Anyone up for a quick trip to Chicago?

Posted: April 25, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve got to get out more.

Chicago's Millennium Park

I recently wrote about security issues facing public spaces, and although the post received no “official” comments, it did generate some discussion in other venues.  In a LinkedIn discussion group, a landscape architect from Chicago brought up the differences between an interactive public space and one that’s more passive.  A passive space is more about relaxing and sitting on a bench and watching the world go by.  An interactive space encourages the public to more directly get involved.  Don’t just look at the water feature, get wet.  Don’t just walk through a park, stay and watch a concert.  Don’t just look at art from a distance, walk around, under it, on it and touch it.  The interactive public space draws a broader cross-section of people and through inclusion, creates a safer public space.  The Chicago landscape architect used an example she was familiar with – Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.

Although this blog is intended to be about West Virginia public spaces, I’m all for learning from other places, especially when it’s a mind-blowing space like Millennium Park.  Now I’ve never been to Millennium Park.  I’ve never been to Chicago.  But through the magic of the internet, I’ve learned enough about the park to know it’s now on my list of must-see places.  Take a look for yourself.  I’m not sure where to start, but I love water features so let’s start there.

The Crown Fountain is something else.  Two fifty-foot glass-block towers face each other, separated by a reflecting pool.  Water shoots from each tower into the pool.  But what makes this fountain (if you really want to use such a mundane term for a spectacular effect) are the images projected on each tower.  Faces of Chicago residents are projected onto the towers in such a way as to create the illusion that water is spouting from their mouths.  I have got to see this in person.

Crown Fountain

Then there’s Cloud Gate, a huge, highly polished, stainless steel sculpture that looks like a giant bean from an alien space ship.  Not only can you see distorted reflections of the Chicago skyline on its surface, you can walk up to it, touch, and walk under it.  I have got to see this in person.

Cloud Gate

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a Frank Gehry-designed concert venue, looks like the alien mother ship that birthed the giant, stainless-steel bean.  I have got to see this in person.

Pritzker Pavilion

And there is so much more.  Gardens, pavilions, galleries, an amazing Frank Gehry bridge.  I have got to see this place in person.

Ok.  Back down to earth.  Chicago is Chicago.  What can we learn that applies to public spaces in West Virginia?

First, I’ll restate the mantra that I learned from the great Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham, “Make no small plans”.  Too often we’re afraid to think big.  We need to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and embrace bold ideas and concepts.

I think my colleague in Chicago is right when stressing the interactive nature of public spaces, especially when addressing areas that have troubling socio-economic or geographical contextual challenges.  In other words, if we’re wanting to transform a public space that has a history of problems, we have to draw a broad cross-section of people.  And we need more than benches to do that.  We have to think of interactive solutions.

Enjoy this trip to Chicago.

Millennium Park Overview

Come home with fresh ideas.

  1. Nelle Chilton says:

    First, I love your Blog. Thank you Sara Hobitzell for making me aware of it. this is just the kind of dialogue that I hope will generate interest and projects for our public spaces. However, for some reason I can’t get the RSS fed to work so that I can get updates on Google Reader. I am no pro at this so maybe I am doing it wrong. Google Reader also cant seem to find your blog when I search for it. Is anyone else having trouble?

    • Joseph Bird says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I have heard of some trouble with the RSS feed. I’ll recruit some tech help and see if I can’t get it fixed.

    • Joseph Bird says:

      Regarding RSS feeds…I had a friend try the RSS feed and everything worked as it is supposed to. Then I tried to search for the site using Google Reader and at first got no results. I then searched for the entire address and still got no results, but Google suggested that I click their wording using the same address. When I clicked on their suggestion, the proper link came up. Cumbersome, but it worked.

      Anybody have other suggestions?

  2. I had the chance to go to Millenium Park about 3 years ago when my son lived nearby. Really beautiful and unique. We took photo of our distored reflections in the “bean”. Also got to visit several museums and the aquarium and go to the John Hancock building and eat some Chicago Pizza…

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