300-year-old redwood into a portal of otherworldly light, which won overall Best in Show for NYCxDESIGN.
“Fire and Ice is a dynamic experience, portraying both fragmentation and fortitude, enticing visitors to experience the installation from all angles,” says Stickbulb Co-Founder Christopher Beardsley.
Made possible through the use of newly developed hardware connectors, the sleek wooden LED beams seemingly splinter in the air, floating above fragments of the former Pullman Couch Factory alongside a large-scale limited edition art print of the building in its last moments. When the 100-year-old Pullman Couch Company building caught fire on January 22, 2013, one third of the Chicago fire department turned out to battle the flames in sub-zero temperatures. As the firefighters doused the structure in water, it froze into a palace of ice around the building’s smoldering core. The clash of elemental opposites created an event of great visual and poetic power, earning what was left of the building the name “Fire and Ice.”
“A material does not exist in a vacuum. Provenance matters,” says RUX Founder and Stickbulb Co-Founder Russell Greenberg. “We want to make things of meaning from parts that themselves have meaning. Out of this genuine respect for material origin will come a softer, more sustainable, more meaningful built environment.”
Fire and Ice is part of Stickbulb’s ongoing mission to elevate material provenance to the same stature as form and function in the realm of design manufacturing. Long Leaf, or Heart Pine as it is commonly known, once covered about 90 million acres of southeastern United States, and was logged to near extinction in order to feed an insatiable building boom in many cities including New York and Chicago. As heartwood takes a minimum of 200 to 400 years to mature, practically the only American heartwood to be found today is through salvage from structures such as the Pullman Couch Factory. With the creation of Fire and Ice, Stickbulb celebrates the re-use of natural materials while preserving the beauty of this ancient wood.
Part of RUX Studios, Stickbulb was co-founded in 2012 by RUX Founder and Creative Director Russell Greenberg and RUX Managing Partner Christopher Beardsley as a way to combine their mutual love of architecture, modular systems, and sustainable manufacturing.
About Pullman Couch Company
An offshoot of the well-known rail car manufacturer, the Pullman Couch Company was a large furniture-manufacturing concern, one of the largest in the country, turning out bed davenports with chairs to match, living room suites, and other pieces. A 1914 ad for the Rothchild and Company department store proclaimed that the Pullman Revolving Seat Bed Davenports were “known all over the United States”.
The Pullman Couch stake on the Ashland manufacturing district began at 38th and Ashland, where a five-bay factory in unornamented brick at 3759 S. Ashland was erected in 1911, with an additional story tacked on two years later, both by district architect R.S. Lindstrom.
In 1917, Pullman Couch purchased the empty lot to the north from the Union Bag & Paper Company (December 14, 1917Tribune), whose 1915 building still stands at 3737 Ashland (S. Scott Joy, district architect – May 22 & 23, 1915 Tribune). In 1919, Pullman Couch filled in the lot with an expansion that doubled the size of their plant, and reskinned the front facade to present a unified building to the street, again to the designs of Joy.
The resultant building was a powerful Chicago School statement with Prairie School influences, with red brick piers separating broad expanses of windows. The piers are “pinned” to the roofline by ornamental cartouches, a visual technique used by Louis Sullivan in several famous commercial buildings, including Chicago’s Gage Building. Pullman Couch’s initials (PCCo) were integrated into the building’s ornament. Lumber and Veneer Consumer waxes ecstatic about the plant’s use of new and innovative machinery in its manufacturing processes
By 1969, 3757 S. Ashland was occupied by the Howard Parlor Furniture Company, makers of upholstered furniture, founded in 1934 by husband-and-wife founders Peter and Rose Niederman. Ms. Niederman died in 1977; two years later, the company’s assets were liquidated at auction.
The final occupant was the Harris Marcus Group, a high-end lamp manufacturer, which remained from the 1980s until around 2003. The old factory had stood empty until the fire in 2013.
Text Source for Pullman Couch Company: A Chicago Sojourn