Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chicago Skyscraper Would Be Nation's Tallest

This is pretty cool. I love Chicago. Downtown is vibrant and walkable, and the signature architecture is breathtaking. Parks and natural beauty abound. Last June Tra and I spent a Sunday afternoon ogling the view from the top of the Sears Tower, then headed due east into Grant Park for the annual Blues Festival; finally we walked north along the lake shore back to our hotel. Two years ago I lost an entire afternoon at the Field Museum, marveling at Sue the T-Rex and a traveling exhibit from the Baseball Hall of Fame; then I took a few moments to inspect the giant UFO that had perched itself atop old Soldier Field. If the winters weren't colder than a witch's teat I'd happily live there.

Anyway, I sincerely hope the project gets off the ground. Lost in all the fallout after 9/11 was that most punditry doom and gloom turned out not only wrong, but spectacularly so. "Irony is dead," "the skyscraper era is over," "we'll never be the same," etc. This tower represents a monument to architecture and the indomitable human spirit. Fuck fearmongering -- we aspire to build ever higher and we will not be cowed. What better way to make that statement than by erecting a soaring, elegant symbol of all that is great about humanity and its ability to create and inspire?

The best part is that Carley's and Calatrava's gift to Chicago's skyline will outlive both men as their legacy. Future generations might never recall that the structure was conceived when some wondered whether, owed to the 9/11 terror attacks on the WTC, dizzying heights might be the artifact of a bygone era. The Empire State Building was built in scarcely over a year (1930-31) during the depths of the Great Depression, but that's hardly evoked in the building's defiant, dignified profile. When future generations look to art and architecture for clues about life in the early 21st century, will they see terror, risk aversion, and excessive precaution reflected there? Or will they see resolve, hope, and optimism instead?

Let's hope other cities follow Chicago's determined lead...

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