Bloomingdale Trail architect's rendering
Reading Blair Kamin’s Monday post about the Bloomingdale Trail—in which he reflects on the city’s recent announcement about funding for the Trail—got me thinking about the many conversations I had about the Trail last year that culminated in Walter Hood’s amazing lecture “Industrial Past, Green Tomorrow” at last November’s Festival.
Meetings with the Friends of Bloomingdale Trail and the Trust for Public Land and everyone’s favorite green-space advocate, Helen Doria, led me to Hood, who offered a surprisingly poetic and expansive presentation on the reclamation of unused (or misused) industrial and urban spaces.
On paper, Hood is a professor and former chair of landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and principal of Hood Design in Oakland. In reality though, he is so much more: a magnificent storyteller, a philosopher, a challenger of overly-long-held ideas. Hood’s program is everything you want in a podcast—rich in imagery and provocative intellectually. He encourages us to consider the city—not just our city, but in this case, specifically our city—as a text, a story, whose narrative is well-known and whose landscape supports it. “Make no small plans,” he echoes Daniel Burnham.
But, unlike Burnham’s grand ambitions, Hood’s are more modest, if also more revolutionary. Let the past rest for a time, he admonishes, and in the meantime look at who you (Chicago) are—as a community, as a society. And where you are. And be there. If you do this, he asserts, resources present themselves. Then the work is to dust them off (the bricks, the infrastructure); dust it off (the city), but be careful not to bring back the wrong thing. And don’t be too quick to name what it is you’re doing, because if you do, institutions (civic, educational, philanthropic) will insist on limiting your vision to the name you have chosen.
Take a listen, and let Hood’s gentle force and vision carry you to Pittsburgh, to Wyoming, and to the near northwest side of Chicago, where the potential for something quite new out of something quite old is emerging.
What’s more—Hood’s pointed dissection of how our uniquely American ethos (“We are not a society that likes to collect our past.”) effects how we treat our ruins, is food for thought for my colleagues and I as we look forward to Fall 2012.
Photo credit: Rebecca Droke/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (of Walter Hood)
Tags: landscape, architecture, city, urban, planning, park, trail, Bloomingdale, public land, Walter, Hood, narrative, story, philosopher