Innovative Method soap factory shows historic Chicago’s Pullman has a future

Innovative method soap factory shows historic pullman has a future
The new Method soap factory in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood is seen April 23, 2015

When President Barack Obama declared historic Pullman a national monument in February, the focus was on the past: the company town of railroad carmaker George Pullman, the violent labor strike of 1894 and the Pullman porters who set the stage for the civil rights movement.

On Tuesday, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at the official opening of an innovative new soap factory in Pullman, the spotlight will shift to the present and future: a ray of hope and 60, eventually 100, jobs for a Far South Side community that needs them.

Then there’s the building itself — a plain concrete box that comes with green-tinged bells and whistles such as a 230-foot-tall wind turbine, computer-driven solar “trees” that shift position with the sun and a rooftop greenhouse for growing lettuce, kale and other produce.

Yes, it’s going to grow stuff you eat, on the roof of a soap factory.

The greenhouse, the building’s architect quips, is based on the idea that “farm follows function.”

The $30 million factory for Method, a San Francisco-based maker of hip-looking, eco-friendly cleaning products, is by no means a great or even good work of architecture. But it does the basics of form and function right, so there’s something more than spin to the company’s nickname for the building — “The South Side Soapbox.” []