The Mythic Construction of Chicago,
Chicago is more than a city, it is a myth. Its history and its traces have left an indelible mark that cannot be told separately. Neither its architecture nor its public works can fully capture its essence. Nor can its protagonists, from gangsters to Nobel laureates, fully explain its magic.
Chicago is a young and dynamic city. Its rapid growth has made it a metropolis in a short time, and its relatively recent construction allows it to be known in a unique and special way. Its young age has also made it immensely famous compared to other cities, thanks to stories that have transcended borders.
Its inhabitants rightly claim Chicago’s second to none, because it has never been the first American city in anything –but not for lack of trying in the short period of its history–. It tried to surpass New York in population, but that desire soon gave way to the desire to be first in the world in courage, energy, and determination. Such is the ambition of the young metropolis, whose reputation has transcended its physical boundaries, achieving the status of muse in both prose and poetry. It's also had a profound influence on those who live in it; numerous writers, poets, and scholars have found inspiration in Chicago. And its influence has extended to all branches of art and science, shaping the literary background of the nation. In fact, it gave rise to an important all-purpose label: The Chicago School, present in every discipline.
The city's development was aided by its strategic location and access to major waterways and railroads. Chicago became a trading center and soon began to produce its own goods. The industrial growth attracted people from all over the world, resulting in a rapid increase in population. Over time, the city has asserted itself in an ever-expanding metropolitan area, and its fame, though often distorted and mellowed, has reached all corners of the world. This accumulation of qualities has contributed to its charm and, needless to say, to the creation of the Chicago myth.
To write a book that approaches the city from multiple perspectives, it was necessary to resort to creators as relevant to the city and as diverse as poet Carl Sandburg, urban planners Ludwig Hilberseimer and Jane Jacobs, architect Mies van der Rohe, political scientist Larry Bennett, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Mike Royko and Louis Stud Terkel.
The book’s index contains the three necessary points of view to study the nature of a city. Firstly, its history, divided into three phases, then its form and structures, and lastly its design –not the plans per se, but rather the problems encountered–. After the introduction, the second chapter deals with the origins of the city, with special attention to the difficulties and advantages of its location and situation. The third is devoted to planning, with special attention to Burnham and Bennet's 1908 plan and the leading figure of Frederick Law Olmsted. The fourth chapter focuses on the innovative construction that overcame the site's problems and developed a new aesthetic that gave rise to the renowned Chicago School of Architecture.
The fifth chapter is devoted to the peculiar style of governance that developed in the city beginning in the Roaring Twenties and continued for decades, with a personal focus on longtime mayors, organized crime gangsters, and civil rights leaders. Chicago cannot be understood without studying the figures of Al Capone or Martin Luther King. The sixth chapter focuses on art and artists and their presence in the city's streets, squares, gardens, and neighborhoods. Finally, the seventh chapter covers the most recent decades, indebted to this form of government, but with the city clearly oriented toward a more global presence in the world.
In short, Chicago is much more than a city. Its history, its industrial development, and its cultural diversity have turned it into a myth; and its urban planning, its regional vision, and the recognition of its key figures have become fundamental aspects for understanding and connecting the past, present, and future of this fascinating metropolis.Reviews:
The Necessary Construction of Vancouver,
If you arrive in Vancouver by train, after passing through the Rocky Mountains, you can understand the great role of the railway in the formation of Canada. The posters of the Canadian Pacific Railways already manage to link the grandiose landscape with the need for the railway to reach, as its name indicates, the Pacific.
