Monday, July 12, 2010

A Tribute to Chicago

Chicago is such a beautiful city. I was fortunate to be there three times this year. The architecture in its downtown buildings is second to none. The city has maintained it classically designed buildings, but is certainly in the forefront of modern design. It seems to have avoided the brutalist mistakes of the 1970’s and the post-modern designs of the 1990s, although some postmodern ugliness does exist. But its new buildings are spectacular. The city planners seem to do so much right in the downtown area. They seem to understand that retail is not the salvation of a city, although there is plenty of retail, and that residences alone are not a panacea, although there is much living space in downtown. This city seems to understand that downtowns must be destinations that have attractions that can be found nowhere else in the area. Yes, there are beaches along the lake but Chicago has more than beaches. It has entertainment, e.g., the Navy Pier, the Pritzger amphitheater; it has water features, e.g., the glass blocks that have pictures of Chicagoans as the water-spouting “sculptures”. The city has the Cloud Gate, the ever-fascinating sculpture in Millennium Park. The beautiful Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum and the Aquarium are built on peninsulas that have wonderful views of the skyline. Downtown Chicago is a place where people want to be, just not those who live in the high-rises. Many other cities could learn lessons on design from Chicago. I think of Chattanooga and Pittsburgh that have done a good job of making their riverfronts accessible and pedestrian friendly. But they lack the energy, and yes, fun that Chicago has given its lake front. In Pittsburgh, the river walks are good for bicyclists and runners- not for people seeking a hotdog, a fun time, or even a restroom.

I spent several hours in the Chicago Art Institute. I thought I die and went to heaven. Its collection of modern art (post 1990) is extraordinary. It has Picasso, Seurat (the” Grand Jatte” in all of its glory), Magritte, Brancusi, Giacometti, Braque, Bolotowsky, Mondrian, and the list goes on. Its contemporary collection is no less impressive. The Institute’s new Modern wing is a study on how a solid structure can be designed to look light

On my last night, I attended a concert in the Pritzger amphitheater. In the warm Chicago evening, it was a thrill to be seated in an outdoor structure designed by Frank Gehry surrounded by magnificent skyscrapers. This is truly America’s city Beautiful.

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