Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pritzker-Prize Winner Wang Shu, plus Perrault, Arets, Frampton, Zardini, Ponte, birthday Mies, Pecha Kucha, Preservation Bingo, and lots more - yes, it's the March Calendar!

Yes, it's time to again start rolling the boulder up the mountain, with another month full of great programs on the March Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

It kicks off Friday morning, March 1st, with the SEAOI 2013 Trade Show at the University Club,  Rick Valicenti presenting a keynote for the two-day Chicago Creative Expo at the Cultural Center, and, in the evening, new IIT College of Architecture Dean Wiel Arets treading on Frank Lloyd Wright turf with A Wonderful World, a lecture at Unity Temple in Oak Park.

March also includes appearances of two world renowned architects, with Dominique Perrault, talking about The Disappearance of Architecture: Between Presence and Absence, at IIT's Wishnick Auditorium on the 27th, while 2012 Pritzker Prize winner Wang Shu appears at Rubloff Auditorium for the Architecture and Design Society of the Art Institute on Thursday, the 28th.

On the academics front, there's Mirko Zardini, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Monday the 11th at UIC, which also hosts Alessandra Ponte of L'École d’architecture de l'Université de Montréal on the 18th, while over at IIT, Kenneth Frampton talks about The Past and Future Prospects for Architectural Education on the 14th

This month's theme for CAF's lunchtime lectures is Mod Squad Chicago, with Bauhaus and Beyond's Joan Gand talking about the Hidden Gems of Mid-Century, Keck and Keck on Wednesday the 6th,  Richard Becker and Lisa Skolnick discussing Edward Dart's Ancel House on the 13th, and Chicago at Midcentury: Images by Lee Bey  on the 20th.

March is Mies month (actually, in Chicago, every month is Mies month), with the celebration of the master's birthday 127th on the 13th at Crown Hall, where Christianne Lange lectures on Mies Van der Rohe in Krefeld on the 27th, Edward Windhorst talks about Mies van der Rohe and Historic Preservation: A Report and Prognosis at the Cultural Center on the 21st for Landmarks Illinois, and Windhorst joins up with his co-author Franz Schulze at CAF lunchtime on the 27th to talk about Rewriting the Life of Mies can der Rohe: New Perspectives after 25 years.

And, really, how many chances do you have to combine supporting Chicago's architectural history with Bingo? Well, Preservation Chicago will be offering up just such a combination with their Chicago Seven Bingo fundraiser, on, appropriately enough, the 7th, anticipating the release of this year's list of the seven most endangered buildings the following week. 

Tuesday the 5th, Pecha Kucha returns to Martyr's for its Volume #25.   For its monthly dinner meeting, SEOAI has John R. Hillman talking about the engineering of the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge over Lake Shore Drive on the 12th at the Parthenon, the same evening  Lynn Allyn Young is over at the Glessner House Museum to talk about her book, Beautiful Dreamer - The Completed Works and Unfilled plans of Sculptor Lorado Taft

Mel Buchanan recounts the story of Grete Marks: When Modernism was Degenerate, Thursday the 7th at Second Presbyterian Meanwhile, over at the Driehaus Museum on the 14th, Rolf Achilles discusses the lesser-known stained glass artisans who created Great Midwestern Panes.

I'm sure we'll be adding even more, but even now there are nearly fifty great items to check out on the March Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

World's Only Architectural Comedy? A Look at Jacques Tati's Masterpiece: Playtime, Thursday at the Music Box

