Category Archives: StreetView

View from the streets of Chicago

The Peterson Garden Project

Alderman O'Connor surveys the site

I’m delighted to say that these images of The Peterson Garden Project are already outdated. I took these last Friday, at groundbreaking. They’re now a visual record of just how much our band of volunteers has accomplished in a very short time. 

The site, primed for transformation

My goal for Memorial Day this year? To plant heirloom seeds in a reborn Victory Garden. 

Neighbors gather, in anticipation of planting

We begin!

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Spaces We Forget

I ride the Red Line to work every day, and my favorite part of the trip is invariably snaking around the curves of the track that center around the Sheridan stop. Part of the reason is that I love seeing Wrigley Field each day, and this time of year, dreaming of spring. The other reason is it’s such a gorgeous view of the rooftops around Wrigleyville. Not the ones that sell tickets to the Cubs games; literally the rooftops on the typical Chicago three-story walk-ups. There’s an abundance of them there, and the rhythm of them is beautiful from the vantage point of the El.


Allison Arieff has an outstanding post on her New York Times blog today. It’s all about unused spaces in cities, and she opens her article with a Buckminster Fuller quote:

“Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.
Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.
Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.
It’s time we gave this some thought.”
— R. Buckminster Fuller

When you start looking for them, the unused spaces in cities are staggering in their breadth and complexity. What better example than Chicago’s rooftops?
So here’s my idea for Chicago: can we make a “transform your roof into green space” toolkit? What would it take to create gardens and parks atop our brownstones and graystones? I believe one of the major impediments is the need to structurally transform roofs to accommodate green rooftops. Can we find a way around that?

I bet we can if we set our minds to it.

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City Films

One of my all-time favorite films, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, was just refurbished by Criterion for Blu-Ray and the restoration is garnering rave reviews. I’ve only been to Berlin once, for a day, but thanks to this film I feel like I know the city.

Films about cities fascinate me. Some manage to engage their locations so intensely that the cities themselves become characters. And there can be no doubt that certain films shape the public’s understanding of a city.

When I think of Chicago, the first film that comes to mind is The Fugitive. I know I’m supposed to say The Blues Brothers, and that’s certainly a great one. But for me, it’s The Fugitive. The reason is that it was largely shot in the neighborhood where I first worked for Harry Weese Associates. HWA was at 10 W. Hubbard Street, just down the street from the Wrigley Building. The scene in The Fugitive where Harrison Ford runs in front of his friend’s car, to ask for help? That’s right across the street from a place that used to be Riccardo’s, the bar where Harry notoriously engaged in his two-martini-lunches.  And the FBI’s offices in the film were in the Equitable Building, where my stepsister Jackie worked. The scene where Ford makes a call to Tommy Lee Jones? That’s the Merchandise Mart Station on the Brown Line. All of these spots are within walking distance of one another, and the film pulls them in, an accomplice to Ford’s great evasion. It’s simply a fantastic film.

So… Chicago, The Fugitive. Berlin, Wings of Desire. What are your favorite city films? Are there any that make you long for another place?

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Walking in Chicago

I’ve got a long commute between work and home; it’s an hour on Chicago’s public transportation. So you’d think I’d be eager to jump on the train and get on with it at the end of the day. But yesterday I realized something: usually, I stall. I work in the Loop, and I love walking the streets of Chicago. I’ve lived here 17 years now, but I still have a tourist-like awe for the life of its streets.

So rather than hop on the train fast each night, I tend to wander. I walk State Street, or maybe Michigan Avenue, and just watch the people, buildings, the park. I love it.

When I was in college I was lucky enough to spend a summer working in Paris for a woman named Heather. She once said to me, before leaving for a short vacation, that her favorite part of any vacation was returning to Paris. Just seeing the city gave her a jolt every time. I hoped I’d find that one day, and now, I have. Like a tourist seeing it anew, I love Chicago. I’ll be writing about why on this blog.

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