There are many similarities and some differences in the arrival of the railway in Vancouver in 1887 and in Oakland-San Francisco in 1869. Both cities longed for its arrival, but what in San Francisco was a great improvement, in Vancouver it was an urgent necessity, due to the great difficulties of terrain and weather.British Columbia occupies the southwest of the Canadian territory and is, in fact, a very rough terrain and then totally unknown. Getting from the prairies of Alberta to Vancouver requires traversing three mountain ranges, the Rockies, the Selkirk and the Coastal, a difficult trek in summer and impossible in winter. In addition, the integration of British Columbia into Canada affected that enormous and unexplored space, during a long and turbulent time. The First Nations participated in it, established there since time immemorial, and some of the most powerful nations in the world, specifically Great Britain, France and Spain –with colonies in the American continent– and the brand new United States. The decisive moment of that turbulent time was October 28, 1790, when the Nootka Bay Agreement was signed in Madrid, and Spain, threatened with war by Great Britain, renounced its monopoly on navigation and trade in the Pacific so as not to face this war that Spain could not win. After detailing this type of aspect in the introduction, the story of the book is structured around the authors of the explorations, conflicts, negotiations, projects and constructions that have been making possible and shaping the city, true protagonists of the action, often with autonomy in their decisions. The second chapter describes the explorations of the Pacific coast by sea and by land, together with the incident that the British took as an excuse to raise the conflict, and its subsequent consequences for the colony of British Columbia, as well as for the primacy of the coast mainland over the islands to house the future Pacific port. The third chapter is dedicated to the railway. Its arrival was a necessary and sufficient condition for the integration of British Columbia into Canada. In fact, the Canadian Pacific Railway was the one who decided and built the arrival port for the railway and chose the name of Vancouver for the city that would be built there. After a first part dedicated to the definition of the layout and the construction of the railway, the second reflects the preparations and consequences of that arrival. As in the previous one, the chapter is organized according to the protagonists of each stage. The fourth chapter studies in detail the ideas that shaped the city. At the end of World War II, Vancouver had not yet turned a century, but the citizens managed to be listened to in the implementation of the new. A group of sensitive planners knew how to develop consultation and participation procedures that, for a few years, made it possible to solve the problems that arose. The development of Vancouver's wide waterfront is treated with special interest. Once again, people lead the sections, accompanied by the facet or quality of the city for which they fought. Citizens are the protagonists of the fifth and final chapter. It is structured around the achievements and difficulties of the city itself with respect to values and ideas that are today understood as desirable: Vancouver is intended and presented as green, habitable and with sustainable mobility. And here entry is given to the assessment received by the city compared to other cities in the world, an assessment in which it has lost position in recent years. Getting to Vancouver is not easy and, therefore, each chapter marks an arrival that changes the city of the moment and projects it into the future. In the second, dedicated to the explorers, the Europeans arrive; in the third, about the railway, it is Canada itself that arrives in Vancouver; in the fourth, dedicated to planners, modernity and its complexities arrive; and in the fifth, the citizens themselves see the whole world arrive. Like most of the big cities in the world, Vancouver could not be visited for many months due to the pandemic, which has made more difficult to get to know the city. Between September and October 2021, this deficiency was corrected and, as always, practically all the photographs in this book have been taken by the author and his collaborators. Vancouver is a green and well-maintained city, with a magnificent environment that deserves to be enjoyed. Reseñas
The Construction of the Port and City of Hamburg,
Understanding Hamburg requires overcoming a first dilemma: is it a city or a port. Any attempt to understand it involve in some way getting closer to both of them and will require an explanation of their relationship. The most notable buildings in the city are in the port, urban plans gravitate around it, its presence builds the city. The excellent accessibility of the city by road or rail is the product of port requirements.
An added surprise is that this city-port is very far from the sea. To reach Hamburg ships have to travel about 130 km on the Elbe River. But what appears to be a weakness turns out to be a strength because, going upriver, the port reaches all of inland Europe through its extensive canal network. From there, Hamburg was able to build an enormous external network of trade relations with hundreds of overseas ports, to become the 'door to the world' of the European internal network. Its "maritime" façade was made up of large ships capable of crossing the Atlantic with passengers and goods. Its "river" rear, located upstream, were the barges that could reach the large Central European cities.The management of this complex commercial system was exercised by the shipping companies of the great bourgeois families, whose prominent men were in charge of managing their companies in the morning and the government of the city in the afternoon. From this story, the question arises: how has this reality been kept alive until today. Other great ports have become extinct, or have put land through the city where they were born. Hamburg's millenary trajectory is not linear. It presents twists and turns that are the result of decisions and responses to unforeseen or desired events. For centuries, the port has made the city grow, but it has also been its weak point, as much of its problems came through the port or were aggravated by its presence. In addition to the 1943 bombings that completely destroyed Hamburg, here much greater than in other cities in proportion to their inhabitants because it was about ruining the port, there were four great events or calamities, but Hamburg knew how to turn them into improvements: the demolition of the walls in the 1830s, the great fire of 1842, the customs union of 1888 and the cholera epidemic of 1892. The city-port has remained alive in its initial will to trade in the world, thanks to the orientation