Monday, September 24, 2007

A Portrait of Mayor Daley's "Nowhere"

Here's a photo of "Nowhere":

That's what Mayor Richard M. Daley derisively calls Grant Park at Daley Bicentennial Plaza, at the east end of the Frank Gehry designed BP Bridge, in still another ploy in his increasingly desperate campaign to muscle a 100,000-square-foot building for the Chicago Children's Museum into that same park. See a photo-essay on the park Daley seeks to destroy here.


Anonymous said...

Those photos are not an honest representation of that space it is an akward narrow strip wedged between some tennis courts and lake shore drive. One of the funniest things is to watch people cross the brige and turn right back around. Even Frank Gehry at his lecture remarked that he would not have built the bridge had he known it did not go anywhere. Even if they do not build the museum there that area needs to be completely redeveloped. I think this post and photo essay is approching the sort of demagoguing the Daley is being acused of; not supporting the museum project is fine but don't pretend that it is some secret garden.

Lynn Becker said...

If you think my photos "demagogue" the true picture of the park, point me to your own, and I'll critique those. The nice thing about this - as opposed to undocumented charges of racism on the part of museum proponents - is that people can visit the park and form their own opinions.

As far as Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park being a "narrow wedge", I consider the park as a whole, and I've added a Google Map to my article that shows the width of the park is pretty much identical to that of Millennium Park on the other side.

Frank Gehry's comments in 2003 parallel my own at the time, when the park was in a very different condition:

"For the moment," I wrote then, "the bridge is also a road to nowhere. During the park's opening, the hordes of people who took the long trek across the bridge could be found milling in perplexed confusion as they found that the result of their long journey had been to be unceremoniously dumped next to a seemingly endless expanse of chain link fence, protecting a dirt farm. 'There's no place to go over there,' laments Gehry.

Today, the chain link fence and dirt farm are both long gone, and fairly lovely plantings make the area very attractive.

Yes, people cross the bridge and double-back. That's not necessarily bad in itself, Daley Bicentennial is sort of a decompression chamber for Millennium's hyper vibe, and if people aren't ready to take a breather, maybe going back to Millennium is the best thing.

What I have also said, however, is what's REALLY missing on the east side of the Gehry BP Bridge is any sense of directional thrust. You can barely see the lake from that point, and have to take a number of steps before you see Buckingham Fountain to the south.

These - and not a a new intrusive, overstuffed 100,000-square-foot structure - are what would give the east a visual coherence. As I've said many times what is really needed is two clear promenades: one, including a bridge crossing, to the lake, and a second to Buckingham fountain. If people had these two options, you can bet most of them wouldn't just be turning back to recross the bridge to return to where they came from.

Anonymous said...

You are as bad as Daley for not telling all the facts and clouding this story with just one side.

Anonymous said...

Yet another load of baloney because the museum's plans don't call to move the play ground or the tennis courts. Your photos are misleading -- the footprint of the new museum site is not all that much bigger than our field house. Oh yes ... lest we forget ... scandal, there is already a building there that will be replaced. A building for a building.

Lynn Becker said...

"A building for a building." Except it's a current 10,000 square foot building for 120,000 square feet of new buildings, with parts of them rising 50 feet above the park's floor. Plus an entry pavilion on that rises 20 feet above Randolph.

Anonymous said...

One of the design elements of the BP Bridge was to shield the great lawn area from the noise of Columbus Drive.

Anonymous said...

Terrific article and a fair and honest depiction of life in grant park. thank you so much. a picture can really be worth more than thousands of words. the bridge leads not only to a calm and serene environment, but in the reverse direction, it certainly takes the N.E.A.R. folks (25,000 residents) to somewhere. i.e. Millennium Park. number one tourist destination in chicago. noisy, cluttered, over-stimulating, artificial in every respect, filled with circus men on 20 foot stits, t-shirt kiosks, restaurants, gaudy sculptures, concrete walls, security guards on vehicles - chasing you off the lawn or chairs. are we not entitled to a respite from the hustle, and bustle? Burnham and montgomery ward thought so. thank goodness for their foresight. also, i read that the state of new mexico wants to establish their "night sky" as a national park. because viewing the stars has become so rare. they want to protect the "night sky" for future generations. that should tell us something. thank you again. brilliant article!!

