Of Chicago’s skyscrapers and their windows (to the world)

Geoffrey Baer
Geoffrey Baer

NOTE: Because of high interest, the venue for this event has been changed to the Regency Room in the Holmes Student Center.

Is Chicago truly the birthplace of the skyscraper? And what makes a building a skyscraper anyway?

Popular Chicago Public Television host Geoffrey Baer will visit the NIU campus next month to provide those answers and more.

A multiple Emmy award-winning writer, producer and host who is well known for his masterful storytelling, Baer will deliver his talk at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, in the Sky Room of the Holmes Student Center.

The event, sponsored by the Friends of the NIU Libraries, is free and open to the public.

Baer will give a capsule history of Chicago’s astonishing and rapid rise from a tiny trading post on the American frontier to a teeming metropolis. The Great Fire of 1871 could have finished off the upstart town, he says, but out of the ashes rose the world’s first city of skyscrapers.

As a bonus, Baer will engage the audience in an interactive quiz based on his newest Public TV program, a quiz show about Chicago history.

“The Friends of the NIU Libraries are absolutely thrilled to be sponsoring a talk by Mr. Baer,” said Lynne Thomas, NIU faculty liaison to Friends of the NIU Libraries. “His depth of knowledge about the history of Chicago and its environs is unparalleled, and we hope everyone comes out to the program to experience it first-hand.”

Baer is most familiar to Chicago audiences for his popular feature-length TV specials about Chicago architecture and history, including “Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour,” “Chicago’s Lakefront,” “Chicago by Boat: the New River Tour,” “Biking the Boulevards,” “The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History” and “Chicago by ‘L’: Touring the Neighborhoods,” as well as six programs covering virtually all of Chicago’s suburban areas.

WTTW logoHe used his vast knowledge of Chicago to develop and host a quiz show for WTTW called “Where in Chicago,” which debuted this past fall.

Baer also appears weekly on WTTW’s flagship nightly news program, “Chicago Tonight,” answering viewers’ questions about Chicago architecture and history in a segment called “Ask Geoffrey.”

Nationally he hosted the PBS primetime special, “Ten Buildings that Changed America,” which debuted in May 2013. More recently he has been traveling the country filming a three-part PBS series about homes, parks and towns that changed America. Other programs seen nationally on Public Television include documentaries about acclaimed international architects Robert A. M. Stern and Michael Graves and “Saved from the Wrecking Ball,” a documentary about the rescue of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House.

In his 25 years at WTTW, Baer has written and produced numerous other documentaries and cultural and entertainment specials for local and national television, and has served as the executive producer of the weekly cultural magazine series, “Artbeat Chicago,” and of the weekly documentary series, “Chicago Stories.”

Baer also has been a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation since 1987, is a board member of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design Society and is an emeritus board member of Lookingglass Theatre Company. He holds a master’s degree in theater from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in radio/TV/film from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

For more information, call (815) 753-9838  or email libraryfriend@niu.edu.

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