What would Olmsted think?


To the Editor:

When Frederick Law Olmsted was brought back to Chicago after the fair to design a new park, he clearly stated that “Any building ever built in Jackson Park be subservient to the Museum of Science and Industry.” This is a statement of fact, not opinion.

The statement, from Southside Neighbors 4 Hope, that this building is “consistent” with Olmsted’s design cries out for some fact-checking.

I do not see this towering, 22- story, windowless, stone-covered obelisk of a building as being “subservient” to the Museum of Science and Industry. It is around four times as high as the dome at the museum. This is a huge building, approximately the same height as Jeanne Gang’s building, on 56th Street.  But, the OPC has no windows, and no one knows what kind of stone will cover it.

A building of this height will overpower the park. It will cast a long shadow, and be an unmistakable, man-made presence, visible throughout the park. I do not see how anyone could describe this as an attribute to the park. Placing this in our park results in a loss of park land, while locating it on Stony Island Avenue would both preserve and expand the park.

No other museum, in any Chicago park, occupies a 22-story, mid-rise building. Then, the OPC proposes these other buildings – a gym, a library (?), these other buildings are offering services that are either already there (libraries) or should be accommodated with a new field house.  These buildings duplicate services, available nearby.

The field house somehow got left out. This is the athletic center of the park, ours was built back in 1960. The building is outgrown, the roof leaks, there’s no air conditioning in the summer, in the winter, the boiler breaks.  This is where the athletic center should be.

To say that this huge building, this campus, will be a benefit to all, they don’t seem to understand the need to protect, preserve our park land. The same benefits could be achieved along Stony, and the park would be saved.  Olmsted would have been amazed by the size of this building, and the fact they are trying to build it in his historic park.

Olmsted was clear: you shouldn’t build structures this large in the park.

Finally, if Cornell is an issue, I’d suggest re-configuring it to two lanes in both directions.

I wouldn’t remove it entirely, as many people rely on it. This works elsewhere in the park.

If Southside Neighbors has problems crossing this, I’d suggest they use the crosswalk.  They could save us $176 million in road reworking.


Ross Petersen