Chicago Diversity

  • over 700 public works of art
  • 46 historic districts
  • 369 landmarks
  • world’s first steel-framed skyscraper in 1885 (Hall building)
  • Chicago cultural center is first free municipal cultural center
  • willis tower tallest building in western hemisphere
  • largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris, France



From one blogger to another

Based on the location you were raised, people will label you as a country kid or a city kid. Personally, I’ve lived in Riverview, Florida and Keene, New Hampshire for the bulk of my life (with a little bit of suburban Connecticut thrown right in the middle). Based on this, I’m labeled as “country folk”, someone who has lived on the more rural side of things. Small towns, small community, small talk, small everything. Buying local wasn’t the latest craze, it was what you always did.
But that’s not the life that many people lead. Keene is much more “urban” than its neighboring towns like Winchester, Richmond, Chesterfield, or Hinsdale, but it is still far from being a “city” (aside from the population, which is hiked up during the months when college is in session).

There has always been this perceived notion of city vs country, when it’s different for each person. However, the energy and aesthetic of the city definitely influences the people who live in it. Cities tend to be more left-leaning (interesting that they are also more democratic, both metaphorically and literally), while the countryside and more rural areas tend to be more conservative.

I’ve been doing a lot of fieldwork in researching the opinions of people who live in cities and the countryside help me with this project. Since i’m going to be making a blog installation, I figured I would gain insight about city and country life based on the blogs of others.

downtown_keene_5A glimpse at the downtown portion of Keene, NH

On the blogging website, the Guardian, an article was written with the pros of living in a city and living in the countryside. According to Jessica Reed and Heather Long, living in the city has a participatory feel to it. People take public transit over driving or they walk among the endless crowds of people. “If you want to have a semblance of a social life and like to do wild things like,  oh, going to the cinema on a Monday night, the city is for you,” they argue.
One of the biggest arguments for living in a city is that there will always be a place for you to fit in. Unlike living in a small community, if you do not fit the lifestyle of the town you live in, it will often be hard for people to find friends. According to the article, “there is something for everyone”. The architecture of the cities also seems to reflect this lifestyle. Buildings of various sizes and shapes mirror this idea that anyone can be anything and there is something for every walk of life in the city (unless, of course, you want to live in a quiet, small, close-knit community).

DaVon Saunders, a writer for The Odyssey Online also wrote a comparison post about city life and country life. He seems more comforted with the suburban lifestyle, but eventually declares his preference for a countryside lifestyle. However, he mentions that the life of a city has this feel of protection – that your life is not constantly under the microscope of the society. Because there are so many people, mistakes and rumors often do not travel around because the probability of someone outside of your social circle knowing you is relatively limited.

But on another article from The Odyssey, Kaleigh Watkins highlights her ability to expand her personality and herself through moving from a small town into a large city.

“In that small town that I grew up in, without realizing it, I let myself fear deviating from the norm and I did my best to slip between the cracks and to go unnoticed. I let myself do what I could to please the stigma that was set in place for students and children in a town like ours.” – Kaleigh Watkins, What Happens When You Escape a Small Town

Kaleigh describes the democratic ideals of living in a city: the idea of expansion. Her self-growth was influenced by the diversity of the city. She was able to figure out who she truly was and overcome barriers which inhibited her growth from living in a small city.

It’s interesting that places with a lot of diversity also tend to be more left-leaning democrats, people who feel more progressive and comfortable with constantly changing and differentiating themselves from others in the city.
So could it be argued that the diverse buildings reflect the diverse crowd which reside below them?

875 N Michigan Ave


Black steel, the pinnacle of structural expressionism, and two towering antennae distinguishes itself from the other buildings which decorate the city of Chicago. Designed by Bruce Graham and developed by Jerry Wolman, the John Hancock building is the 33rd largest skyscraper in the entire world.
While the X-frame steel looks like it reinforces the building, it’s entirely decoration. However, during its initial build, the wrong kind of concrete was used in the first twenty stories of the building. Construction was supposed to stop, but then John Hancock Financial took over financing and was able to finish the construction.

While steel does not age the building, recently there was an innovation using the tilted-design to create an attraction where tourists are able to press themselves against the glass and part of the building tilts out so that people can get an aerial view of the Magnificent Mile.