click images for larger view
You have one more chance to see the enthralling Playtime the way it was meant to be seen, in a 70mm print, at the Music Box this Thursday, February 28th.
Not many filmmakers get to build their own city, but that's exactly what French film director Jacques Tati did for his masterpiece, Playtime.  It wasn't the Glory of Rome or Ancient Egypt that Tati reproduced, however, but the perfect modern city of the mid 1960's.  On an open field east of Paris, Tati turned architect and created the urban fragment that came to be known as Tativille, a combination of airport, shops and office blocks all designed in the most perfect shiny emptiness of the late International Style.  It was the most expensive film ever made in France, and it would go on to send Tati into bankruptcy.  And on the site of Tativille, left not a trace behind.
“My job is not to rubbish the architecture,” said Tati in a series of quotes from a number interviews collected on the fabulous Tativille website. “I'm there to try to defend the individual and the personality that is his. ”
For the entire beginning of the film Playtime I direct people so that they are following the guidelines of the architects.  Everyone operates at right angles to the decor, people feel trapped by it.  If M. Hulot comes into a small shop, a haberdasher's say, and drops his umbrella, the haberdasher will say to him ‘Sorry, Sir.  You've dropped your umbrella. - Ah, sorry.’ It's a matter of no importance.  But because of the size of the set, if you drop your umbrella in the hall of Orly, straight away it's a different story. Because everything had been planned and decided on by developers and the architects of the complex so that the umbrella should not be dropped in Orly.  And precisely because of the clatter which a falling umbrella makes in Orly you are guilty of acting in a dangerous manner.  You have become the focus of attention.   The architect might be there, saying his piece, ‘Sir, when we designed this place we didn't envisage you dropping your umbrella.’
In modern architecture an attempt as been made to ensure typists sit perfectly straight and that everyone takes themselves seriously.  Everyone walks around with a briefcase which seems to give them the appearance of being well-informed.  In the first part of the film it's the architecture which is dominant.

The big joke of Playtime is that the generic universal space of modernism engenders an ambiguity so profound as to be unsuitable to the specificity of human life.  The relentless transparency repels occupation - people seem as trapped inside as a deer in headlights - and provides a visual sense of  unity that is ultimately a frustrating illusion.  We encounter this theme very early in the film, when a man with a cigarette leans in towards a security guard to get a light, only to be waved brusquely away.  For a split-second, we think the guard is simply being rude, until we realize  that he's waving the man with the cigarette away because they are on opposite sides of a huge pane of glass.
The front end of Playtime is a constantly delightful set of variations on this basic theme, including an extended sequence where two families live out their lives as exposed as on Facebook, in abutting apartments behind huge shop windows that project their every action to passersby as if they were a reality show on a life-sized big screen TV.
Tati doesn't just get the look of it nailed - his roomful of work cubicles actually is prophetic - but also the acoustics, so often ignored by architects themselves.  From the airy vacuum-quality silence of a glass-sealed room, to the unmistakable sound of a hinged glass door swinging open and closing with a swish of air and a throaty metallic clunk, Tati captures in a way any documentarian would envy the full visceral experience of what it is like to occupy these spaces.
 In Playtime's extended finale, the perfect modernism of the earlier film is deconstructed, at an opening night of an ultrachic restaurant.  It is a machine for leisure, in the LeCorbusier sense, but also like an extreme version of LeCorbusier, no one seems to be having much fun.  Then the well-oiled machine starts to break down, and the patrons and staff begin to wreck the perfectly-coiffed interior.

Always, this kind of destructive slapstick in a film is an outburst of brutal rage.  Think Laurel and Hardy, or the Service Station sequence in Mad, Mad World.  It is a cathartic, Dionysian expression of the Id's rawest annihilating power.

In Playtime, in contrast to everything else I've ever seen, the destruction not only liberates, it finds a place of grace. Says Tati . . .
Then, little by little, the warmth, the contract, the friendship, the individual that I am trying to defend begin to take precedence over this international decor.  It's at this point that illuminated advertising begins to appear, things begin to whirl then to dance before ending in a veritable merry-go-round.  No more right angles at the end of the film.  
As their elegant surroundings crumble around them, and they become increasingly drunk, staff and guests lose their haughty aloofness, with its implicit boundaries of class, and the restaurant is transformed from a ritual of affluence to a giant, rowdy playground.  It's as if the restaurant itself has grown drunk, and in the process, the design loses its compulsion to control in favor of becoming a reflection of the very flawed human beings it was built for.
 The diners escape the constricted space of their individual booths, where the waiters push the tables back into position to lock them in like a vise. They crowd the dance floor.  They table hop with strangers, and fill up the impromptu bistro that the pushy American sets up under a collapsed wine rack.  The beautiful young girl in the green dress, whom we've followed throughout the film, steps up on a stage that had been abandoned by the band when the ceiling caved in, and begins to play the piano.  M. Hulot brings her a drink, and some food.   A middle-aged woman gets up beside the piano and begins to sing.  Two of the musicians return to join the jam.
When I first saw the restored Playtime, over ten years ago during it's 70mm debut at the Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute, I watched the above scene, like the whole of the film, with more admiration than engagement.  Seeing it again now, it moves me to tears.  More strongly than anything Rem Koolhaas has ever written, Playtime is a manifesto for messiness in architecture

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dregs and Blind Classics all aquiver: New Skateboarder's Paradise coming to Grant Park

If you're an aquarium chondrichthye, do you consider skateboarding a form of torture? Not that matters.  It's not the skates of the Shedd that are about to be lured to a new home in Grant Park, but their mammalian cousins.

