I grew up in the Chicago Suburbs and trips to the city to attend plays or hit our family favorite museums (the Art Institute, the Field Museum and the Museum of “Science is Interesting” as my 3 year old sister named it) were a childhood staple. We drove in along this highway so this view (here taken from the trusty Van Galder bus) is extremely familiar. Chicago (and an overnight with my sister) were my jumping off point to the West Coast where I spent most of October and November. Before heading west with all the speed a jet engine and manifest destiny could give me I spent a day enjoying our nation’s second city.
I arrived at the downtown Amtrak station – or rather on the un-adorned sidewalk near Union station where the buses congregate somewhat haphazardly. I do not understand America’s dismissive attitude to public transit infrastructure. Madison recently closed its (admittedly pretty run down) Greyhound bus station and developers put up a condo building in its place called Station Lofts or something equally tactless. All buses now pick up on the sidewalk outside the student union. Similarly, in Chicago, the inter state bus “station” for VanGalder and Megabus, etc is a slightly-wide- than-usual patch of sidewalk with no lights, weather protection (not even a city bus stop bench) or any signage at all.
Nevertheless I did find the general transit system pretty easy to negotiate. From Union Station I hopped a city bus which took me to the block of Michigan Avenue closest the Northwestern Campus (and a meetup with my sister) and from there we took the Red Line “L” train north to Lakeview where she has made her new home. I like the shiny downtown buildings fine but the more northerly neighborhoods of four and six story brown brick apartment buildings are more my speed. During several neighborhood walks, I made a photo collection of appealing doorways and tangled wooden back fire stairways set at interestingly acute angles and glimpsed through alleyways. I’d like to live in a place like this, were I in Chicago.
On my way out of the city I stopped by the Art Institute to wile away a few hours after KJ went to class but before my flight departed. I love the noble old Neoclassical facade and grand double staircase of the original wing but I am also pretty fond of the “new” Renzo Piano Modern Art wing. Since I only had a few hours I dropped by to touch base with my favorite few paintings and then visited the rotating architecture exhibit hall which was featuring Studio Gang Architecture. I enjoyed looking at all the sketch models they put together before settling on the waving balcony design for the tower. I do really like it as an iconic landmark in the city. How it functions as a set of residences might be another question (I’ve heard through the grapevine that since the concrete is continuous from the floor plate to the balcony projections, there are a lot of thermal and moisture problems at the outside wall.) However, it was a lovely Chicago-y experience to have before abandoning the Midwest for the next few months.