This issue marks Newcity’s thirtieth anniversary.
Back when we published our first issue, “30” in journalism meant the end, as in the end of a story, a typographical cue sent from writer to editor. It was a tradition dating back, it is believed, to the era of the telegraph when a similar code told the operator a message had ended. Accordingly, the number has some foreboding metaphorical qualities for a publisher, especially in these times. But I am pleased to report that while the typographic usage is now dead, print continues to thrive at Newcity.
And so this issue is not a nostalgic look back. Instead, we asked thirty writers, cultural and community leaders to envision the city thirty years hence.
Chicago has a history of reaching for the sky. Super-sized buildings. Plus-sized airport. Air Jordan. Boeing and big business innovation.
The next step in reaching skyward?
Sky cars. Thirty years from now, driverless cars will vie with Jetsons-style “sky cars” for commuters’ attention in Chicago. Hover boards are already here and on fire (some literally), so why not sky cars next?
Mixed-use developments will have sky-car pads on rooftops. Downtown office buildings will have docking stations on each floor.
Our office at a5 sits atop the 1 North LaSalle building, and if I am still coming to the office three decades from now, I look forward to piloting my clean-energy flying machine from our home in Oak Park to my office on the 47th floor. I will step through the “fly-thru window” directly into the workplace—wearing a pair of Jordan 72-10s.
To me, there’s only one unresolved question: how much will it cost me to park outside my window?
—John Harris, principal, a5 brand and digital consultancy
We will get the city that we fight for (or surrender to)
I work for human, civil and labor rights both here and abroad. Given my job, and the fact that I work for humans, civil society and laborers, I am the very definition of “inveterate optimist,” but I am clear-eyed about the future—because it is being written today.
Chicago’s future might be written in the pasts of Cassandra cities like Newark, Detroit, Flint or New Orleans. Each faded metropolis loudly warning us that privatization, curtailing and eliminating our public services sector, will end badly. Those cities are a blueprint for disaster; where the wealthy few are looting the common public good for tax breaks and investment vehicles, before abandoning its expendable population. Chicago’s future will either be that of a city that works for all of us, or a sacrifice zone for those too poor to escape it. You are writing that future by how informed and engaged you are as a citizen. Ask yourself, “What kind of future are you writing for us?”
If you are not working to transform Chicago’s police force into one dedicated to protecting every community’s civil rights, then you are helping to refine state-sanctioned violence. If you are not shoulder to soul with the people demanding we all understand why Black Lives Matter, then in the end your life in Chicago won’t matter either. If you are not demanding Chicago build a public education, housing and transportation budget based on what quality education, affordable housing and effective transportation actually costs, then you will see them continually cut. (As they once again cannot do the impossible with the infinitesimal). The path of the disengaged is a future of diminishing returns.
There are other issues to be sure, but right now our city is being run like some arcane profit-loss proposition that drains black and brown communities of every public service except aggressive policing.
Chicago’s future is being written right now by you. You are either deciding whether we have a city with a future worth living in, or pushing us down a path where the end has already been written for us. New Orleans had Katrina. Flint had its water. Chicago will have…
I will end with something my grandfather used to say: “Democracy is the battle that never ends. You are either fighting for something or losing everything. Don’t you be the prick-rat-bastard who gives away someone’s freedom in the future because you were not directly engaged in struggle today.”
—Don Washington has more than twenty years of doing research, investigative, training, organizing, political strategy and public policy/organizational and campaign development on issues of human rights, civil rights and labor rights and is the frontman for the political cooperative the Mayoral Tutorial.
Eat your vegetables and be hospitable
I think with the proliferation of healthy restaurants in full swing, that vegetable-forward restaurants will continue to emerge. Producing healthy food in restaurants is something that’s going to be continually more important to consumers. (Rob Katz)
I think there has been a troubling devaluation of hospitality over the last decade. We live in a chef-obsessed world these days, but for BOKA Restaurant Group, Rob and I have always tried to place equal emphasis on hospitality. I don’t think that it helps that most critical evaluations of restaurants don’t even discuss service and hospitality, unless it’s horrifically bad. I think that sends a message to new restaurateurs that it’s not that important. If you want to be great, truly great, it’s not just about a great chef, but also a hospitality team that frames the food properly. (Kevin Boehm)
—Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm are co-founders of BOKA Restaurant Group
On the occasion of the sixteenth Chicago Architecture Biennial
Chicago has just finished organizing the sixteenth 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 Hotel Florence in the Pullman 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 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.