On Wednesday, February 27th, at the meeting of the Grant Park Advisory Council, preliminary plans will be presented for a combined skate park and small outdoor performance area, to be built on the park's south end, around 11th street. Since the new facility is referred to as being ‘below grade’, I'm assuming it's going to be in the area south of the late, epically derelict 12th Street Metra Station.
Design work is reportedly still be to be completed. The new skate park is going to be built with $1 million in TIF funds, with a projected fall 2014 completion date.  It will replace a smaller temporary facility along 9th Street that's been there for a number of years.

The last time we wrote about a new development in this part of Grant Park was back in 2005, where a bunch of hucksters from Palm Springs were promoting a Hollywood-styled Chicago Walk of Fame alongside the Metra tracks from Balbo to 11th street.  It was going to eventually have up 400 or more three-foot granite stars honoring the greats of Chicago past and present, and it wasn't going to cost Chicago a penny.  Which it didn't, because, thankfully, nothing ever came of it.
Having been evicted from their usual location at the Daley Bi Fieldhouse during major construction, Wednesday's meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m., over two miles away, at the Northerly Island Fieldhouse, 1521 South Linn White Drive  (Head past the Aquarium on Solidarity Drive and take a right.)  The meeting is also scheduled to include nomination and election of officers, and an update on Maggie Daley Park.

Read: Seeing MacStars

Rojos at UIC Tonight, plus Nair, Shaw, Atomic West and Democracy and the Built Environment - still more for February!

You might think that at this point, we were just waiting for March and spring, and that February was pretty much finished.  You'd be wrong.  This is one active week on the February Calendar of Chicago Architectural Events.

Today, Monday the 25th, the School of Architecture of UIC kicks off its spring lecture series with Luis Rojo of Rojo/Fernández-Shaw arquitectos of Madrid.  

On Tuesday, the 26th, the Chicago Loop Alliance has its 2013 Annual Meeting, and superstar structural engineer Dr. Shankar Nair lectures of Skyscrapers-Past, Present and Future at CAF for the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, while down at the Koolhaas Campus Center at IIT, Peter Onuf and Marshall Brown will deliver the Benjamin Franklin Lecture: Democracy and the Built Environment.
Wednesday, the 27th, Terry McDonnell talks about engineering the (Sears) Willis Tower Skydeck lunchtime at CAF, while over at the Driehaus Museum, a/k/a/ Nickerson Mansion, Stuart Cohen will discuss The Architecture of Howard Van Doren Shaw: Reimaging the Traditional House.

It all wraps up on Thursday, the 28th, with Navigating Change, an all-day conference of the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association, a Friends of the Parks lecture on Walter Netsch's Legacy, Robert Chattel talking about the The Atomic Wild Wild West at SAIC, and Fritz Haeg discussing Domestic Integrities at the Graham.

To give you a small preview, March begins with a bang on the 1st with the barnstorming new dean Wiel Arets at the College of Architecture at IIT stopping by Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park with A Wonderful World.

More on March later.  For now, there are nearly two dozen great items still to come this month.  Check them all out on the February calendar of Chicago Architectural Events

