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Reflection on a Sunday night’s walk home…

Relationship Status:  It's Complicated with The City of Chicago

Relationship Status: It's Complicated with The City of Chicago

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While I’ve already violated my rule to not spend any money today (not to excess, at least!), I successfully spent the afternoon transit-free.  After a couple errands, I headed down Milwaukee Ave. to the Loop (according to Google Maps, at least 2.2 miles from Wicker Park).  On my to-do list were the Rookery Building, the Monadnock Building, picking up a couple books from the library, and another jaunt up the Nichols Bridge at the Art Institute.

My camera was gracious enough to keep the battery alive for the whole afternoon, and I came across some interesting stuff.  After a lovely mini-tour of Oak Park earlier this week, I’m starting to think about another one of downtown… judiciously avoiding most of the touristy stuff in favor of more interesting sites.

Interesting shadows of an old fire escape

Interesting shadows of an old fire escape

I finally saw the Rookery Building – definitely worth a visit!

Lobby of the Rookery Building

Lobby of the Rookery Building

The Nichols Bridge, the spatial liaison between Millennium Park and the AI’s Modern Wing, might be one of my new favorite things.  I really wish they would leave it open at night, I’m sure it’s a beautiful view of the city.

A visual reminder that Chicago was built on the railroads...

A visual reminder that Chicago was built on the railroads...

… And a bonus:  I found an old rail bridge.  Very cool.

Looking up at the old rail bridge

Looking up at the old rail bridge

All in all, a lovely afternoon.  I’ll miss this city.

Three cheers for RSS feeds!

I’ve recently started following Lens, the New York Times photojournalists’ blog.  Topics range from current events to slow-exposure photography of New York City to images dug up in the archives.  I just had to post this entry in particular – “Nature Triumphant,” a collection of post-2008-flood images from Iowa and Texas.  In spite of the tragedy of the event itself, these photos are utterly beautiful.  #5 is my favorite – the reflection of painted boats in real water.

It’s high time for another LEGO post.  In the meantime, marvel at the work of Brick Structures and the new Frank Lloyd Wright sets.  I can only hope the LEGO version of Fallingwater is more structurally sound.

The "other" bricks

The "other" bricks

I headed downtown today to check out the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano and which opened on Saturday.  The opening weekend (and all this week) Target is sponsoring free admission at the museum, which was definitely a mixed blessing, but nonetheless one gets a sense of the space itself even among the throngs of people.

Being somewhat disoriented (see: crowds, above), I did not get a clear picture in my head of how this new wing connects with the existing building, but the collection itself has been pretty neatly integrated into the new galleries – American contemporary and the Surrealists, among other things, are now housed in the Modern Wing.  The daylight-capturing roof was best seen from the outside, but was apparently at different angles when I walked in the wing and later out of it.

The best part by far was the new bridge connecting the museum with Millennium Park.  Although it’s a bit tricky to access it from the museum itself (one elevator takes you up to the balcony level, and the escalators are down-only?  Why?!), I imagine it’s a nice walk up from the park level.  The view is a beautiful one – overlooking the fountains and wading pool, looking east and west at Monroe, and the latticework of the amphitheatre lawn to the north – and very peaceful.  The bridge itself does quiver a bit, which I’d read about and was therefore prepared for, but it was unsettling nonetheless.

Looking north over Millennium Park

Looking north over Millennium Park

Unfortunately, the view immediately below the bridge is mostly landscaping detritus, so just don’t look down!

On my way home, I also (finally) stopped over at the Merchandise Mart to see the installation of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly Eye Dome.  It had some kind of organic chair-pile installation inside it – very cool.

Buckminster Fuller, Fly Eye Dome

Buckminster Fuller, Fly Eye Dome

The inside looks like raw blue fiberglass, and the bottom of the circles sit on the floor at an angle which suggests you could complete the sphere with more sections, if you so choose.

POSTSCRIPT:  The photography rooms in the basement of the Art Institute might be one of my new favorite things.  Also in the corner was the Architecture and Design Office/Library… it was closed, but peeking in the window had its reward.  Note that the drawers are Sudoku-like, not repeating colors in any row or column.

Architecture Library and Office at the Art Institute

Architecture Library and Office at the Art Institute

Prevention Magazine has rated America’s most walkable cities!

Chicago is #5

Columbus, OH is #21

The latter rating makes me think that their criteria need improvement … it seems to be geared toward recreational walking (parks, trails, etc., which Columbus certainly has a lot of) rather than day-to-day commuting.  In Columbus, most areas of the city are not overly walkable – exceptions would be OSU campus area/Short North/Clintonville, Grandview, and maybe parts of Upper Arlington and Worthington, provided you live near the old downtowns.

Nevertheless, seeing it not too far down the same list as New York and Boston (cities which are indeed walkable) is exciting!  The article even mentions the Seurat “Sunday Afternoon” topiary garden.

"Sunday Afternoon" Topiary Garden, near the old School for the Blind in downtown Columbus, OH

"Sunday Afternoon" Topiary Garden, near the old School for the Blind in downtown Columbus, OH

I have to admit, I actually like the orange glow of high-pressure sodium lighting (the most common street and highway lighting in American cities).  Flying over the country at night, you can see large cities and small towns from above, glowing like orange circuit boards.  As LEDs become cheaper and easier to install, our cities may become whiter and brighter at night.

But won’t we miss this, just a little bit?

Our old orange-lit world

Our old orange-lit world

Overall, Artopolis seemed to be a mixed success – I say this as someone who had zero intention of purchasing anything on display, so I can only hope it was a success for those looking to make and/or spend money there.  Security was up this year, so I couldn’t sneak in for free (sad face) but I suppose it was worth it to support such a large concentration of art in one place.

It could be my imagination, but there seemed to be fewer booths than last year – and many of the galleries, or at least artists’ work showcased by said galleries, were missing from what I remember.  Still, there was some high-quality stuff, and the usual jumble of “things I don’t understand.”  Bucky Fuller was somewhat of a theme in a couple galleries – but I somehow missed the Fly Eye Dome, and will need to stop back at the Merch Mart before June to catch it on display in the lobby.

They got the details right, however.  Not only did I see baskets of hand sanitizer around for the oh-so-topical swine flu scare (side note: if you aren’t supposed to touch the art, do you need your hands sanitized?), but the “Information” stations were whimsical:

"Information" was a floating sign and a little map on a pedestal

"Information" was a floating sign and a little map on a pedestal

Space does not permit me to recount everything I saw, but here’s a good summary – it was almost as interesting to see the people walking around as it was to see the art itself.  Many “artsy types,” old people with money, young students with no money… I wondered what the ratio of buyer to spectator was.  Had to be low.

A nice mix of art and life in the halls

A nice mix of art and life in the halls

I really, really regret that so many of these photos turned out grainy!  For how much light there was in the building, you’d think the camera would have been able to handle the shots without highly accelerated shutter speed.  Sigh.  In any case, the light bulb installation provided some light.  A professor-artist had put together an interactive display of old lamps – turning the lamps on and off would indicate how much energy was being used by the entire grouping, via a screen on the wall with small dots of some kind bouncing around, representing the power level.

Lamp installation, detail

Lamp installation, detail

One recurring theme was that the people manning the booths, possibly having fewer potential customers, always seemed to be texting or messing around on their laptops.   I got some good “inaction” shots.

These two gallery reps were hard at work

These two gallery reps were hard at work

All in all, a good afternoon.  Upcoming: thoughts on my DC and Boston trips (that is, once I’ve finally sorted all the photos and sufficiently reflected on them from an UP perspective).