Hawkward Thoughts- Millennium Park’s Puzzle Pieces and Making Time to Hit the Town

Sun, 2017/10/22


The whole of Millennium Park in downtown Chicago feels like a collection of puzzle pieces of public appeal; whether the pieces are from the same set, that is, is doubtful. If you were to envision all of the major landmarks of the park from an architectural and anthropological standpoint, they all represent a different kind of “bread and circus” contribution to appease the many typologies that make up the population of Chicago and even the average tourist. Though not as large and not nearly as white, Millennium Park is the modern and permanent World's Exposition. Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the “Bean,” literally acts as the gate to the park, and therefore is the most popular and most generic in appeal; anybody can understand it, can touch it, and see exactly what they want to see: themselves and the city from a new angle. Crown Fountain tries to match this same appeal, but is too literal and overemphasizes interactivity. In other words, it doesn’t truly understand the people of Chicago, even though it projects their faces. The other monuments can similarly be categorized according to what appeal they attempt to cater to. Lurie Garden caters towards the appeal of nature and of the Midwestern Plains, the BP Bridge towards creative structure and the alternative forms and natures of transportation, and McCormick Tribune Plaza towards dining and commerce, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion towards High Architecture and the performing arts. The monuments do not complement each other well, however, and much like puzzle pieces from different sets, the only way to get them to stick together is either with brute force or with a whole lot of glue in between. Respectively, this is proven by the odd collections of planters and ornamented pathways or by the shear wall of greens that separate the gardens and the unsubtle interference of the bridge on its landscape. The park is a representation of what Chicago as it really operates: while it might exist as a collection of unique and equally beautiful artifacts, cultures, and ideas, none intermingles well, resulting in a direct antithesis to one of Chicago’s original ideologies: the monotonous and all-encompassing “Plan of Chicago” by Burnham and Bennet. Walking into the park will give you a good idea of what walking throughout the whole city is like: there will be beautiful things on both sides of you, but each will contradict the other, one will have obviously better funding, the food will be expensive, nothing feels like it’s within walking distance, and you’re bound to get uncomfortable if you stay too long.


Recently, I realized I was having a problem leaving the campus more than once a week; there’s always homework to do, nothing is within walking distance and the subway is boring, everything is too expensive downtown, etc. This thinking made it all the more surprising how much I ended up enjoying it when I went up north near Wrigley field and had an evening out on the town. Granted, what pushed me out of my room wasn’t an overwhelming and enlightening sense of wanderlust, it was because I had to write a paper for my Film History class on the nearby and historical Music Box Theatre and actually visiting the place was mandatory. Either way, after the pleasantly short train ride to the Brown Line’s Southport stop, the local main street I arrived at was a breath of fresh air. All of the storefronts were full of unique diners, bars, bookstores, pet shops, coffee houses, art stores, and the like; each a hustle and bustle with business and customers. After a couple of eclectic blocks of enjoying the catchy titles of the shops, I had arrived at the theatre. I won’t go into detail how appreciative I was of its historical façade, interior decorum, and classy modernized lounge, but I will say that I was about an hour early for my movie. This little bit of spare time is the cause of this rant because one of my favorite memories of this semester so far is how I spent that next hour. I didn’t fly off the handle and visit the next town over or go do shots at the nearest club, but I did visit the little Italian coffee bistro next door. They mixed me a fantastically original and stylized latte for a decent price and I sat in the window. The evening, peach sunlight was shining in, ultimately a little too strongly, and the smell of the coffee beans brewing across the counter was hypnotizing. I didn’t even notice I hadn’t even started on my drink until I had decided to head back over to the theatre’s lounge to enjoy the atmosphere. A luxurious and comfortable leather chair was my only company for the remainder of the hour, but the relaxation and unrealistic pride of my discovery of such a cool locale made the time fly. The movie ended up being subpar and the way home got chilly and dark, but that hour I had spent enjoying my time in a new place was all the inspiration I needed to know that I would be making time to go out again.