Posted on June 8, 2018

“The Story of an Intersection, or How Early Chicago Became an Urban Laboratory,” Architectural Theory Review, 2018, vol. 22, #22, pp. 1-16.

This essay unravels the history of Chicago as an urban laboratory and the way crisis was utilized and even staged in order to project alternative scenarios. It centers on a single photograph of an intersection from 1909, which shows the location saturated with a shocking amount of traffic brought to a standstill. To make visible what commonly remained hidden (the flows and intensities of urban movement), city officials had administered an urban experiment that suspended police presence and regulation in an effort to test if the metropolis could still self-regulate. Using the city as a stage for experimentation that at times pushed it to the brink of collapse, Chicago’s officials perceived their town as an urban test-bed. Injecting this reading into our established historiography reconfigures some of its most prominent narratives: from Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats, and Burnham and Bennett’s Plan for the city, to the Chicago school of sociology.