The February 2016 issue of Newcity includes a short essay by Iker Gil to mark Newcity’s thirtieth anniversary and focuses on “Chicago 2046: Visions for a new city.”
Newcity asked thirty writers, cultural, and community leaders to envision the city thirty years hence. To read the complete list of visions, please visit Newcity.
You can find Iker’s short essay below.
Chicago has just finished organizing the 16th edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. It has been intense, exciting, and at times overwhelming. All in all, I suppose what is expected of these types of events. I really enjoyed the diverse, provocative, and informative discussions that have taken place across the city, especially the ones hosted at the Back of the Yards, Auburn Gresham, and Florence Hotel in the Pullman National Park. I can already sense that they have had an impact on all of us in the audience in Chicago and those watching them live from abroad.
After all these editions and all the work done in between them, it is great to see how far the city has come since 2016. Then, it was a city facing important social and economic challenges. It was also a city that was growing increasingly unequal. In architecture, there was no lack of talent, just lack of opportunities to demonstrate it. Now we can say that Chicago has become a much more equitable and inclusive city. It is the people and the neighborhoods, not just the skyline and the Loop, that everybody wants to be a part of. It is also the base for the some of the best architecture practices working today across the world. It has been twenty-five years since City Hall required public competitions for all the projects that used public funding. That generated new opportunities and a talented generation of architects flourished in Chicago. Public housing developments, multimedia libraries, parks, and schools as well as recycling plants, logistical centers, high-speed rail terminals, and the award-winning renovation of the Chicago Pedway are now references studied across the world. Forums for open conversations and collaborations between established and emerging architecture offices, residents, public officials, schools, and multiple disciplines are now the norm. Even more interestingly, all of them are included in the decision-making structures. High schools across the city now include design studios to think and shape the future of their neighborhoods. Students with fresh ideas and elders with invaluable experience and knowledge about the history of their neighborhoods work along with architects to implement forward-thinking ideas. It is a city that has become a model of transparency, collaboration, and excellence.
It is inexplicable that all this seemed strange, even impossible, in 2016 but it is great to see how far Chicago has come since then. I guess it hasn’t hurt to have a Mayor that was an architect.
Issue: February 2016