—Iker Gil, MAS Context/MAS Studio
Have a snow shovel and raincoat ready
According to Michael Shoemaker, a climate scientist who works specifically in the Midwestern industry, more severe weather is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what we will experience.
“2050 is closer to the timeframe demonstrating the new models and projections from numerous reports and hundreds, if not thousands, of scientific papers and studies. My opinion is that, if the trends continue at the current pace, then yes, the effects will be obvious.
“In general, the effects will be more severe weather events, including thunderstorms, tornado activity and snowfall—possibly blizzards—and, at other times, longer drought conditions due to the severe precipitation. We will also see warmer average temperatures, increased runoff leading to pollutant loading and increased water temperatures, increased sedimentation and changing water levels and depths (due to precipitation).
“For Chicagoans, you may see increased travel delays as infrastructure (and airports) deal with these precipitation events—snow and rain. FEMA has actually started requiring airports to incorporate these effects into planning—called ‘climate change resilience’.
“Storm-water-management issues may prevent water sports due to pollutants. It could also impact neighborhoods if existing systems can’t handle the runoff.
“Winters, temperature-wise, would be expected to be milder on average. However, precipitation events will increase. We’ve already seen increased snow events in the Midwest.
“For a time, the growing season in the Midwest will be extended as temperatures rise. New farming or industry opportunities [like lumber] may arise from the extended warm seasons. That offsets other losses; to what extent is hard to quantify.”
—Michael Shoemaker is an independent scientist, here interviewed by his cousin, Robert Eric Shoemaker.
What if Chicago was significantly less segregated in thirty years?
For decades, segregation has been one of the most intractable issues facing Chicago, which, while diverse overall, consistently ranks among the top three most-segregated cities in the nation. While many studies have calculated the disadvantages to those living in predominately low-income minority communities, few researchers have considered that Chicago’s segregation hampers our entire city and region’s economic growth and quality of life.
On the premise that metropolitan Chicago—and other highly segregated regions—would benefit economically from reducing our current level of segregation, the Metropolitan Planning Council is partnering with the Urban Institute over the next two years to ask and answer the questions: What does it cost us all—those living in concentrated poverty, those living in concentrated wealth and everyone in between—to live so separately from one another by income and race? What policies can we adopt to reduce Chicago’s segregation and strengthen our economy?
Perhaps one of the reasons segregation has been so intractable is that when solutions are proposed, naysayers jump on how costly it would be to implement them. And of course in comparison with $0, the costs of developing affordable homes in higher-income neighborhoods or investing in schools based not on the number of students but upon their needs seem like major hurdles. But what if we found out that the status quo is actually costing us on the order of millions or billions a year? How might that figure change the conversation?
We look forward to finding out.
—Marisa Novara, director, Metropolitan Planning Council
The lofts of tomorrow
are the strip malls of today
After money has run its course
and the empty spaces of its transactions
are hollowed and barren
—vacuum of dreams
processed and fulfilled—
when display is displaced,
after the last deduction
and the final reduction
have left the shelves
barren sans function,
and emptiness reigns:
the lofts of tomorrow
are the strip malls of today.
—Jason Pickleman, the JNL graphic design
Seven questions Chicagoans won’t be asking in 2046
Imagine never having any of these questions cross your mind again:
Will my car start this morning?
How do I get there?
Where’s the cheapest gas?
$50 to park here? Are you &%[email protected] nuts?
Is that guy going to turn?
Will I get towed to some God-forsaken lot clear on the other side of the city?
Am I too drunk to drive home?
No one has asked those questions in Chicago since the early 2030s, when traditional car ownership became obsolete. Starting with the Loop, neighborhood after neighborhood became a driverless zone. We grew accustomed to ordering the driverless car we needed on any given day, the same way we ordered food from GrubHub or DoorDash in 2016.
The vehicle we would like shows up at our door and effortlessly takes us where we need to go—to Costco, to Wrigley Field, to visit family in North Dakota—and we stay connected the entire time. Got a business meeting in Naperville? Get a business drone. For that trip to North Dakota? Get a sleeper van with a dome top so you can enjoy the view.
Apple, Google and Uber even offer car subscription services complete with data plans, insurance coverage and mileage plans.
With the advent of driverless cars, Chicago continued its tradition of being a pioneer in urban planning—for better or worse—and turned many underused streets into pedestrian zones or parks. By 2046, the idea of a parking lot in the city seemed as ridiculous as horse stalls would have seemed in 2016. What a waste of space!
The downside for the city, of course, was revenue. Centralized traffic-flow management meant that no one got tickets anymore. Lincoln Towing went out of business. Mayor Heyward learned very quickly that flashing fingers full of World Series bling will only get you so far in the city. Finding ways to fill budget gaps was the preoccupation of his first administration.
