Chicagoans, so it seems, are a no-nonsense bunch. Give them a hometown heroine — Aqua Tower architect, Brutalist landmark defender, and invasive species combatant Jeanne Gang — but don’t expect any starry-eyed fawning when it comes to making changes to this hallowed Illinois cityscape. Gang’s recently unveiled proposal to mount a 20,000-square-foot, flower-shaped ballroom on top of the unequivocally boxy Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile was met with some critical opposition, as a group of locals from the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) argued that its overhanging, petal-like eaves would create a “closed-in feeling” at the street level and block “light and vistas for everyone to enjoy,” according to ChicagoRealEstateDaily.
“We do like the design,” said one representative of the group Gail Spreen. “We think it’s very creative. We just don’t think the overhangs should be allowed.” In a recent SOAR newsletter, the group expressed concern that approval of the project would set a bad precedent for future projects. It is refreshing to see such concern for the urban milieu as a whole and consideration for the street as a public common, though the fear of setting bad precedents can, at times, stifle creativity. With the debate over the preservation of the Prentice Women’s Hospital frothing into a lofty discussion about design, we have faith that Chicagoans, pragmatic as they are, also have open minds.
- Kelly Chan