Thursday, May 11, 2006

Blair Kamin: Big Alien Saucer Soldier Field Gets What it Deserves

I know this is a bit late, but the Trib's architectural critic, Blair Kamin, did such a great job writing about the colossal aesthetic failure of the Soldier Field renovation and the subsequent fall-out, that I wanted to note it here.

As you may know, Soldier Field lost its status as a national historic landmark because its renovation robbed it of most of its historic character. Kamin's April 24 piece is a deliciously satisfying, finger-pointing read. Find it here.

A representative quote:
"(The stripping of landmark status) sends a message that resounds far beyond Chicago: Don't mess with the nation's most venerated sites, not if your design is going to make it look, as this one did, like the Starship Enterprise crash-landed atop the Parthenon. The feds won't let you get away with it, especially if they have the power to stop you in your tracks financially, which, unfortunately, they lacked in this case."

5 comments:

Mark said...

Blair Kamin is an extremist preservationist who, like the rest of them, engages in revisionist history. Any fault with the new Soldier Field is not the fault of the architect or the mayor. It's the fault of the preservationists. They tried to save a pedestrian structure of weak significance. They lost, but as is typcal with zealots, they just couldn't let it go. They demanded a bone, so the mayor left them the columns. End of story.

Jennifer said...

First of all, I'm grateful for this comment. I am not a knee jerk preservationist, and I think there is a lot of room for good debate about what is or is not worth saving. I'm also a big fan of looking at buildings in clusters rather than isolated case-by-isolated case.

What bothers me about the Soldier Field renovation is that a) the end result is a ridiculous eyesore no matter what lens you look through; b) it lost its national landmark status which is a civic shame; c) nobody's that happy with it (although my husband reports that it seems to be decent for watching the 11 or so football games that take place there).

I do not always agree with Kamin and do find him to be one of those critics who focuses on "New Works by Big Stars," but in this instance, I think he's absolutely right. The city lost here in a lot of ways and it should be a warning to others in the industry to think twice.

But, back to Mark's point. There was a New Yorker article from some years back about how Rome's obsession with preserving its history has shut down any kind of ability to revitalize itself in various corners of that ancient city. That article really opened my eyes to the need for a public dialogue on what's worth preserving and what's not versus a knee-jerk attitude of "let's save it all."

So, thanks again, Mark, for stopping by. Do bring your opinions back again.

Best ~ jr.

Anonymous said...

Now the city of Chicago is being distracted in a debate -
host an Olympics. And what is the ultimate photo-op
everyone talks about? The signature video view on Monday night football? Solider Field. But the truth behind the now ugly picture is this -
We had a world-class building, recognized as a national treasure. Short-term greed destroyed not only the
aesthetics but the use of Solider Field. If the field had been expanded and not reduced by the Bears 20 years ago it would be viable and beautiful today...and
available as the main Olympic site. It would showcase our legacy as a city with a proud identity. Remember the creed Royko suggested for us instead of "City in a Garden?" it was "Where's Mine?"
So Solider Field was sacrificed and taxpayers are paying. We'll be paying for that one for a long time.
If respecting Solider Field is extremist than there is so much more work to do..
Let's tear down Wriglely Towers, Who needs Field's?
The Art Institute is really old and does it have to be
be on that valuable land? Let's churn, I mean rebuild, our neighborhoods with out of context,
overbuilt faux-mansions no one can affiord or wants to
stay in for even five years. Now that's extreme.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, anonymous. I hadn't thought about how I might feel seeing an image of the alien saucer broadcast to the world via the Olympics. Yeck.

Anonymous said...

See. I told you they were zealots. You can't have a rational discussion because suddenly we're tearing down the Art Institute and paving over our neighborhods. It's no wonder that Kamin and certain aldermen pander to them.
Mark