Posts Tagged ‘Burnham Centennial’

End of March

March 31, 2009

March is going out more lionine than lamblike and perhaps April will be less hectic – it looks like I am staying in town all month (unless you count two tours to Lockport and Joliet for AIC). Our Masters in Historic Preservation program has a lot going on this month, starting next Monday, April 6 when my seminar class presents our ideas for interpretation of the Armitage-Halsted district to Alderman Vi Daley, the CTA and members of the Sheffield community. This class has done a great job of tackling a range of interpretive elements, from website and brochure and banners to a couple of installations at the Armitage L station designed to get people looking at the amazing buildings of the Armitage-Halsted historic district, with their Renaissance (Baroque) inspired architectural details in metal, stone and brick. Here are a few samples of these delicious buildings:
I was one of the expert witnesses for the district when the Commission proposed it to the City Council back in 2002-03 and it is nice that Alderman Daley wants to promote it some more, because it is largely unmarked and it is special – only 18th Street in Pilsen and Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park comes close in terms of a 19th century commercial streetscape in Chicago. We have some neat ideas (I’m holding the surprise until later) on how to get people to LOOK UP and see the architectural sumptuousness circumscribing their everyday.
Then, a week from Friday, on April 10, we are having a lunchtime lecture at the School’s ballroom at 112 S. Michigan Avenue from Professor Fan Jianhua, who has been our key sponsor for the Yunnan Initiative in China, in concert with the US-China Arts Exchange. Professor Fan published our students who came to Weishan photographing in 2006 and promises to help again when we return this summer.
This last image is one Felicity Rich shot in 2006 – nice view to the North Gate building (1390, dude!) which is a national landmark in China, and rightly so – second largest gate tower after Tien An Men. And it is older.

So, then the following weekend we are doing our practice tours for our six neighborhoods – South Chicago, Auburn-Gresham, Quad Communities (Bronzeville), Pilsen, Albany Park and the Indo-American Museum. This is a project of the Burnham Centennial. These tours go live during Chicago Great Places and Spaces on May 16 so BE THERE!
albany park on lawrence
auburn gresham on 79th
pilsen 20th street
Pilsen Resurrection Project – former St Vitus
bungalows north
bungalows south

April 28 we are having the amazing Doug Farr of Farr and Associates – you saw his Zero Energy House on Channel 11 TONIGHT – speaking in the museum’s Fullerton Hall in conjunction with our evening green preservation class. Two nights later we will have our students’ thesis presentations and the awarding of their pair of Peterson prizes for measured drawings by Walker Johnson, FAIA. In between I have my three classes, a couple of meetings for our China Study Trip and a couple of Gaylord Building meetings.

Then in May it gets busy…

Touring Chicago

February 21, 2009

Today I began a community tour training program, part of the Burnham Centennial. We are working with six Chicago neighborhoods to develop tours about their plans for their communities. Rolf Achilles and Jean Guarino and I are the tour design consultants. Rolf and I did a similar docent training program a decade ago for the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor. The training involves getting information about Chicago history and architecture but it also involves helping people become good tour guides.
I have been giving tours for over 25 years and people keep asking me to do it, so I guess I know something about it. At the same time, this program is wisely designed to let the community stakeholders make the key decisions about theme and sites to be visited. And the focus is future plans, so our expertise about history and architecture is more of an added bonus rather than the heart of the project, which is about the future. Of course, the future is what preservation is about too.
Today we worked on coming up with themes for each community tour, and we cam eup with some catchy ones: From Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond for Quad Communities (Douglas, Oakland, Grand Boulevard, North Kenwood), which encompasses most of the Black Metropolis. From Pollution to Solution was one of several that South Chicago came up with. Pilsen, the Indo-American museum on Devon, Albany Park, and Auburn Gresham also each came up with themes that link past and present to this collection of future plans. People got involved, which is the key.
It is also exciting to see how many of these communities have changed over the last 25 years. In my breakout session we had Albany Park and Quad Communities (Douglas, Oakland, Grand Boulevard, North Kenwood) which are two areas I have been familiar with for over two decades and I asked them both about perceptions that people have about the neighborhood.
This is interesting, because of course perceptions linger long after reality. I have led tours on the South Side since the 1980s and I have seen how much it has changed, but for many, their perception of the south side was formed in the 1970s or early 1980s and it hasn’t changed. And I think that for individuals who had that perception, it may never change. And if those individuals passed that perception on to others, it will take a full generation of revitalization and transformation to make a dent.
Which is all the more reason to do this project, because Chicago neighborhoods in 2009 are very different from 1989 or 1979. I know because I watched it and I am very pleased to be still watching it. I am looking forward to working in the various communities where transformation is planned and where transformation has taken place. Cities and their constituent neighborhoods are living things, always evolving. You have to see them over and over and over time and I hope our project will allow more people to do that.