of its responses to these calamities, with great resilience. In turn, the main port city of Germany has housed a great school of humanistic studies, an exporter of ideas and talent to the entire world. The Aby Warburg circle and the University of Hamburg are outstanding examples of this. The most persistent agent of change has been and continues to be port technology, especially in the last 50 years. The city decided in 2000 to move south with the HafenCity project to occupy the spaces abandoned by the container revolution, betting on moving the city's cultural center there and keeping the geometry of the complex edge of the water intact. At the forefront of all this was the most emblematic building, the new Elbphilharmonie, the current emblem of the city. After the introduction of Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is dedicated to the scope and consequences for the city of the maritime trade that projected it towards the world, with its networks of external and internal influence -with special attention to the Central European channels-, and institutional, in the context of other maritime cities of the Baltic and the North Sea. Likewise, a comparison is made with other European ports, analyzing quantitative variables from the CORINE database with landscape ecology techniques. Chapter 3 explains the influence of the port on the growth and formation of the city, when the foreign network begins its expansion and the Hamburg shipping companies become present throughout the world. The port makes the city grow and prints its stamp throughout the 19th century. The role of the great shipping families in the city's government and in civic institutions is also analyzed, along with the changes that the Weimar Republic brought to the city's architecture and design. While the port is constantly expanding and renovating its wharves, docks and warehouses, the famous Speicherstadt, or red brick warehouse district over the canals, the first metal bridges, the tunnel under the river and the extensive railway that already enters in the city with several stations. Chapter 4 reviews the great calamities that befell the city and the changes brought about in its recovery, including the 1943 bombing raids that completely destroyed it. The port extends along the banks of the Elbe, and integrates new population centers in Greater Hamburg. Chapter 5 deals with the last great transformation of the city, which began in the 1990s with the HafenCity project and its exemplary planning, design and construction process. To understand the cultural commitment, the important background of the city in music, art and image is introduced, with a review of the main museums, theaters and auditoriums, to finish with the great Elbphilharmonie, built by the ACS Group . Hamburg is a city not very well known but with great attraction, which is multiplied by the latest achievements of HafenCity and the Elbphilharmonie. There is much to learn in the city and its port, and to enjoy it. Reseñas
The construction of Canada in Toronto Following the Saint Lawrence River.
The best way to become aware of the great country that is Canada is to approach it from the St. Lawrence River, where its origin and future progress lie. Proud of its size and of sparse population, Canada houses a handful of remarkable cities, located in the historically most accessible places. The West Coast and the St. Lawrence River host the most important cities, where the vast majority of the population live.
If the river appears to us as an engineering territory, with its canals, dams, bridges and hydroelectric stations, the city of Toronto is the site of new and interesting transport policies and urban approaches to guide and control its growth. In Chapter 1, the introduction to this book, we analyze the strategic location of Toronto regarding resources, communications, and its political neighbors; how it has designed a transitable urban fabric where the car coexists with public transport to bring the periphery and the center closer together; how it improves and conditions its site on the shore to coexist with the lake in a sustainable manner; and why it aims for the center of these advantages to grow in a habitable way and enjoy full vitality, enhancing its attraction. These four adjectives are dealt with in the chapters following this introduction.
Chapter 2 reflects the importance of the St. Lawrence River in the origin and growth of both the country and the city of Toronto. The river and the Great Lakes, where it widens, constitute the largest freshwater reserve in the world, storing one third of its total, and are the primary source of natural resources for the entire territory east of the Continental Divide, the watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The communication between the most important Canadian cities by sea, by means of the Seaway made possible by the river, became something to be preserved at all costs. With the Anglo-American war the border sections of the river became dangerous and it was necessary to build an important system of channels to avoid them.
In addition, hydroelectric power stations were built to take advantage of the enormous flows that run along the steps and rapids of the Saint Lawrence river Toronto was able to take advantage of its central location on the river to become the largest and best connected city in Canada, first with the canals, then with the railways, and later on with the airports, which operate more connections to other cities in the world than those in any other Canadian city.
Chapter 3 looks at the changes that occurred when trains replaced ships to move around the country, inducing a strong push for city growth and major technological innovations in mobility.
The emergence of the railroad reduced the influence of the St. Lawrence River on Toronto's life, as it was no longer essential as a communication route and could be crossed, mostly close to the main cities, thanks to the new suspension bridge technology. Soon after, the automobile became the protagonist of transport, both in the city and in the territory. Its rapid acceptance required better and larger roads, which for reasons of safety and capacity became highways.
In Toronto the highways emerged late and people knew how to oppose them, managing to preserve the original grid. As a result, two policies were adopted to balance mobility without the highways. On the one hand, public transport was promoted with the Metro, in close coordination with trams and buses in some stations transformed into interchanges. On the other hand, it was decided to channel growth by increasing the density in the center and certain selected areas: growth was only allowed where there was sufficient public transport. The implementation of these policies led to the abandonment of segregated housing and office zoning in favor of hybrid or mixed use.
