Thursday, May 21, 2009

Walking the familiar

I picked up a neat little item yesterday at Poster Plus downtown: a pack of 50 Chicago walking tours. Each card has a different walking route through various Chicago area sights and neighborhoods. I thought it was neat because not only can I explore new areas, but I can learn new things about familiar ones.

Before we went to the DePaul Symphony Orchestra show yesterday, Dave and I tried out the pack with the first walk: Millennium Park.

The walk took us to all the big sights in Millennium Park - the bea
n, the Crown Fountain, etc. - as well as one I have never visited: the little garden south of the Pritzker Pavilion lawn. So I did get to learn something new!

The gardens all around Millennium Park are really well done. I love the effect of these tulips, sandwiched and apparently floating between two staggered hedges.

Today I did the Loop Architecture Walk after a visit to the Art Institute. The Institute was free this week, so I thought I would check out the new Modern Wing - and it is awesome. All my favorite standbys were there, but organized in a different way. And Richter's Woman Descending the Staircase was finally out again - one of my favorite pieces in the museum.

One of the neatest things about the new Art Institute is the new entrance / exit in the Modern Wing. You go up to the third floor and then walk out on a walkway that leads you directly into Millennium Park. (See the photo at the beginning of this post.) Chicago planners sure have style.

Then I walked over to the Thompson Center for the beginning of my architecture walk. It was fun to walk around the Loop actually looking at things, as opposed to how I usually do it, which is looking at the sidewalk and hurrying for the train.

From the Thompson Center and its sculptures, the tour went to the Delaware Building (oldest building in the Loop, so I learned another new thing), the Marshall Fields building, and a couple of others in that area. Then to the Sears Tower, which it of course recommends going up, but I didn't have time / money today.

Then to the Rookery, which is right next to my old firm's building. It's a Burnham and Root original from the Worlds Fair era, and it's got a beautiful lobby designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I've been in the lobby before, but I didn't know it was designed by him.

Then to famous LaSalle Street and the crowning Chicago Board of Trade Building, home to such movies as "The Dark Knight" and "The Untouchables."

Again, I've walked LaSalle Street about a thousand times, but it is kind of different to walk it feeling like a tourist with a guide map.

It makes you stop and think about what you are really looking at - one of the most famous streets in America.

Then under the board of trade and around to the Metropolitan Correctional Center - a.k.a. the triangular federal prison. From my old office meeting room, you could see the top of the prison, where they have a big triangular basketball court, I kid you not.

Then around to the Monadnock building, which I've been in many times but wasn't quite sure why it was famous. I knew it had something to do with masonry construction, but I found out today that it's because the north half is masonry and the rear half is the newer steel construction.

Lastly, the federal plaza and the "flamingo" sculpture. This is probably my favorite sculpture in Chicago, so I had to take a picture:

So, it was nice to start out my "tours" of Chicago with some familiar things - it gets me used to the style of the walks and I get to learn new things anyway. I'm keeping a log of the ones we do, as well as which ones are good and which ones are lame.

Plus this is a really fun way to relax - and now that I've bought the deck, it's like each one is free (sort of). I need something to take my mind off bar studies at times this summer.

This weekend we might do the Northwestern University one, as well as the one around the Baha'i Temple.

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