I’m in Chicago. It is perhaps the quintessential Midwestern city. It is familiar, and homey, even though I don’t want to be here. The two and three story brick and greystone buildings with little bungalows interspersed. The Chicago style bungalow that has two floors instead of one like the California version. Or at least a floor, a basement and a slanted-roof attic/loft which may or may not be finished adequately to live in.
The narrow side-streets that people fly down too fast in their cars; the Freeways; the Boulevards and parks. The Lake!
This Land is my Land. But I like California too, and I miss my little 1930’s apartment, even though the older turn of the century to 1920’s buildings in Chicago are much more elegant, and feel much more solid. I miss the hills of San Francisco and the smell of Eucalyptus.
But it is interesting how different and the same everything feels. It is nice to know where I’m going. It is nice to have a car here. I think, even if I were still poor as a church-mouse here, if I had a car, I wouldn’t feel so claustrophobic.
I love the way Chicago is built to have a life around the lake and around the neighborhood parks and plazas. It has, as Burnham wanted, a lot to do with Paris. The way neighborhoods each have a park, and each have their own personality is very much the way I feel about Paris. And if Chicago weren’t built on an American style grid, it would feel even more like Paris. Parts of Barcelona and Madrid are built this way. The ones that lay outside the ancient spider-webbed centers.
In Madrid, as soon as it gets a little bit chilly (not yet in their season, but maybe in October, or early November) people who would like to sit on the patio of a restaurant run inside instead. Here, this morning, I saw a girl sitting outside the café where I’m using the internet using her laptop. She was appropriately bundled with a scarf and a grey wool pea-coat, but she was out there, enjoying the last of the temperate weather before the cold sets in in earnest.
There is in a way, a deeper appreciation of weather here. We have much more of it! Even the rain.
Last night we were out with some friends, and the rain began to come down in sheets. We saw six or seven bicyclists ride by in the inclement weather. Soaked through because the rain was unexpected. They looked like they were having a blast. In Madrid, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen people on bicycles in the rain outside of the park.
So why am I putting this discussion about city-life in my Art blog? Because the Built-Environment has a lot to do with how we see things. Because it is, in a way, a piece of art, however unintentional some of it may be. It influences how we feel and how we behave, whether we notice it or not.