On Friday, the National Park Service de-designated Chicago's Soldier Field from its list of national historic landmarks. The 2003, $660,000,000 project , which saw a completely new stadium built within the original 1924 arcades, has spawned both heated debate over its architectural merits and a surfeit of nonsense over its landmark status.
In a Saturday story in the Chicago Tribune, reporter Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah quotes Ben Wood, whose firm Wood+Zapata collaborated on the new design with Lohan Associates as having "blamed the media, especially Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, saying a barrage of unfavorable commentary influenced the federal decision." Kamin had made the new Soldier Field his own Baby Richard, filling up column after column of derisive critiques even after all doubt that the project would be built had been removed, and lauded the idea of stripping landmark designation as validating his campaign. In the opposing camp, the Trib says the city is claiming that designation was never about architecture - only about all the historic events that took place in the stadium.
A lot of spin avoiding the real issue. It's not that Soldier Field is a bad building, but that it is a new building. Keeping the colonnades doesn't make it the 1920's Soldier Field any more than placing 1989's 37-story Chase Plaza at 10 S. LaSalle between the Holabird & Roche's first and second floor facades makes the resulting structure that firm's 1912 Otis Building. No building, no matter how worthy, is designated a landmark the moment it opens - it usually takes fifty years or more. Soldier Field is dead, long live Soldier Field. Come back in a few decades, and we'll see if it's still considered an embarrassment, or if our successors will be fighting, in their turn, to keep it from the wrecker's ball.