Posts Tagged ‘Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’

The Great Chicago Fire started October 8, 1871 and left 100,000 of the 300,000 inhabitants homeless.  Being Chicagoans, they rolled up their sleeves, cleaned up and started rebuilding.

What to do with the rubble from all those destroyed buildings?  Why, dump it into the lake.  This was the beginning of the landfill east of the railroad tracks that became Grant Park.  The city’s politicians and merchants had to come up with an ordinance about how that land was to be used.  Aaron Montgomery Ward, the department store and catalog tycoon, insisted that the land east of Michigan Avenue, from Randolph to Roosevelt, should remain free of buildings and be used for parks only—for the enjoyment and recreation of all the people of Chicago.  In 1911, after 20 years of court battles against the city, he won.  The only exception he agreed to is the Art Institute, which was part of the Colombian Exposition of 1893.

The Colombian Exposition and Jackson Park were laid out by the pre-eminent landscape architect in 19th Century America, Fredrick Law Olmstead (1822-1903). His successors, the Olmsted Brothers, consulted Daniel Burnham in planning Grant Park.

Olmsted also planned Central Park in New York and advised the planners for Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  He was a nature lover. He believed that parks were vital to city dwellers for relaxation and rejuvenation. I remember reading, though not where exactly, that Olmsted hated sculptures in parks.

This bit of Chicago history and Olmsted’s part in it went through my head when I walked down Michigan Avenue recently.  There, past Jackson, is a little rectangular park with benches. It’s a spot to sit a spell and reflect, to get away from man-made structures and institutions, to be surrounded by nature for a short breather, just the thing Olmsted designed parks for.

IMG_1489But, alas, now this little park, called Solti Gardens, is cluttered with humanoid metal objects.  There are twenty-six of them, all insipid male-ish figures, with the same bland face, standing, sitting and kneeling pointlessly. If they were heroic and Rodin-y they would be just as much of a nuisance. The sculptor, no doubt, thought she would add a note of poignancy by making her bland figures on one side of the park out of dark metal and those on the other side of light metal.  No, Ms. Thórarinsdóttir and your financiers, you’re not helping us think about race in America with these lifeless figures. Olmsted would throw this junk out.

Presiding over the clutter is a monstrous head on a pedestal, supposedly commemorating George Solti.  It’s an insult to music lovers and Solti-admirers and Olmsted would not approve.

13ParkOlmsted1A woman in a red coat was walking her two little dogs over the gravel and the grass.   A young couple took a brisk detour through the park to get to the intersection at Congress.  An artist was sneaking photos of the scene and reflecting on the history of Chicago and on what parks are for.  Our great designer of parks would be happy to see how these people related to a city park.

Thank you, Mr. Olmsted.  Sorry for the sculpture clutter.

For more timid reviews:



All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





Read Full Post »