Saturday, October 07, 2006

Chicago's Orchard Street - Urban Menace?

Today's Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine is largely devoted to how the city's wealthy elite are creating mega-mansion mania on a several block stretch of Orchard Street in the city's Lincoln Park area. "There goes the neighborhood," is the Trib's Blair Kamin's take. Why?

What's really going on? Is the Tribune Sunday Magazine, in the words of its editor, "indulging in real estate pornography?" Or should we all lighten up and just enjoy it? Read all about it - and see all the photos - here.


Mendel said...

I read those articles in the Tribune. I agree with some of the criticisms of some of the designs, such as the poor detailing and 'cheap' looking Pella windows on some.

But my biggest problem is the curb-cuts for the attached garages and the subsequent driveway pits (esp. on the small sinlge lot buildings). This is a problem that, unfortunately, can't really be overcome in an equitable manner. The driveways/curb-cuts are there to meet the parking requirements and becuase many of these houses don't have alleys.

Overall, though, I really don't see what the problem is? Aren't the harshest critics really just making subjective arguments? It's like arguing that milk chocolate is superior to dark chocolate.

As for the concern about using mulitple lots to build, from a development/planning standpoint, there's really no problem. In the future, one could teardown the building(s)that use the conbination of lots and construct one house per lot again, then further on someone could re-combine, then de-separate, ad infinitum...

The critics seem to be thinking about this street only in a snaphot of 'now' rather than thinking about the evolution over time of the neighborhood.

payton said...

Fashions and times change. A great many mansions in Kenwood were chopped into rooming-houses and are now mansions again; "you can turn a palace into a poorhouse, but you can't turn a poorhouse into a palace."

Yet individual bad taste does impact the rest of us when it comes to architecture. Among all the arts, architecture is the most permanent and unavoidable, and as such its practitioners do have to recognize that their clients include the paying client and a broader public. The full-width curb cuts, for instance, do much more damage than necessary; plenty of alley-less cities still have rear garages, or tapered aprons that result in narrower curb cuts. The zoning requirement (one space per house) hardly justifies the three car wide snout.

BTW, dark chocolate has more chocolate and thus is clearly superior.

mendel said...


I still disagree with the seemingly "harm" the design of the facades are really having.

I may be "harmful" to those in a certain school of aesthetics, but really, it's not effecting the health and safety of the neighborhood.

I agree about the curb cuts. If I was doing one of those houses, I would have wanted to keep the garage away from the street, but if the Chicago codes allow what is happening on the street, then...meh.

BTW, I prefer milk chocolate because it is smoother and not as bitter.