essay _ IN SUPPORT OF THE SPECULATIVE PROJECT
Posted on May 21, 2015
Polemic “In Support of the Speculative Project – A Chicago Legacy,” MAS Context #25-26, “Legacy” issue (Spring-Summer 2015): 12-19. A revised version was published in Chicago Architecture Magazine, “Chicago Architecture Biennale” special edition, September/October 2015.
“Chicago is young, clumsy, foolish, its architectural sins are unstable, captious and fleeting; it can pull itself down and rebuild itself in a generation, if it will: it has done and can do great things when the mood is on. . . . One must indeed be incurably optimistic even momentarily to dream such a dream.”
Louis H. Sullivan, “Kindergarten Chats,” Interstate Architect & Builder, 1901.
This passage from Louis Sullivan’s poignantly titled “Kindergarten Chats” offers us not only a historical lens into past mentalities towards Chicago but it also points at a very different attitude (and the lack thereof) towards urbanization today. While early Chicago clearly functioned as a catalyst towards architectural speculation, today’s role of the city is less clear. It is no longer “young” or “clumsy” or “foolish,” and with urban maturity came more than just the disappearance of these characteristics. While the city’s power to transmit ideas and its capacity to foment radical visions is legendary, the contrast between the early city that functioned as a territory for architectural speculation and today’s city could not be more stark. Therefore, remembering Chicago’s particular urban history might refocus the perspective on the city of today and help invent new modalities to engage the city of tomorrow.
“Chicago Can’t Experiment,” in “What We’re Reading,” The Block Club blog about Chicago neighborhoods, May 2015.