Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome to Chicago's Super Loop

Blair Kamin - Chicago Tribune Architecture Columnist - has a fun read about the boom of construction in what he calls the "Super Loop" (via Tribune):
A flock of construction cranes fills the sky. Downtown's population is soaring. The skyline is changing and so is the texture of city life.

A generation ago, West Madison Street was Chicago's Skid Row home to winos and flophouses. It is now a chic strip of sushi joints, cycle studios, preschools and a gourmet ice cream shop. But the architectural fare consists of bland apartment high rises that have drawn complaints of monotony.

In River North, the old Ed Debevic's, a faux '50s diner best known for gum-snapping, table-dancing waiters and waitresses, is gone, replaced by a eye-grabbing apartment tower whose cantilevered wedges of glass resemble a Jenga game in midstream. Yet that building is an anomaly amid the bland, form-follows-finance high-rises popping up elsewhere in the neighborhood and around the city.

So it goes in The Great Chicago Post-Recession Building Boom. A surge of tall buildings, the vast majority of them housing rental apartments, is creating a densely populated, urban core — call it the Super Loop — that is pushing far beyond the borders of the traditional downtown. But the Super Loop is patently un-super in at least one respect: It lacks a new version of the technological and aesthetic innovations that made Chicago's reputation as the cradle of modern architecture.

And that's the tone of the article in general.  Despite the negativity, it's a good read on many levels.  Kamin's provide some surprising info about the Super Loop:
Consider, though, the bright side of the building boom, which has been overshadowed by the violence wracking parts of Chicago's West and South sides. For city lovers who believe that density, rather than sprawl, is the ideal path to cutting car use, saving energy and halting the effects of climate change, these are, in many ways, the best of times:

—Nearly 229,000 people now live in the central area roughly bounded by Lake Michigan on the east, the Stevenson Expressway on the south, Ashland Avenue on the west and North Avenue on the north, according to an analysis of population data done for the Tribune by Chicago-based demographer Rob Paral.

That's an increase, since 1990, of more than 82,000 — more than the population of Evanston. Three-quarters of the gain has occurred since 2000 as waves of high-rise residential construction — first primarily condominiums, then, after the recession, chiefly rental apartments — remade the city's core.

Taken by itself, the Super Loop would form Illinois' second-largest city, easily topping No. 2 Aurora, which has about 201,000 residents.
The article isn't solely focused on the Sloop, but it does provide some shout-outs - most notably where it gives design props to 1101 S. States "guitar-like curves".

If you've got the time we'd suggest the read.  It's an interesting read if you're curious about architecture, design and urban trends.

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