Anonymous said...

why is crossing the bridge and doubling back so bad.

Anyone been to the "bow bridge" in Central Park.. most people just go half way then turn back.

Strange that no one mentions the bridges most unique feature.. the expensive brazillian wood decking. It's so precious that the park district won't salt it in winter so it's closed every time it snows or sleets.

Lynn Becker said...

Kind of like Mies's beloved Travertine paving. Beautiful, but over time, no match for Chicago's rough and tumble winters and subsequent mass salting. Hopefully, the careful care for the brazillian wood will have a happier ending, even if it means closing it down in bad weather.

Eric Frost said...

Great photos, I can picture standing in just about every location you must have done to take the pictures.. I am out there at least every week. There were many nights this past summer my daughter spent chasing the rabbits, we really enjoy the area and meeting people and families with kids of similar age from around the world.

I think the space could become a lot more crowded if the Children's Museum were to move there. I think it would be better if they can find a different location so the area remains an open park for all of Chicagoans and the world to enjoy, chasing rabbits.

Windy City Chat

Anonymous said...

It must have taken you weeks to get those pictures... there are actually people using the facilities... and you even found a group of people riding segways!

As informed people already know, Bicentennial Park is utilized by the local residents as much as it is used by the local homeless. The tennis courts are typically empty (no pictures of the tarp-covered courts?), and the concrete slab in front of the fieldhouse is a parking lot.

I invite you portray an honest depiction of this underused, out-dated section of Grant Park... and please include some shots of the deteriorating parking structure underneath - as your 'portrait' will all be swept away regardless.

For the local residents that have enjoyed over 20 years of secluded isolation... I guess your time has finally come... have your cake or eat it, having both is no longer an option.

Lynn Becker said...

MMH, good to have you back. (You must have a day job, after all.) I was worried one of those homeless people had got to you.

The pictures came from two different visits, no more than 90 minutes total. The segway thing was just a lucky shot, although I bet you Daley Bicentennial is probably a regular stop on the tour, which probably comes from CAF.

Again, I've already referred to the tennis courts as underused, and again, I'm not saying no changes in the park, just not 120,000 square feet of construction, 51 foot skylights, and 800,000 people a year. It remains a mystery to me, however why the courts are so underused. Although my exercise regimen tops out at pressing elevator buttons, I was under the impression that a lot of people play tennis, and the courts are in a lovely shaded spot, so what's the problem? Are the fees too high, the courts too tough to book?

And please don't tell me it's because people are afraid of the homeless. I've seen a lot of people in the park - both on the two visits where I took pictures - and a number of others - often with small children, and none of them had the look of someone who was afraid they were about to attacked at any moment.

I have to wonder how early you jog.
Is it possible that these are people who slept the night in the park? Perhaps you're their alarm clock to let them know it's time to get up and back into the world. Isn't this the situation you'd find in any number of city parks in the very early morning? Again, I'd be amazed if you didn't sometimes see homeless people in pretty much any park, but I've never seen one when I've been at Daley Bicentennial.

And again, I always enjoy your determinism, which is almost Marxian in its vigor: like it or not, we're all going to be swept into the dustbin by the march of history, Daley's steamroller, or garage rebuilding, whichever comes first. Incidently, while Bob O'Neill predictably keeps pushing the idea that the entire garage is rotten to the core, and will force every inch of Daley Bicentennial to be destroyed and rebuilt, the park district's official spokesperson, at least at this time, is a bit more circumspect and noncommittal about the scope of the eventual work.

Your final allusion is unclear. (I say this not from any point of superiority, as anyone who's had the misfortune to read my stuff will readily attest.) What's the cake, and what's the eat it part?

Anonymous said...

when mmh is complaining about how the traffic is horrible on LSD, why in gods name are there 80,000 kids in his way and that the whole thing took twice as long and four time as much money to construct, Daley sucked money out of _____ where it should have been all along, etc... please remind him it was in fact him who asked for it.