“Gutsy, masculine, and industrial; reflecting the tradition of Chicago, where structure is of the essence.” – Bruce Graham

This building was right across from where we stayed during our trip to Spring Break.

Key Terms

School isn’t stressful enough without having bronchitis during the last three weeks of class.

As our projects begin to finally come together and we’re starting to see some progress, it’s important for us to answer some questions that we’ve had to formulate in order to justify this project.
I think this was harder for me because I was working backwards- I can only go to Chicago so often from New Hampshire during a school semester. I took pictures of all the buildings that especially stuck out to me and made notes about some of the public spaces which could help me work on this project, but I was never asking myself why when I snapped the many pictures clogging up my camera roll.

During class on Tuesday we were working on fine-tuning the key-terms associated with our projects and were asked to come up with questions that are relative to the terms in order to help people understand these projects.
So with that, I will link you to the first post – my project proposal on ARTchitecture.

Key Terms:
1. expansion
2. expression
3. collectivity
4. diversity

I kept coming back to these terms, using them as pillars in my project to highlight that urban planning is supposed to be about utilizing the space so that it may benefit the largest number of people – and it requires the help of many people in order to even become a project. Life is collaborative, life is democratic in the observational sense.

How does expansion provide room for democracy?
How is collectivity a pillar in urban development when each building or space is done individually?
In Chicago, does the diversity of the city reflect the diversity of the people inside?

Marina City


An intriguing blend of sculpture and structure, the round, “corn-cob” shaped apartment buildings, the towers rose from the plaza and, as described by critic Allan Temko, supported themselves as they ascended, “uncommonly strong and efficient.” — Bertrand Goldberg

During my endeavor to Chicago, the building that stuck out to me the most was Marina City, designed by Bertrand Goldberg. It sits comfortably right along the Chicago River, and serves as a famous building for its aesthetic. It was originally designed to be a “city within a city”, but is currently used for apartment spaces as well as a hotel on the towers. Behind it was Chicago’s House of Blues, with many restaurants lining the riverside just below.
This tower is on the cover of one of my favorite albums, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but has been shown in movies and television shows as well. Currently the towers have been landmarked.

According to the Chicago Architecture Foundation website, “when architect Bertrand Goldberg envisioned Marina City, it was an urban experiment designed to draw middle-class Chicagoans back to the city after more than a decade of suburban migration.” Its development was ahead of its time because people began to stop migrating to the suburbs because they were able to walk to work, or even live in the building they worked in. It was considered to be a huge success, freeing individuals of their time by letting them live in a closer distance to their occupation.
And while that’s good for employers and the employees, it allowed people to live and grow in the city without having to travel as much. Originally, a theatre, skating rink, and restaurants were also inside of the tower so that people could have some recreational fun.



“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


I went on a trip to Chicago for the Alternate Break program through Keene State College. Each break is themed and works with a specific partner, or partners, depending on their theme. I was selected to join the “arts as a social change” group, where we drove to Chicago, IL, for the week of spring break. Fortunately for us, it was Chicago’s “year of public art”, where art decorated the streets. Sculptures, park developments, and other temporary pieces were installed all around the city as a celebration to its famed art scene.

Giordano’s, a famous chain pizza place for its deep-dish style, has a blog which directs tourists to the 200+ art galleries around the city. On top of these many art galleries, many public sculptures line the streets. One Keene State professor, Dr. Marin Sullivan, lives in Chicago during breaks and even gave us a public art tour in the middle of the snowstorm!
We saw Picasso’s controversial sculpture, Cloud Gate, and many more installments by local artists from around the city.

While this was cool, I was encapsulated by the incredible buildings and its diversity, which really made me feel like everybody was accepted in this particular city. Small, old-fashioned Roman buildings were paired next to modern steel skyscrapers which paired up with tucked away brick buildings all cluttered the streets in this niche fashion that I could not keep my eyes away from.
Art is a reflection of who we are, and how we see the world. We create art based off of our experiences, or someone else’s – and architecture is very similar. Buildings are designed specifically for the needs and wishes of the people, and having the democracy to choose how a building looks is completely freeing and nonconforming, something so important in the ideology of democracy.

My project involves looking at some of the diverse buildings in the Loop of Chicago, where the Chicago Cultural Centers lies in the heart of.