Friday, February 22, 2013

Retro Saturday - Revisiting Freedom's Limited Run: 4/11/06 - 3/1/09

click images for larger view - illustration: Wikipedia
Not that long ago, Freedom was big.  The 9/11/2001 attack that took down the World Trade Center brought a new appreciation of basic American values, and so it was announced that the WTC would be replaced by what architect Daniel Libeskind called The Freedom Tower, exactly 1776 feet high. A Museum of Freedom was also announced for the Ground Zero site, and in Chicago, the McCormick Tribune Foundation unveiled that it would establish its own Freedom Museum, in the Tribune Tower annex building that was originally constructed as a 600-seat radio studio for WGN.
image: Wikipedia
On April 11, 2006, in a building that had recently been a Hammacher Schlemmer gadget store, the Freedom Museum of Chicago opened its doors for the first time.  Designed by VOA, it had at its center a sculpture by Peter Bernheim and Amy Larimer called 12151791, a name that referenced the ratification date of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  (Freedom of the Press, don't you know.)  Mounted on a framework of wires were a series of stainless steel plates, each inscribed with words commemorating “a historical record of freedom.”
12151791 was to be a work in progress, eventually to number up to 1,000 separate steel plates.  But, just as with the other ‘freedom’ minded projects, ‘eventually’ was never to be.  In New York, Libeskind and his cowboy boots were sent packing, and the Freedom Tower became David Childs bunkered One World Trade Center.  The Ground Zero museum never even got off the drawing board,  falling to the impassioned opposition of an extreme band of 9-11 victim families protesting the possibility that a Museum of Freedom might somehow, someday, exhibit something that they might find offensive.
And in Chicago, the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum closed its doors less than three years after opening, its exhibits and art packed away, with a small portion remounted in The Freedom Express, a big tractor trailer on which, Flying Dutchman-style, freedom is on a never-ending journey of the seven-county area.

What happened? Revisit a story of high hopes and sinking realities, and take a peek inside a vanished interior:

Freedom's Just Another Word for Another New Museum
Freedom Proves Fleeting

Chicago 4th Most Miserable; 1st Most Gullible. Why Top Ten Lists about Cities are Whack

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When was the last time you heard or read "as reported by Forbes Magazine" at the lead of a major news story shooting across the media?  Never?  But you're hearing the name Forbes a lot now, especially in Chicago.  Why?  Because we made number four on Forbes just-released list of America's Most Miserable Cities.  I won't lower myself to providing a link,  You can find far better ways of spending your time; clipping your toenails, perhaps.

A long time back,  Forbes Magazine gave up on being a second-tier Fortune or Business Week and settled on becoming the Fox News of business reporting.  Indeed, after taking over the magazine from his far more talented and ebullient father Malcolm, presidential wannabe Steve Forbes turned a publication once known for scrappy reporting into the kind of journalism melding news with alternative reality right-wing wish fulfillment that gave the magazine's motto "Capitalist Tool" a whole new and not entirely flattering meaning.

And so, in the tradition of David Letterman, just a lot less entertaining, the "List" has become a Forbes staple.  Over time, you can choose from Top 10 Ski Resorts in the U.S., the 10 Best Cities for Newlyweds, and Top Ten Richest Rappers,  Surely, the Top Ten Trophy Wife Bikinis can't be far behind.  And now they've done it again.  With America's Most Miserable, they've gotten $100 million dollars worth of press and air time, not to mention social media buzz, by rubbing people's noses in their own shortcomings and getting high on the resulting outrage.
Yes, there's a lot of misery in Chicago.  It lives like a murderous canker within a world of wonders.  In contrast, the kind of small towns that get on ‘most livable’ lists tend to be safely homogeneous.  They take fewer risks, have smaller ambitions and more modest results.  There is nothing wrong with this.  I have never visited an American city, no matter how small,  that I didn't fall at least a little in love with.  In fact, these are the places where most of live.  Forbe's Most Livable dotes on college towns like Ann Arbor.  Chicago actually has two of these.  They're called Hyde Park and Evanston.
A truly great city is not constrained.  It incorporates the universe.  From all across the nation, the best, the most ambitious and aspirational - and also no small number of the worst - choose to move there because that's where the action is.