Chapter 4 discusses Toronto's relationship with water, but now in environmental terms. With its way of growing, the city managed to maintain mobility in acceptable terms, but neglected the environmental effects of the logical increase in population. In particular, the discharge of wastewater into the lake, both because of the persistence of old direct discharge sewers, and because of the scarcity of facilities to collect rainwater runoff.
Heavy rainfall floods the streets, washing non-degradable toxic products into the world's largest natural water reserve and forces permanent dredging at the port, extracting hazardous waste that must be deposited in controlled landfills.
For many decades, an industrial and railway barrier prevented the city from seeing the lake. The city ended up on the tracks, and between them and the port there were only a few industries. In the 1970s the container revolution made the port obsolete in a few years, and the city started to recover its relationship with the lake, rebuilding its battered Waterfront in a lengthy operation that radically transformed its neighborhoods and priorities.
Toronto also regained its relationship with the St. Lawrence River, privileged because of its central position on its Canadian shore, between Niagara Falls, visited by 30 million visitors every year, and Kingston's Thousand Islands, which are on the way. Finally, Chapter 5 looks at the city's way of life, networks, space and built forms. It tries to understand the enormous effort of planning, policies and programs carried out by the city in order to become more habitable, becoming a pioneer of a series of urban development practices of great interest. Practices that insist, above all, on the influence of the form of environments built according to the behavior of citizens. By intensifying the density in the Downtown and concentrating growth near transport in the suburbs, it is essential to improve the experience of the user of the resulting fabric. And Toronto is implementing this with new types of buildings and layouts, based on hybrid or mixed use of indoor and outdoor spaces. The tower remains the essential element, but it houses a variety of functions at its base or podium to enhance the vitality of the urban experience.
The design of the streets is oriented to pedestrian use because, although it assumes the inevitability of cars, it reduces their priority or preeminence over other modes of transport so common elsewhere. The cold and wind of the long Nordic winter are countered by an underground network of passages and atriums that connect the main buildings of the city, while the design of large open spaces that are uninhabitable with strong winds is avoided, and sunny spaces are promoted.
Apart from the well-known CN Tower, there are no icons or visual references with which to identify or recognize the attributes of this city, but there is no need for them because the people, the trams, the shops and restaurants, and even the cars – everything that fills its streets, is friendly. Toronto is lived in and used by a heterogeneous population where races, cultures and languages coexist in perfect harmony, and it has demonstrated an enviable capacity for welcoming people.
Toronto is a city full of attractions, although not very well known and not easy to understand. But you don't have to understand it to enjoy your visit and let yourself be carried away by its vitality: it just requires a little more time to be able to walk around it without being in a hurry. If you decide to spend a few days there, you'll certainly do so again as soon as you can.Book Reviews
La construción de Canadá en Toronto desde los extremos del rio San Lorenzo. Revista LEER, n 295, Otoño-Invierno 2019 p.37
The construction of Sydney's landscape
Everything is far away from Sydney, plumped in the centre of an empty immensity. Little do we know about this remote city. We may have forgotten that the country was discovered by the renowned Captain Cook in 1770 or that the first voyagers who arrived there in 1788 were not colonists but convicts carrying a death sentence as their sole baggage...
The Repeated Construction of Berlin.
No city is a uniform whole. Berlin, the name, embraces rafts of fragments scarred by reminders of destruction. After lengthy debate, modernity was rejected as an approach to reconstruction in favour of restitution of the city's essential features. The city would assume its historic personality, not mimetically, an impossible endeavour, but rather by recovering a historic physiognomy based on remembered images reinserted in their specific natural surrounds. The outcome is that memory and event make their presence felt in Berlin's repeated construction.
The Construction of Modern New York.
In light of the scale and complexity of New York City, good ideas alone do not suffice. It takes verve and persistence to defend them and acumen and strength to see them through. In New York nothing happens unless it is discussed, negotiated and driven. The city is consequently analysed through a series of individuals able to mobilise power around, raise money and garner support for their ideas. With perseverance and skill these genuine city-forming catalysts managed to consummate, or conversely, to halt or even derail, complex processes.
Building of Present Day Madrid.
CBuilding, that urge hard-wired into the human genome, exemplifies how we conceive our presence in the world. And the built landscape exists in or is conditioned by the city. People delimit, occupy and parcel out spaces, which they interconnect with streets and squares, providing accesses, developing cities and organising their surrounds for harmonious life in community.