Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dead Parking Garages Tell No Tales - Until Now

To combat increasing congestion, the City of Chicago, beginning in the 1950's, entered into an ambitious program to build a series of ten massive municipal parking garages throughout the center city. Only one survives. Most of these garages did not age well, fading into the urban landscape as the plug-ugly branch of the infrastructure family.

Now, however, a wonderful piece written by Serhii Chrucky for the indispensable Forgotten Chicago website documents Municipal Parking Garages, their optimistic beginnings and unheralded deaths. (Seeing some of the garages gave me a start, as I realized I had never really noticed they weren't there anymore.)

Just as every child is beautiful to its own mother, even a parking garage is beautiful to its architects, and in the idealistic original renderings, before the long decades of neglect and decline, they actually do look beautiful. In the rendering of Facility No. 1 (shown above), a garage on Wacker near State that came to be known as "the birdcage" looks clean, crisp and inviting. The architects, Shaw, Metz and Dolio, also designed the Florsheim building on Canal, where I had my first job, a classic International Style jewel that was mutilated beyond recognition in a recent condo conversion.

Or check out this rendering of the Loebl & Schlossman's Facility No. 5 at 875 North Rush, radiant in the glow of spotlights criss-crossing the night sky as if its debut were a Hollywood premiere.
This gives you an idea of the richness of the generous number of illustrations accompanying the article, full of great info you're unlikely to find anywhere else about a vanishing piece of Chicago history. Absolutely first-rate. Check it all out here.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The 1954 sculpture from Facility #1, "Chicago Rising from the Lake," can now be seen on the Columbus Drive Bridge) Columbus Dr. at the Chicago River). The City's guide to its public art collection describes it: "Milton Horn’s bronze bas-relief is symbolic of the city of Chicago. The female figure represents Chicago emerging reborn from the bottom of Lake Michigan following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The sheaf of wheat, bull, and eagle reference Chicago’s historic role as a center of commerce, the livestock market, and air transportation, respectively. Floral forms evoke the city motto, 'Urbs in Horto' or 'City in a Garden.' Finally, the bronze ring arching across the relief represents Chicago’s central geography within the United States. "

Anonymous said...

I always liked the top design, and the architects of 55 W Wacker must have liked it too, since their design for the same site is basically just a bulked-up interpretation of the earlier design concept.