JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: CHICAGO’S OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CENTER IS A POORLY CONCEIVED PROJECT IN TERMS OF LOCATION, LOOKS, AND PURPOSE – A STERILE SUBURBANISH CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS-TYPE BUILDING TO BE PLUNKED DOWN ON TWENTY ACRES OF A MORE-THAN CENTURY-OLD PARK – IT IS TO OFFER FACILITIES FOR YOGA, BASKETBALL, A TEST KITCHEN, AND PARKING – AND, OH YES, A DIGITAL ARCHIVE, NOT THE ORIGINAL PAPERS SCHOLARS WOULD WANT TO SEE

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF A COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN INVESTMENT WATCH

https://ricochet.com/archives/what-obamas-billion-dollar-chicago-temple-will-look-like/

 

The proposed Barack Obama Presidential Center – or whatever it is to be called, it apparently is not going to be a traditional repository-of-presidential-papers library – intended for Chicago’s Jackson Park near the waterfront is an unwelcome project with its lack of respect for the city’s historic park system, unquestionably one of the greatest in the world.

It doesn’t matter whether you like Obama or not, the project is poorly conceived.

This park is more than a century old and is part of the “chain of jewels” America’s greatest landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, created for the city. No other American city has anything quite like it. Every acre of it is irreplaceable. This will cover twenty acres.

I know the park well. I’ve walked through its roughly 500 acres a number of times.

This isn’t even to be a presidential library but some kind of oddball complex of digital archive, yoga and cooking center, basketball court, and parking – all tucked into a whitish cement mausoleum covering twenty acres of prime lakefront parkland. Its architecture says “monument,” not friendly gathering place, and it seems very strange thinking, indeed, to me to say it can somehow be both.

It is like putting a huge parking garage in front of a beautiful garden. Chicago’s motto, urbs in horto (city in a garden), although adopted before the great parks existed, has come to be associated with the parks and associated boulevards for over a century

I don’t care if Obama wants such a monument built, but it does not belong in this location, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel already has had some mature trees cut-down to accommodate it.

In terms of its sheer aesthetics, the project belongs in a suburb. It looks like the headquarters for some corporation.

I grew up in the city, in and near the very neighborhood, and almost cannot believe what Obama is allowing. It is without respect for history. It is without respect for beauty. It is anti-green. It is without respect for a special space which already belongs to the people.

The notions of yoga, basketball, and a test kitchen are of course to make local residents feel it is their place, but the idea of neighborhood people going to a giant cement mausoleum to do such casual and fun activities seems a confused fantasy.

Such activities, if thought desirable, could have been dotted here and there in small facilities through neighborhood streets in a way far more likely to be of some real use.

And if all you are storing is a digital archive, you don’t even need the building. That can be done anywhere and accessed from anywhere. So, it seems to me we have a costly hulk going into an inappropriate place to do absolutely nothing needed.

A tallish concrete building right near the lakeshore of an historic and beautiful park – indeed, any concrete building, whether tall or not – simply does not belong there.

We must remember that the hard-nosed guy pushing this abomination is former Obama aide and greatly-failed Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

The last project he championed was a hideous Star Wars Museum, a giant concrete promotion center for the Star Wars movie franchise to be planked down in downtown’s beautiful lakeside Grant Park museum campus, home of such world-famous and architecturally distinguished institutions as the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Natural History Museum, and the Adler Planetarium.

Thank God, that effort failed, but this one is almost as bad.

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