The New Park in the Park: Musings on Maggie Daley Park

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Renderings from the Chicago Park District's Maggie Daley Park Construction web site.

Renderings from the Chicago Park District’s Maggie Daley Park Construction web site.

By F. Philip Barash

The newly opened Maggie Daley Park is a technicolor dreamcoat of a park, with a climbing wall, all sorts of brightly painted play gear, thirty-foot light masts, a ribbon for ice skating and landscaped mounds that gently capture the faces of skaters who spill on a sharp turn. It occupies a tricky, twenty-acre parcel just east of Millennium Park, bounded by Monroe Street on the south and Randolph Street on the north. Frank Gehry’s metallic bridge connects to the site, and before the new park was installed, a journey along its serpentine path seemed like a trip from West Berlin to the East, the shimmer of capitalism giving way to cracked concrete and sickly grass.

The new park tries very hard to please, and perhaps it does. Its design, by the very good Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, is symptomatic of a larger cultural trend. Today, the public realm—and especially parks—reifies the ambitions of city boosters anxious about competing for affluent families, young talent and visitors. These new, hyper-competitive spaces that are emerging all over the world are what the “Bilbao Effect” was to a previous generation. Call it the High Linification of the public space.

But there’s a key philosophical difference between Maggie Daley Park and parks like the High Line. In Boston, simple lawn chairs and hammocks on a grassy lot signal a new destination. In San Francisco, much-lauded “parklets” turn parking spaces into sidewalk cafes and playlots. In Philadelphia, barges along the riverfront create floating gardens. Here, throughout Chicago neighborhoods, the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity has been quietly remaking vacant parcels with volunteer labor and donated materials. And over the summer, my former colleagues at the Chicago Loop Alliance hosted a series of “Activate” events that breathe life into gritty downtown alleys. The High Line is an example, albeit an extreme one, of tactical urbanism that’s happening at all scales in Chicago and elsewhere. The common thread among these isn’t about landscaping or fixtures; it’s about a group of people who transform unused spaces into useful ones. For all its chutes and ladders, Maggie Daley Park transforms a park into a park. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Beat: Making It, Selling It, Buying It

Designed Objects, Events, Reviews No Comments »
3d printing, along with a host of analog tech, is available at the Edgewater maker space

3d printing, along with a host of analog tech, is available at the Edgewater maker space

By Michael Workman

Since Chicago is home to one of the largest craft movements in the country, it’s amazing that there’s so little reporting of it. “Maker Beat” is a response to this lack; in a series of regular columns, it’ll give voice to the masses of makers who toil among us. This week, we’ll peek into a couple of our favorite maker venues around Chicago.

In its new home at the Thorndale Red Line stop, Edgewater Workbench is one of those “why-Chicago-is-great” projects, a community resource center offering access to a variety of applied technology. Their arsenal includes a laser cutter for etching wood and glass; they also have a Form 1 and array of MakerBot 3-D printing machines among rows of woodworking benches. The MakerBots print using environmentally friendly, plant-based PLA plastic. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Round Is Beautiful

Chicago Looks No Comments »

IMG_6291

Amara Ogboi (@sweetyungcoconut) was running errands.

What’s your style philosophy?
Be cute and be comfortable. I wear clothes that make me happy, like with colors, unique prints or silhouettes. Sometimes they aren’t as physically comfortable but as long as a piece makes me feel great, I’m comfortable.

Who and what inspires your outfits the most?
I draw inspiration from different places: nature, my mother, my grandmother, old R&B music videos—whatever strikes me, really. I like to tell stories with my outfits. I always have a description of what I’m wearing and what I was thinking when I put the outfit together. Like, “Who is this girl?” It’s very serious. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Degrees of Accessorizing: Local Designers Play Tag With Their Own Favorites

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TUSK collaboration with Chad Kouri

Tusk collaboration with Chad Kouri

By Isa Giallorenzo

1MaryEleanorWallacePROFILEMary Eleanor Wallace of Tusk
Inspired by: loosely woven fabrics, ceramics and Lucite.
Preferred materials: woven ceramic pendants and large Lucite pieces. She also recently did a line of necklaces with Chad Kouri which incorporated her hand-built ceramic pieces with colorful wooden blocks. Her next project is with Ogechi Anyanwu of Eye Of the Sun. They are going to do a line of leather-pouch necklaces combined with some of Mary Eleanor’s ceramic pieces.
Retails at: Tusk (3205 West Armitage)
Price range: $48-$100
Her pick: Sarah Shikama, because her work is bold and sculptural. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Wood: RX Made One Offers Another Reason to Not Do-It-Yourself

Designed Objects, Furniture No Comments »

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By Krisann Rehbein

There is nothing sexier than giving—or getting—hand-crafted wood products for the holidays. RX Made, the store within the ReBuilding Exchange’s Webster Street warehouse, is stocked with gifts ranging from a $6 set of coasters up to $50 for a large cutting board. In one visit, you can hit everyone on your gift list. Pick up a rolling pin or a trivet for the baker in your life. Candle holders for Mom. Get a set of wall hooks for your man who keeps throwing his clothes on the floor. Grab a stylish beer carrying case so that six-pack you bring for the hostess stands out. Their latest product, a set of stackable record boxes called Vinyl on Vinyl, are made from maple slats from the floor of a roller rink on the South Side with a square of colorful vinyl floor squares on each end. The slats interlock to allow you to create a tower of records. They make it easy to buy thoughtful gifts, made from repurposed materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks for Good Poutine and Good Design

