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‘Dear Chicago’

“The wind’s feeling real these days.
Yeah, baby, it hurts me some.
Never thought I’d feel so blue.
New York City, you’re almost gone.
I think that I’ve fallen out of love,
I think I’ve fallen out of love… with you.”
- ‘Dear Chicago’, lyrics by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adam’s song likely has very little if nothing to do with the city Chicago, but when you read the lyrics it’s nice to see some connections anyway. While there two weeks ago, the wind was quite real; the City lived up to its nickname. This was the second (short) visit for me to the windy city. This time my wife Mary and I were there for the 2011 Cusp Conference, which bills itself as a conference pertaining to “the design of everything”. Accordingly, the list of speakers were varied – architects, graphic designers, furniture designers, poets, dancers, cartoonists, scientists, and musicians. While the quality of presentations were mixed, all in all it was a great conference. In the end it was the presenters who aren’t typically considered ‘designers’ who were most interesting – Cartoonist Matthew Diffee (frequently published in the New Yorker, here is one of numerous blog posts of his); Poet Marc Smith (creator and founder of the International Poetry Slam movement); Adam Sadowsky (President & CEO of Syyn Labs, a collection of technology artists trained in disciplines including robotics, physics, software engineering, and design); and FootworKINGz (incredible dance ensemble who have generated global recognition for Chicago’s unique style of dance).

Arguably, the best part of the trip was that we ate (and drank) really well. Our first night we dined at the uber-hip (sorry Nicole and Gundula, can’t figure out how to get the umlauts working in Word) Avec Restaurant. For my own tastes, a little too hip, but the food and crowd were great. My wife and I have decided there is only one lunch place for us in Chicago, we have been there over 5 times now over 2 trips: Shaw’s Crab House. While at Avec, the stockbroker sitting next to us told us that if we are looking for a steak house, it needed to be Joe’s Seafood and Steak. They give a free Key Lime Pie if it’s your first visit. Be prepared to bring out more than one credit card, but the key lime pie was quite good. For myself, the highlight was The Publican in the Fulton Market. But then I’m a sucker for mussels and beerused water slides.

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to talk about architecture in this blog post thinginflatable rodeo Mechanical bull. Unfortunately with the conference we only had a day to see sights, but here are some highlights: – You could spend days in the Art Institute, and I would recommend it; – The current (but temporary) Bertram Goldberg exhibit at the Art Institute is fantastic; – I’m no Gehry fan, but his pedestrian bridge to the east of Millenium Park is remarkable; – Have always loved Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture; – Make sure to check out GGN’s Lurie Garden just north of the Art Institute; – So many buildings in the Loop to see, but the Monadnock (Burnham & Root, and Holabird & Roche), Inland Steel (SOM), and Mies’ Federal Center are must-sees. – My favorite? Bertram Goldberg’s Marina City. But then I always liked the Kingdome. The other nice thing about Ryan Adam’s song is that he references New York City at the end. Of course, he is really substituting past and current girlfriend’s names with cities. But it begs the question … Chicago or New York City commercial water slides buy??

Robert Hutchison is Principal at Hutchison & Maul Architecture and Part-time Lecturer. 

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