All posts tagged: Blair Kamin

Excerpt from Who Is the City For?


This piece is excerpted from Who Is the City For? Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago by Blair Kamin ’79, a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024. Register for this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.

Who Is the City For?: Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago

By Blair Kamin with Photographs by Lee Bey

Title in bold, white Sans Serif font behind a photo of Chicago's The Bean sculpture. Art Deco high-rises fill the background.

Looking back on nearly thirty years of architecture criticism at the Chicago Tribune, I realize that I have borne witness to a dramatic transformation of Chicago, from a declining industrial colossus to a dynamic yet deeply troubled postindustrial powerhouse, whose favored emblem is a jellybean-shaped sculpture of highly polished steel. The mirrorlike surface of that sculpture, officially titled Cloud Gate but widely known as “the Bean,” reflects the striking skyline of the city’s ever-growing downtown, now home to $10 million condominiums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and an elegant promenade that rims the once badly polluted Chicago River. But the Bean does not reflect the reality of a very different Chicago. That Chicago, though not without distinguished buildings and untapped economic potential, is also a place of weed-strewn vacant lots, empty storefronts, and unceasing gun violence. Indeed, Cloud Gate may be the ultimate shiny, distracting object. While the 2020 census revealed that Chicago’s population grew by nearly 2 percent during the previous decade, to 2.7 million, the dramatic disconnect between the two Chicagos prompts the question: Is this a good city, a just city? Absolutely not. Which prompts a second query: Can those responsible for building the city advance the fortunes of neighborhoods devastated by decades of discrimination, disinvestment, and deindustrialization? On that crucial matter, the jury is still out.

Excerpt from Who Is the City For?