Building a library, and a community.

Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side is a beautiful and serene open space fronting the world-class lakefront of the city, but over 100 years ago, it was also the site of one of the most lavish and lavishly designed world’s fairs, the 1893 Columbian Exposition, marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus sailing to the ‘New World’ (only one year late, since Columbus set sail in 1492).  The buildings of the expo weren’t built to last as they were temporary exhibition spaces, a huge missed opportunity that could have heralded a renaissance beyond what was displayed during the expo.  Almost all of the buildings were destroyed, with the exception of the Fine Arts Building, which is now the wildly popular Museum of Science and Industry.
While the surrounding area is bordered by the influence of the University of Chicago and the prominence of the Hyde Park neighborhood, most of the neighborhoods bordering the park are textbook examples of blight due to lost opportunity, the plague of gangs and drug wars due to Chicago’s stature as the transportation hub of North America.  But a couple of projects situated in Jackson Park may herald a new, brighter future for the area.
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 All image credits: wHY Studio.
New York-based wHY Studio has designed a new music pavilion for a peninsular area just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.  The ‘Y’-shaped building (alliteration lovers unite!), open pavilion soars out from it’s serene, Japanese garden setting, and hopes to attract people from all over for outdoor music venues and hopes to provide more civic engagement for this sleepy park oasis.
But that’s not all, as an even bigger attraction will be drawing countless more multitudes to the area in the next few years: the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Foundation will also be housed within the park, on the eastern end, fronting the Midway Plaisance park that cuts through the University of Chicago.  The Library foundation recently announced that the (again, what the Hell??) New York-based firm of WIlliams-Tsien Architects will be the lead design architect for the massive undertaking, comprising at least 250,000 sq ft of exhibition, archive and office space.
The true hope is that such a massive and important presence in this park will help spurn developments within the surrounding communities that have suffered so much neglect over the past 60 years.  Here’s hoping that these symbolic beacons will increase momentum in making the south side whole again, for everyone involved.

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