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Why Did Chicagoist Cross the Drive?

By Rachelle Bowden in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 9, 2004 4:41PM

Jahn Footbridge - Photo: www.architecture.orgDuring the last few years, this aesthetically-inclined Chicagoist has wondered more than once just what this city, renowned the world over for its architecture, was doing with its bad self. Every new building seemed to be either a ubiquitous 3- or 6-flat with a red brick front, limestone detailing and sterile concrete block sides, or monolithic and uninteresting residential tower. Blah blah bah…

But at last, Chicago’s architectural conscience seems to have shaken the late nineties boring boom, and with recent treasures by architectural heavyweights Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas in the hizz-ouse, the city once again seems to be on the fast track to architectural mecca-dom. Can we get a structurally-sound “Hell yeah”?

And the plot thickens, as Chicago considers its next architectural move: five new pedestrian bridges to span Lake Shore Drive at a variety of locations. As is typical with large-scale municipal projects in architecturally hip towns, the city conducted a massive design competition for the projects, which yielded 67 entries from neophytes and stalwarts, including Chicago favorite Helmut Jahn. That Phillips Swager Associates Footbridge - Photo: www.architecture.orgpool has recently been narrowed to 13 finalists by the evaluation committee’s tangled web of architects, preservationists, park-peeps and engineers (probably the kind that build bridges, not the kind that wear striped hats and drive trains (unfortunately)), and the contenders will all have to sit pretty and not get their panties in a bind until the winners are announced in January 2005.

The new bridges, which are expected to cost between $5 million and $20 million each, will cross LSD on the south lakefront at 35th, 41st and 43rd streets, as well as a spot near the Chicago River that will provide new access to the hella-crowded lakefront bike path. Finally, the beloved and oft-flowery North Avenue Bridge will be replaced, due to its nasty habit of not meeting federal accessibility standards.

Who says this city doesn’t love its residents… shelling out up to $100 million, just so we can get to beach via mo’ stylish means? Thanks, King Daley, sir…

Thanks, Andrew!