Architecture, Events, News Etc. No Comments »

By Brad Lynch

"Little Women" alludes to the American ideal of independence gained through hard work

“Little Women” alludes to the American ideal of independence gained through hard work

Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, in what would later become part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 after a winter of starvation and privation. Reportedly, all of the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans shared a feast that happened to include four wild turkeys. Almost one hundred and seventy years later, George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. It was not until the middle of the civil war that Abraham Lincoln—upon the urging of feminist, editor and writer Sarah J. Hale—created the national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November beginning in 1863. In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt pushed to make the third Thursday in November the official holiday, but it was in 1941 that Congress passed a joint resolution to make the fourth Thursday in November the law.

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Design Love-In: Deborah Sussman at the Chicago Design Museum

Architecture, Designed Objects, Graphic Design, Reviews No Comments »
Colorful pillars, or "sonotubes,"served as temporary wayfinding at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Laure Joliet Photography

Colorful pillars, or “sonotubes,”served as temporary wayfinding at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Laure Joliet Photography

By Jessica Barrett Sattell

“Los Angeles makes nonsense of history and breaks all the rules,” quips British architectural critic Reyner Banham in the opening of “Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles,” his 1972 documentary about that city’s car culture. He professes that he loves LA “with a passion that goes beyond sense or reason” as title credits appear not as familiar superimposed text, but as a shot of a psychedelic yellow billboard emblazoned with saccharine hearts and puffy pink type. Banham commissioned local designer Deborah Sussman to imagine that eye-popping presentation, a testimony to her talents in applying unabashedly bold graphic design to shape public space in Los Angeles into optimistic, larger-than-life destinations.

“Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles!”, a retrospective on view at the Chicago Design Museum through the end of February, spans the designer’s first job in 1953 at the famed Eames Office through her career highlight of designing graphic identity for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. The exhibit, which originally ran earlier this year at Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles, suggests that Sussman found her voice early, and that it only amplified with time. Read the rest of this entry »

A Clean, Well-Lighted Track: Designer Duo Reimagines Wabash

Architecture, Designed Objects, News Etc., Urban Design 1 Comment »
Image: Wabash Lights project

Image: Wabash Lights project

By Troy Douglas Pieper

Public art need not always be a touchstone of civic pride. But Chicago has a long tradition of art that is as democratic and accessible as its El trains; now, a proposed project may enter that tradition with art programmable by anyone with access to the Internet.

When Chicago filmmaker Jack Newell went to New Orleans in 2011, he was overwhelmed by that city’s vaunting of its own culture. Its citizens, he says, seem to wear civic pride on their sleeves. Riding on the city’s historic streetcars Newell thought, “What if we could celebrate Chicago and its iconic infrastructure?”

When he returned to Chicago, Newell met with Seth Unger, design strategist at the architecture giant Gensler (and occasional contributor to this magazine). “Chicago pride is strong, but we wanted to catalyze it,” Unger says. After casually surveying friends, it was clear that the train tracks for the city’s El, the more than one-hundred-year old transit system, are its most iconic structure. “A lot of people think it’s kind of ugly, but we think it’s beautiful, and we want to embrace that,” Newell says. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Somebody That Shines

Chicago Looks No Comments »

IMG_6454Internationally acclaimed French blogger and illustrator Garance Doré was being honored with the inaugural Fashion Inspiration Award at the Museum of Science and Industry.

How would you compare French and American style?
French style is more understated, it’s more about who you are, your own style and body, what looks good on you. And then once you have that down, that’s your thing, you won’t change it so much. Americans like to explore. They like shopping, they like color, they make bolder choices. If you ask me, I prefer New York, because there is more expression. Paris is nice, but all French kinda look the same.

How would you define your own style?
Trying! Read the rest of this entry »

The Man Behind the Bunny: Art Paul and the Power of Pop

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Photo: Suzanne Seed

Back cover of Playboy, July 1954

By Matthew Messner

For a good portion of Art Paul’s career, his most recognizable work could be found, often by worried mothers, hidden in the sock drawers of American teenagers. And no wood-paneled den and rec room of middle America was complete without at least a few of his works. Art Paul may not be a household name, but his impact on commercial art is undeniable. As the first art director of Playboy magazine, one of the most widely circulated periodicals in history, Paul would help define the taste, look and direction of contemporary art for decades to come.

As part of the 25th Chicago Humanities Festival, James Goggin spoke to a full house at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Cassidy Theater about the man behind the Bunny. Goggin, former director of design for Museum of Contemporary Art, first came in contact with Paul while looking through decades of MCA’s publications. Paul’s name appeared on the board list alongside scores of notable Chicagoans. It didn’t take much more digging to discover that Paul, who is a kind of cult figure in midcentury graphic design circles, was alive and well—in an apartment located a stone’s throw away from the MCA. Goggin dropped in unannounced. He would eventually have access to Paul’s home and his archives; these materials, spanning seventy years of ceaseless activity, formed the basis of the CHF talk. Read the rest of this entry »