From the 1909 Plan of Chicago, a view by Jules Guerin.
I really do want to get back to exploring some issues related to urban infrastructure and the next city, but I keep getting distracted by wacky news items.
As most of you know, Chicago celebrates the centennial of the 1909 Plan of Chicago next year, and the City is planning a whole host of events, celebrations, conversations and exhibitions to mark the date, look back to a critical moment in the life of Chicago, and look forward to meeting the challenges the City faces in the future. I am worried that this will be more laudatory and celebratory than challenging, provocative or useful, but I am hopeful that some good things will happen.
But less hopeful today than yesterday. This morning I learned that a cabal of Chicagons – many of them friends! – have decided to invite starchitects Zaha Hadid (London) and Ben van Berkel (Amsterdam) to design temporary pavilions in Millennium Park for the celebration.
Zaha Hadid’s Innsbruck subway station; Ben van Berkel’s (UNStudio) Mercedes Museum
Now mind you, I’m not cranky that they did not invite Chicagoans, though I do recall much text in the 1909 Plan that talked about urban patriotism, which should have at least given them pause. But so be it. It’s a grand celebration.
What bothers me is the fear that making a statement may well be more important to these Chicagoans than what gets said. They go and hire the flashiest celebrities they can find – will they get style or substance in return? In this age when personal expression seems to valued above any kind of civility, this could be dangerous stuff.
I hope Chicago gets more for its money than the architectural equivalent of loud blabbering on some jerk’s cell phone: a lot of noise, and who cares, anyway?