Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chicago: Bridge to Nowhere

It's tongue and cheek, but of course I couldn't resist taking a friendly barb at Chicago. It's like you want to cross Lake Michigan, but decide it's not going to work, and going back to Chicago seems like a good plan. C'mon, they can take it, as it IS the cultural creative capital of the universe, right? :) Seriously this project is pretty cool, and a great way of not just solving a functional problem, but using it as an opportunity. It's also a great example of sticking to a plan - even if it was prepared 100+ years ago.

:: image via Inhabitat

The Chicago Ecobridge, via Inhabitat, is a project of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects, is a realization of a long-term plan for a breakwater/civic space, as well as a postcard image. The recent, along with the recent addition of Millenium Park, and a bevy of cool building proposals - for their bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. This new civic space will be created for the most part out of thin air (or water). From the AS+GG website: "The 2-mile bridge, a breakwater in the Monroe harbor, celebrates Chicago’s position as the ‘Greenest City’ in the US. The bridge creates a grand new civic space for the city, providing recreational opportunities and offering unparalleled views of the skyline from a central observation tower. The incorporation of wind turbines in the project adds economic value through the production of energy and prominently showcases Chicago’s dedication to sustainability."

:: images via Inhabitat

The historical origins are in the long-term large-scale planning of Daniel Burnham, and his 1909 Burnham Plan of Chicago, where this idea first was proposed. Ok, so it's 100 years late, but still it's happening. Always make a plan - and often stick to it - it's the mark of an innovative city.

:: 1919 Plan of Chicago - images via Inhabitat

Ok to change the subject a bit - really, you just can't call yourself the 'greenest city' without some rigid qualification. Portland does it too, so I'm not just carping regionally. If this term is going to be used, someone is really going to have to determine an appropriate metric for it. Or better yet, let's forget about it as an idea - it's not even a competition. Pause for cries of agony from those intent on making sustainability a first/biggest/most battle. It's counterproductive and not relevant to the discussion of sustainability... it's about the local that impacts global - not mine is bigger than yours.

The greenest Chicago is different than the greenest New York City, and the greenest Portland. If it incents discussion and friendly competition, that's fine, but it's green-wash flag-waving at best. I do heart Chicago, with a ton of green roofs, the fantastic new award winning Green Alley plan, and well, the City and it's energy itself. I'm torn, just as I was 11 years ago when finishing college and wondering - Portland, or Chicago... and chose Portland - so I guess Chicago will always be my wonderful number 2...

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