Urbanity

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.

Natural Contrast

 

I grew up in a smallish city, but I grew up on the borders of that city, so I’m a bit more of a country girl than one might expect.  There is a wetland near my childhood home, and some little woods.  My mother and father kept a garden for vegetables until I was a teenager, and when I was really little and we lived in an apartment, we rented a plot at the County Farm Park, which is even more wilderness than my backyard was.

So when I was given the opportunity to visit a large hunting estate in Spain, I jumped on the chance.  The photos above are staggered– some American; some Spanish– to give the viewer a sense of both places, but also to help the viewer understand how from each place a different culture may spring, with common threads intertwined.

Urban Contrast

 

These are photos of the built environment.  Most of them are in Chicago, Paris, Madrid, or London, but there are a few other cities represented.  Growing up, cities always seemed so grandiose.  Something I could never touch, or live within.  Now the opposite feels more true.  It is hard to afford certain sub-urban luxuries like a car living on a low wage, and so I’ve spent most of the last twelve years living in big cities with good public transport.  The way one sees a city traveling on public transport creates a corridor of details that one knows very well.  Often going outside the well worn paths that we need to get from work to home to school and back again costs us so much time that in order to maintain interest, we find new details in things that one would never notice from a car.

These photos are put in an order to allow the viewer to compare different means of travel, and the different kinds of lifestyles on this continent, and that one.