Saturday, September 24, 2005

Photos: Millennium Park

C. and I visited the park I'd been calling Mayor Daley's (the son's) "boondoggle." And as my friend from Boston attested, it represents a marvelous reutilization of public space, with several distinguishing art and architectural treasures--the Crown Fountain with Jaume Plensa's LED towers and gracefully graded wading pond; the Anish Kapoor Cloud Arch, or sublime little "Bean," which immediately provoked awe and reduced me to a giddy child; the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion and bandshell, with its immense stainless steel shards forming a thrilling backdrop not only to the music played in it, I'm sure, but to today's ambient sounds; the monumental steel trellis in front of it, floating like a webbed canopy or shell above the Great Lawn; the multilevel Lurie Garden, a space of fragrant and quiet contemplation within sightlines of the city's major financial buildings; and the stunning, serpentine BP bridge, also designed by Gehry, which snakes across Columbus Drive to the Daley Bicentennial Plaza, which the first mayor Daley established a little over half a century ago. (We didn't visit the Wrigley Plaza and its classical peristyle.)

Without question, Millennium Park ranks among the major attractions in Chicago; I'm glad we visited it and I'll definitely head back. I want to see it when winter hits; how will its stewards cover all of that exquisite wood in the bandshell? Are there winter plants, other than the various evergreens, in the Lurie Garden? Are those LED towers winterproofed to withstand the below-zero windchills that arrive in January? Will the helmeted Segway-riding security men, "post-modern centaurs" as my brilliant former student Tai L. aptly labeled one of them (who was telling a homeless man that "we" weren't "animals"--hello?), be tooling about to patrol and police, to keep the park the pristine landmark that it has quickly become? Will workers be scurrying about to polish all the plaques, signs and other insignia (the "Chase" Promenade, the "Boeing" walkway, etc.) that distinguish Millennium Park as one of the most extensively corporately tagged public spaces I've ever set foot in as well? In this regard, it is definitely a product of its time. I was almost expecting the trees to have labels on them. (I'm not wishing this into being....) None of this obviates the Park's utopian aspects (like those of Central Park, or Forest Park, or Chicago's other parks), its embodiment of longstanding humanistic, and in particular, Anglo-American humanistic ideals, which are evident in its spaces--especially in the partially open, partially obscured garden, the open yet carapaced Great Lawn, the monumental towers showing the faces of city denizens, and the bridge, with its traffic-crossing yet muffling path--even if its reality (no place for those without homes or means), our contemporary societal reality, is quite different.

Here are some photos:

Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion
C. heading towards the Pritzker Pavilion

Loudspeaker trellis and ramp to the Great Lawn
The steel trellis above the ramp leading to the Great Lawn

C at Anish Kapoor's Cloud Arch (
C. and an artist in front of Kapoor's Cloud Arch, the "Bean"

Interior dome of the Bean
Interior dome of the Bean

Our reflection in the Bean
Our reflections in the Bean's exterior

And I'll post more photos tomorrow....


Today, over 150,000 people rallied and marched in Washington in what was the largest anti-war protest since the start of the Iraq War. Activists also convened in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Rome and other cities to protest the disastrous mess that the Iraq War has become, and to demand the withdrawal of American and other foreign troops. Over 147,000 American troops are stationed in Iraq; 1,911 have been killed and over 14,000 wounded, while some estimates suggest that over 100,000 Iraqi non-combatants have been killed since the war began. I stand with the protesters who call upon the president to withdraw troops; the war was wrong from the beginning, it was based on lies and false premises, it and its aftermath have been incompetently managed, its financial and human costs are excessive, its peripheral effects (from the extensive use of torture to "extraordinary rendition" to the abrogation of our civil rights), and what it has brought into the world, a terrorist training camp the size of California, and a weak Islamic state with strong ties to Iran, cannot be explained away by constant, simplistic and propagandistic links to the 9/11 tragedy or Saddam's brutal reign, which both W's father, George H. W. Bush, and the right-wing's icon, Ronald Reagan, actively aided and abetted, for eight years. Since the Pentagon has refused from the beginning to fight the war adequately or with an eye to anything beyond Republican Party politics, it's long past time to bring the troops home.


Although Hurricane Rita turned out to be less destructive than originally predicted, it has still caused extensive damage, so please consider any help you can offer to those regions and people, including some of the people who originally survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, who've been affected by it.


A question: what happened to Yve-Alain Bois? It appears that his colleague and close friend, Benjamin Buchloh, has replaced him at Harvard. Is this just a temporary or permanent change?


  1. Mendi, that's one of my and C.'s favorite photos as well!