What helped, though, was the bigger tax base. Boosted by the early and aggressive adoption of driverless cars, Chicago is now recognized around the world as one of the most attractive cities to live in. Bertrand Goldberg, who designed Marina City and River City, once said that Chicago needed a population of five million to support all its initiatives. (You can look it up in a Newcity issue from 1986!)
After dipping below three million, the population is now surging. It took a while, but by 2046 Chicago is truly the nation’s Second City again.
—Frank Luby was Newcity’s first editor, back in 1986.
South Chicago: An approach to building adaptive communities
During the best of times in the South Chicago neighborhood, the US Steel South Works plant was the primary source of work. When the plant was shut down in 1992, the population decreased drastically, resulting in swaths of vacant land that isolated community members and amenities. In the years that followed, urban planning began shifting its focus from affordable housing as individual buildings to the comprehensive planning of healthy neighborhoods—ones that are connected, accessible, adaptable, resilient and thriving.
Job markets in today’s time are slowly rebuilding and realizing a maker/seller platform, resulting in the establishment of a variety of small cottage industries. These smaller industries are making and selling products that require work space to create and fabricate their innovative ideas.
Workforce development that specifically addresses trade skills which benefit and expand these industries has become an essential service that is needed for the neighborhood to revitalize.
As a response to David Brown’s “This Available City” for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Landon Bone Baker Architects have developed a neighborhood-specific strategy to activate five adjacent vacant lots with micro-housing, indoor and outdoor makerspaces, a communal kitchen and a market area. This community-driven development works within the existing fabric of South Chicago and builds “a neighborhood of choice,” where young adults can work, play and, importantly, stay. Just as the South Works plant provided a variety of jobs and products, this new aggregation of amenities in South Chicago will house the next generation of makers and creators.
—Landon Bone Baker Architects is a Chicago-based architectural practice distinguished by a community-based approach, working closely with neighborhood organizations, not-for-profit associations and developers of affordable housing
The future of urban farming is aquaponics
Describe the future of farming in Chicago.
Eugene Shockey Funke: Chicago has the Great Lakes [the world’s largest freshwater body]. It is water secure compared to other cities. I see the population in the Midwest and the Northwoods growing a lot, which means we’ll have a larger population of people to feed. To be a food-secure community, Chicago will need to develop to produce enough of its own food to feed its people.
Locally and sustainably grown food is the direction we need to go, and the direction we are going. The city likes to support our kinds of operations, but the means and infrastructure to support these initiatives isn’t in place. We need to develop a system to help businesses like ours establish and thrive. That looks like developing public-relations campaigns surrounding locally grown food producers, changing municipal zoning laws, and creating a land-use policy that supports local food production. [In 2015, the city established a first compost ordinance to systemize compost operations in community gardens and urban farms.]
Why aquaponics? What kind of solutions can aquaponics offer to Chicago’s growing challenges?
Eugene Shockey Funke: First, all farming involves maintaining an ecosystem. Aquaponics involves growing fish to supply bacteria that nourishes the plant life.
Benjamin Kant: Specifically, aquaponics provides a solution for the short growing season and contamination from Chicago’s industrial past in the following ways. First, to build aquaponic systems, we can use degraded and abandoned real estate and undesirable property. We can build a farm on top of contaminated and vacant land, in abandoned buildings, and make the area productive again, providing a solution to urban blight. We can grow indoors during the winter. Aquaponics also provides unique and fulfilling jobs that don’t require higher education or specialized training. It makes a great alternative to retail chains for people without degrees or those seeking meaningful employment.
Aquaponics is a natural process; whereas other indoor growing methods, like hydroponics, rely on international mining for nutrients. As aquaponic farmers, we’re minders of an ecosystem. We’re taking care of it without trying to control it.
—Benjamin Kant, founder/CEO, and Eugene Shockey Funke, co-founder/COO, of Metropolitan Farms, a new aquaponics farm on Chicago’s West Side, were interviewed by Whitney Richardson.
Restaurants will become savvy risk takers
Restaurants are very good at managing food production and front-of-house service at the Michelin star level. They are less willing to innovate in what I call the “Other Back of House”—the business side. I’ve now interacted with hundreds of restaurants for Tock, an automated restaurant ticketing system, and often see that restaurant owners are willing to take risks in spending millions of dollars to build a restaurant—but then they are risk averse once it opens. They need to try new ideas, use new technologies and create a management culture that seeks not only to provide great hospitality but also thinks about yield management. The more money a restaurant makes, the more they can buy great products, pay great employees more and in turn make customers even more happy—and then it cycles again…it’s a virtuous circle. [Regarding the future of restaurant service], I’m thinking of all of the real-time changes that can take place to track and take care of personal preferences…restaurants will know not only whether or not you like still or sparkling water, but also more distinct and precise desires and cater to those on the fly. We are working to make that happen!
