In our excursion for Week 5, we got a glimpse of Chicago’s open space, how it is being repurposed, and problems of location and content. Our tour was led by the President and CEO of Openlands, Gerald W. Adelmann. Openlands is a conservation organization that is dedicated to make Chicago’s urban spaces more vibrant, and improve our quality of life through the functional use of open space. Adelmann was the perfect host in helping us visualize how landscape has an affect on the city and society. 

Throughout our tour, we were made aware of new trees across the city, that have been diligently planted by the Openlands' TreeKeepers. These volunteers come from all backgrounds, but all share the common knowledge of the importance of planting trees in order to revitalize and beautify urban spaces, prevent flooding, and better the city’s air quality, in addition to many other functional purposes. This is only one of the many ways in which Openlands has an impact on the city’s green space.

We also discussed ongoing debates revolving around the location of the Lucas Museum, as well as the Obama presidential library, which will be coming to the city of Chicago later this year. In looking at these debates, we could see the policy perspective - how government and organizations can work together to progress or stunt the goals of each separate side. In addition, we see difficulties when land and purpose are weighted, the role of transportation and access in visiting certain sites, and the financial aspect that may contribute to locations for important sites. For example, in the Obama Library debate, we could see the pros and cons of locations in Jackson Park or Washington Park. Looking at accessibility (proximity to public transportation), the community they would be in, the location in terms of tourist considerations (near the Museum of Science and Industry versus further away, for example), and many other factors, all contributed to the evident complexity of this debate.

Lastly, we were able to spend time at the U.S. Steel South Works Brownfield Site. Massive mills used to store limestone, steel, and coal here, only 10 miles from downtown Chicago. This large, now open space symbolized the shift in industry that we have been learning about in our history class: Making Chicago. Here we saw historical ties as we were able to imagine the extent of Chicago’s production and industry during the site’s golden years.

 

By: Natalia Delery