If it doesn't actually kill you, Chicago will break your heart.   Chicago will also make you feel more fully alive than you ever imagined possible. 
That is the glory and terror.  It doesn't allow you to just move in the cocoon of your car through a Potemkin-perfect world between office, home and mall, as is the norm in a "livable" city.  No matter how gleaming the neighborhood, you're never more than a few feet away from the most intractable dark side of human nature.
While it's always possible to simply live in denial, for most big-city dwellers, an awareness of the basic contradiction is something we carry with us always.  It can curdle our worldview, or expand it.  Not unreasonably, we all want to live pleasant lives, but a great city, a complex city, a contradictory city, keeps you close enough to the battle lines to at least raise the possibility that you might achieve a moment or two in your life where you actually find a way to stare down the monster in a new and effective way.  Even as you're close enough to the abyss to never entirely forget just how vulnerable we are, you're also close enough to the marvels of a great city to always be aware of the kind of world we can create at our best.  It's not impossible to find such things in a small, ‘livable’ city, just a bit less likely.  The molecules are farther apart, a bit slower in motion; the environment a lot less than heated.
There is no awareness of the exaggerated duality of urban life in a Top Ten or ‘Most’ list.  There's is a binary world - on or off.  It's results are suitable, not for serious discussion, but for arguing - loudly - after downing a few drinks at the corner bar and exhausting more important debate about the Bears.
And as you're slugging down your beer, allow yourself a bit of civic pride.   If Forbes is to be believed, Chicago is not only miserable in itself, we can claim to be the source of misery in others.  According to Forbes, the larger Chicago area is a global slough of despond rivaled only by Tunguska, Siberia after the 1908 meteor strike.  Fully a quarter of Forbes 20 Most Miserable are in Chicago's orbit: the city itself, plus Rockford, Gary, Milwaukee, and even the whole of Lake County.
Yes, Lake County.  Don't walk, run, to 60045 (or take an Uber limo).  Bang on the doors of the mansions.  Evacuate the residents and exile them from their misery to - let's say - Provo, Utah, which happens to be on the Forbes list of America's Most Livable Cities, along with places like Manchester, New Hampshire, and Omaha, Nebraska, on which Chicago poet Carl Sandburg can be said to have had the final word . . .
I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
     of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
     pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
     answers: "Omaha."

Carl Sandburg, Limited

Last Days for Inside Studio Gang and The Lost Vanguard

In case you haven't made it yet, this weekend brings your last chance to see two essential exhibitions.
The Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32 runs only through Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd at the Graham, 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days.  The exhibition documents “the work of modernist architects in the Soviet Union in the years following the 1917 revolution and the period of instability during the subsequent civil war.”  At Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place.
 Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects closes at the Art Institute on SundayIt's “the first exhibition in the world devoted to the Chicago-based group headed by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang.”  It includes models, renderings, product samples, and lots of rope, creating five different and ingenious ‘rooms’ placed throughout the large gallery.  In the Modern Wing, 159 East Monroe.

And you know it's got to be  good because, to paraphrase something Elaine May used to say, “that woman is a doctor.’  On Friday, the School of the Art Institute announced that this years graduation ceremonies on May 18th at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion will include awarding Jeanne Gang an honorary doctorate for a career “seemingly without limits.  In the process [she's made] great civic and cultural contributions that reflect on our interdisciplinary work an scholarship at SAIC.”  Also receiving doctorates will be artist Joe Zucker and actor, playwright and scholar Anna Deavere Smith, who will deliver the commencement address.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

At the IBM Langham, Less is a Bore

click images for larger view
Work continues at the new 316-room Langham Chicago at Mies van der Rohes landmark 330 North Wabash, a/k/a the IBM Building, on its way to a scheduled summer opening.  While what's going on inside remains pretty much hidden behind covered-up windows, those windows are now containing glimpses at what the upscale chain's first guests will encounter when the hotel opens later this year.  Even the smallest room is 516 square feet, and comes with a 55-inch flat panel and a direct line to Lester Lampert.
It looks a bit more Morris (Lapidus) than minimalist, universal space meets Richmond International, the London-based design firm Langham has hired to do the interiors, with a punch-through on the floor slabs to create two-story public spaces.  (The views look spectacular.)
 You can see more on the hotel's website here, or just pop by and look at the windows.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Finishing the River Walk - Conclusion: Swimming Holes and Wolf Calls

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When last we left our traversal of the City of Chicago's plans for finishing the Chicago Riverwalk, we were about to cross under the LaSalle Street bridge.  While design for the three blocks to the east is 90% finished, the final three blocks going west are in a much more preliminary stage, with design listed as only 10% complete.
The Swimming Hole, south bank of Chicago River, LaSalle to Wells
The first of these blocks, from LaSalle to Wells, is currently called the Swimming Hole, but according to Chicago Department of Transportation Project Manager Michelle Woods, “I've been strongly encouraged to change the name because the Coast Guard thinks people will grab their beach towel and their flip-flops and go for a swim in the river.”