—Nick Kokonas, restaurateur, Alinea, Aviary, Next
Chicago is America’s literary capital
Chicago is already a literary hub. Over the next few years, look for it to become the literary capital of the nation. We’ll never be New York, and that’s just fine. They can keep the huge publishing houses, the industry parties. We’ll be over here writing and reading and thriving.
In 2014, three new independent bookstores opened (Opened!) in Chicago and Evanston. This year, two more are set to open. (To open! Do you understand how lucky we are?) Chicago’s universities are building up their MFA and undergrad writing programs, drawing writers—professors and students both—from around the country. The American Writers Museum will open on Michigan Avenue in 2017. The Poetry Foundation continues to do astounding work. Presses like Curbside Splendor and Featherproof Books are bringing publishing right here. Open Books is organizing literacy work on an unprecedented level. Places like StoryStudio Chicago bring writing classes to the masses. We already have the most active and vibrant live-lit scene in the world. And since we built it all, the writers have come. And they’re going to keep coming.
The landscape might look wildly different in thirty years, but when the story of the early twenty-first century literary scene is written, it will be written by and about and in Chicago.
—Rebecca Makkai, author of “The Borrower,” “The Hundred-Year House” and “Music for Wartime”
Global classroom GC-234
A place without currency; multinational, furniture-less, systematic, self-sufficient, lightweight, prefabricated and fully energy integrated.
The collective space is limitless, inside and outside each one of the prefab-self-sufficient-cells. As they interlock, they create a place like no other, in which knowledge is the main form of currency and its exchange the primary function of this community.
Energy, water and waste technologies are embedded in fifty percent of the high-tech (mother cells), which support the low-tech (surrogate cells).
Thirteen layers, eighteen cells per layer, form a total of 234 units that once grouped together create a nonhierarchical system of interconnected spaces. As the clusters stack, they generate vertical linkages and new spaces emerge; reinforcing the idea of a community in which the values of real estate assigned to height and orientation are proven obsolete and neutralized by function.
GC-234, challenges the fast pace of mass data and instead puts a face to ideas. GC-234 becomes an amalgamation of the vast skills and abilities that our fellow citizens possess, and encourages dialogue, instead of one-sided consumption—essentially reintroducing mentorship. Knowledge is one of the biggest assets of society and one of the most important things that we can share. Knowledge becomes the only true form of human evolution.
Through the ideas of The Available City, GC-234 sought to create a PLACE which enforces the idea that knowledge will conquer all frontiers, a building which signals the evolution from the age of information into the era of knowledge.
GC-234: The Fall of Designed Cities and Rise of Organic Communities.
—Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido is an architect and president of JAHN
The Arts Block is more than a block
So much of what’s taken place on the Arts Block of Garfield Boulevard in the last few years has been driven by a very simple desire to improve the standard of living in a community that has, by necessity, seen its focus shift to the concerns of everyday survival. When I say standard of living, I don’t necessarily just mean economics, and when I say survival, I don’t necessarily just mean literal life and death.
Theaster Gates saw an opportunity in the lack of opportunity around him. Those of us who work on the Arts Block (as well as those who work at Rebuild) agree that art, culture and community engagement cannot be a luxury afforded only to those with economic means. The surrounding communities have responded positively. We’ve seen enormous support and interest, which is really what’s allowed the rapid expansion to include more buildings and bigger ideas.
It’s difficult to imagine the Arts Block in 2046, only because it would’ve been difficult to imagine that it would come as far as it already has in such a short period of time. I am certain that expansion is and will continue to be a top priority and, in 2046, we’ll likely be talking about much more than a block.
—Chris Salmon, general manager, BING Art Books, 307 East Garfield
The future of urban education
If I am fortunate, I will be a seventy-five-year-old grandfather in 2046. Katherine Grider, my maternal grandmother, was the only Chicago resident I’ve ever truly known of that age. At seventy-five, she had retired from the Chicago Public School System after two decades-plus as an elementary school teacher.
She’d earned her retirement, traveling from our Southeast Side to Mount Greenwood and Marquette Park to teach children in a post-“Boss” Chicago of sputtering blizzard machines. Before retiring, she’d say, “What am I going to do? Watch Oprah making money every morning?”
