When Mayor Richard M. Daley stepped down last year, he left the city a legacy of green. From the promotion of LEED-certified buildings to the reforestation of urban streets, Daley’s efforts toward sustainability–part of his long-term plan to brand Chicago as a world-class city–didn’t go unnoticed. In 2010, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) awarded Daley with the J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development, and honored him as an “Urban Artist:”
“[Mayor Daley] has transformed this Rustbelt city into a revitalized international metropolis, bringing together the built and natural environments to make the city more sustainable, livable, and lively.”
And so, that push for greater sustainable development and green space can be expected to prime Chicago as the next hotbed of innovative landscape architecture.
And you might say, it’s about time, since Chicago is better known as the city for architecture, art and food, while landscape architecture seems to take a back seat. Still, even if the current environment is more welcoming of urban parks, great landscape architecture does exist in the city–and I’m not just talking about Millennium Park and the Lurie Garden. Last summer, The Cultural Landscape Foundation led a two-day event called What’s Out There Weekend Chicago which explored Chicago’s most important historic works of landscape architecture (the list of the 25 publicly accessible sites can be found here).
But it’s undeniable that architecture is Chicago’s strong suit, especially when you’re a city that can boast about their collection of Frank Lloyd Wright houses and a distinctive skyline made up of some of the world’s first skyscrapers. There’s so much history, beauty, and storytelling weaved within these modern, steel-frame buildings that I can’t think of a more apt introduction to Chicago than taking one of the boat tours by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
As the third-most populous city in the U.S., right after New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago has a lot to offer. The city is a bit too large and sprawled out for my tastes–it truly is a city of neighborhoods–but experiences such as a long visit to the Art Institute as well as a 28-mile long bicycle ride along Lake Michigan in 75-degree weather have started to paint this city in a very positive light for me.