The Swimming Hole is actually a zero-depth fountain that kids could run through.  “This is the block,” says Woods, “that has the most amount of sunlight throughout the day.  This could be a very fun place for families and enjoy a nice day.  There's all kinds of technology and different things you can do so that the floor could look like a dance floor and light up as the water sprays, as the kids run through.  It could light up and interact with the kids climbing on it.”  The concept includes “more robust” bathroom facilities that would include rooms where kids could change in and out of their swimsuits.
The Jetty, Wells to Franklin
In the current, early concepts, the next block, from Wells to Franklin, is called The Jetty.  “It's actually my favorite block,” says Woods.  “It has fishing piers and floating gardens.  Instead of having a concession here, this would be a place I would like to set up as a classroom space and partner with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District to have them bring kids to come learn about ecology, water quality and the history of the river, and maybe give them an opportunity to go fishing and enjoy a natural resource in the middle of the city.  At nighttime, this could be a place where we have caterers, maybe have it leased out for corporate events and nighttime activities.  You could have a glass of wine or a beer and wander around onto the fishing piers and enjoy a nice night on the river.”
The Boardwalk, Franklin to Lake Street
The final block, from Franklin to Lake Street, is called The Boardwalk.  “This is the section,” says Woods, “where we have a 50-foot buildout, and so we have a lot more space.  The idea originally was let's put some floating gardens in, let's have a nice boardwalk area, a nice public space, right at this big confluence of the river at Wolf Point, where people can hang out and enjoy all the traffic and things going on along the river.”  The rendering depicts an “iconic bridge”, that rises from the river level to Lake Street in a gentle slope.  “This is the section,” says Woods, “where I've been challenged - ‘can you create more retail space here?’, can you do something a little bit more ‘Chicago’, so we're working on that now.”
River Point Park
As we wrote previously, this is one segment where we really need to be seeing some kind of co-ordination between the three major park projects around Wolf Point,  In addition to the Riverwalk, $29 million in TIF funds are going to burying the Metra tracks under a new park along the river at the 45-story River Point office tower rising at 444 West Lake,  At the opposite bank, once the billion dollars of development is completed at Wolf Point, 70% of the site will be parkland, with nearly 900 linear feet of Riverwalk.
planned Wolf Point Riverwalk
Everyone doing their own thing is, of course, a grand Chicago tradition, but you can't help but think that it's taken all of Chicago's 175 history to get to the point of reshaping Wolf Point as a public amenity.  Once the pieces are in place, who knows when we'll have this opportunity again.  Doesn't it just make sense to have all the parties sit down and co-ordinate the vistas and functions?

The ultimate objective is to draw 2.8 million people to the Riverwalk each year.  Woods' presentation compared this to Lincoln Park (3 million visitors annually), New York's High Line (3.7 million), and at 5.1 million, the San Antonio River Walk, the gold standard that Ernie Pyle once referred to as ‘The Venice of America’.

The cost of completing the Chicago Riverwalk is estimated at $90-100 million, with over $3 million already spent on the design.  The city is confident that funding will be available from the Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.  Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation made available $17 billion in loan guarantees through the program's $1.7 billion in credit assistance.

TIFA would finance the Chicago Riverwalk via a 30-year loan at a reduced rate of interest. The loans, often used for things such as toll roads, require a revenue stream to pay them back.  For the Chicago Riverwalk completion, one proposal is to repay TIFA from a TIF,  with Woods mentioning revenue from the Riverwalk concessions as another possibility.  How many concessions and closings for private parties would you need to come up with the over $3 million a year needed to pay back the loan?  And if all the Riverwalk's revenue went to debt service, where would the money come from for regular maintenance?
Those are questions that - at least publicly - have yet to be addressed, but the deal may already be near to closing.  In an interview with Tanya Snyder of the DC.StreetsBlog, outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that a formal announcement may come as early as next month.  If everything goes well, construction could begin this year, with a completion time of 15 to 18 months per block.

Read: Finishing the Chicago Riverwalk
Part One - Introduction and Block One: The Marina
Part Two - Opera on the River? (or Maybe just some jazz)