Results tagged “Chicago” from kwc blog

City grids rock

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The coolest fact I learned about Chicago during my first visit there last week is that it is on a grid system that would make a mathematician proud. The city is basically one giant cartesian coordinate system where the origin (0,0) is at the downtown intersection of State and Madison. From there everything is either addressed as being n units North/South, East/West, where every 800 units = 1 mile (8 blocks every mile, 1 block = 100 units). For example, I stayed near 1600N 1600W, which is about 4 miles from downtown origin (3 miles if you can find a diagonal street). 

This system works great for navigating. If I'm trying to get from 1600N 1600W to 2400N 800W, I know that it's about 2 miles away -- very useful if you're debating paying for a cab, walking, or taking the El. There's also very little problems with getting lost: you know exactly which direction you need to head and you know when you've gone too far.

From Wikipedia's entry on Chicago

The city’s urban context is organized within a grid pattern. The pattern is modified by the shoreline, the three branches of the Chicago River, the system of active/inactive rail lines, several diagonal streets (including Clybourn Street, Milwaukee, Lincoln, Elston, Archer, and Ogden Avenues), the expressways, and hundreds of bridges and viaducts. In addition, the baselines for numbering streets and buildings are State Street (for east-west numbering) and Madison (for north-south numbering). Street numbers begin at "1" at the baselines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits, with N, S, E, and W indicating directions. Chicago is divided into one-mile sections which ideally contain eight blocks to the mile, with each block's addresses ideally occupying a 100-number range. Even-numbered addresses are on the north and west sides of streets; odd-numbered address are on the south and east sides.

Millennium Park

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Five things I really liked about Millennium Park in Chicago:

  • The Cloud Gate sculpture (i.e. metal bean): I had seen many photos of this, and I didn't quite get it; it just looked like a giant funhouse mirror. But today I stood next to it and realized that, standing in the right spot, you can get impossible views of Chicago that are wonderful to take in. You can see the skyscrapers to the east and north of the park lined up side by side as well as the architecture in the park itself, all from one vantage point. And it's fun to watch distorted images of yourself.

  • McDonald's Cycle Center: there's free bike parking in a very secure facility (bike cops use it) and for $99/year or $15/month you can get use of a reserved bike parking area, a personal locker, and use of showers -- it's like a club for bikers. There's towel service for $1/use and the whole facility is indoors. It makes biking feel very upscale and luxurious. I like.

  • Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion/Great Lawn: As I walked over to Millennium Park, I was noting to myself how cool the naked architecture of the El train system in Chicago is: every support beam and bolt is right there for you to see. When I got to Gehry's typical twisting and undulating metal sheets in Millennium Park, I thought it was a really great match:

    • From the front, you just see metal sheets, but walk just a bit to the side and you get to see all the support structure exposed.
    • The Great Lawn itself has this canopy overhead that is stripped down to just beams, speakers, and lights. There was a jazz ensemble rehearsal while I was there and I enjoyed listening to it as families played soccer and frisbee around me. The canopy of speakers just drops sound down on you so you feel properly immersed.
    • There is naked concrete (ala Ando) used for ramps, staircases and supports.
  • Gehry's BP bridge: this serpentine bridge is a great way to approach the Pritzker Pavilion -- too bad you're more likely to be leaving rather than entering on this bridge, as I really enjoyed how the bridge introduced the pavilion.

  • Crown Fountain: I could care less about the images of faces projected onto these two mini-towers, but it's fun to see families bringing their kids to play and run around in the fountains shooting off each tower. I was tempted to run around myself, but I didn't have a towel.

This does mean that I pretty much liked the entire park, though I did leave out the gardens, which I felt were impersonally wraped in metal, as well as the Wrigley Square area, which was overly classic that it just felt flat in that environment. It will be interesting when the Renzo Piano's Modern Wing addition to the Chicago Art Institute is done: part of the plan is to add a very long pedestrian bridge from the park to the new wing. The linkage, I hope, will add even more to the park.

Corollary: If you are in need of good California wine, simply hang out at the airport terminal on a day like today. With no liquids allowed, that means plenty of Napa and Sonoma visitors caught between ditching or chugging. I'm sure someone in TSA is partying tonight.

It wasn't actually as bad as I thought. The news crews filming us in line were annoying, but the lines moved fairly fast. TSA wasn't very good at informing people with carry-on luggage that that they best exit the line and go and check their bags: in the short time I spent checking my bag, two women frantically cut in front of me to try and check their bags after having sat through the entire security line. It was annoying that you pretty much couldn't even buy coffee inside the secure area to bring onto the flight, but the good news was that there was tons of room in the overhead bins.

The only real annoyance for me came as a result of the large amounts of misinformation coming via NPR radio as we drove to the airport. I decided it was best if I left my iPod and more expensive camera equipment behind as it was unclear as to what was being allowed in carry-on baggage, so I am now in beautiful Chicago without a good camera. It did rain today, though, so the pictures wouldn't have been good anyway (today, at least).

Off to Chicago

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Going to another wedding, but I'm taking a couple extra days to try and make this one a vacation (unlike the 30 hours I spent in Iowa).

Art and Architecture link roundup

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