But my grandmother (and my parents, too) decided that we weren’t attending Chicago Public Schools. Her daughter and son were schooled in the Archdiocese. My father is from Nigeria, so this sounded excellent to him—and that was just about the only thing on which they all agreed.
Thirty years later, I’m pondering educational opportunities available to Chicago’s young. I asked two friends about the millennial phenomena in public education: charter schools. Shayne Evans is CEO of the University of Chicago Charter School and managing director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute; Dion Steele is principal at the Urban Prep-Englewood Campus. Both are exceptionally qualified to comment on what will come of scholastic opportunities for the many living here come 2046, one-hundred-and-twenty-five years after Mrs. Grider showed up in town.
Dion Steele: Charters give parents choice in addressing the needs of their students. My school was created to increase the number of college-educated urban males. Their needs are unique and we have the flexibility to target them. Many of our young men lack male role models, and have a limited view of their own possibilities.
Shayne Evans: The ineffectiveness of institutions that traditionally serve the students, families and communities continues to shape my work. Inequalities compel us to ensure that the students we serve benefit from our best efforts. We are dedicated to building an institution that offers a glimpse at what happens when people believe in those they serve.
Evans: Ten years ago, eight percent of Chicago Public School graduates were matriculating from college by age twenty-five. In 2015, fourteen percent of Chicago’s graduates earn bachelor’s degrees. We can use this growth to recognize improvement as indeed within reach. When on the same page, we can help the young reach their potential when we so choose.
Dion: [Many] African-American young men have not been successful in our [traditional] schools, and have not been able to afford private schooling. Their performance has not afforded opportunities to attend selective-enrollment schools. Expectations are low and if there are not institutions maintained to address the needs of this population, then these kids will be left behind.
By 2046, my own son will be thirty-eight, just a bit older than I was when he was born. His future draws me to this subject, too. Thirty years on, if my son is raising his family here, what will he make of educational opportunity for his children, within Chicago’s limits?
—Bayo Ojikutu is the author of “Free Burning” and “47th Street Black.”
Genetic art and genetic kitsch
Sixteen years ago, Chicago artist Eduardo Kac created the first genetically engineered animal as a work of art: “Alba,” a rabbit able to glow green. Yesterday, I sent a cheek swab to DNA11, company that will turn my DNA into a “portrait,” of the kind normally associated with living-room art sold in furniture stores. Given how fundamental genomics is, in terms of both science and culture, it’s hard to believe genetic art won’t continue to be part of the ongoing conversation about people and technology. Think how technologies like the computer, or radio, have reconfigured the world and how important it’s been for artists to stay engaged with these technologies if they are to make art that is relevant to the contemporary moment. Since the same genetic letters make up every living thing—be it a tree, mouse or human—it’s impossible to manipulate any gene without implications for all others; and so, inherent in the medium of genetic art itself are implications for evolution, including personal evolution, the politics of biodiversity; extinction—all profound questions with enormous stakes. This is amplified by our movement into an era of desktop bomb-design, desktop genetic-engineering, that is, an era where there’s a real democratization of technologies whose complexities would have once limited their use to nations. The international moratorium on editing the human genome recently called for by the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) and others is an indication of this, especially given the ease with which genes can now be edited using the new Crispr-Cas9 technique. And of course artists have always hacked technologies designed for other purposes. That’s sort of how bioartists operate. It doesn’t take much effort to imagine some genetic or body artist creating a performance using his or her genome—either with the best intentions or not. Not all art is created equal. That is, looking down the road thirty years, it’s easy to see that there will be genetic art—consciousness-raising works like “Alba”—but also genetic kitsch, toys, products and everything in between, maybe with tremendous consequences.
—Steve Tomasula is the author of “VAS: An Opera in Flatland” and “Once Human: Stories.”
Artists reclaim the city
Present: If artists shape ideas and form and inspire people to experience new ways of being in the world, why aren’t we shaping public policies?
Future: Artists vote. Artists lobby. Artists shape policy to reclaim the city.
As a collective voice artists will join together to shape and create public policy and development practices that affect their livelihood and where and how they live and work. Artists demand a City Percentage for Arts ordinance on new and reuse construction and restructure live-work zoning ordinances. Using the New Urbanism charter, which “reestablishes the relationship between the art of building and the making of community, through citizen-based participatory planning and design,” artists and the public would “reclaim our homes, blocks, streets, parks, neighborhoods, districts, towns, cities, regions and environment.”
—Tricia Van Eck is the artistic director of 6018North
The state of Chicago
The only currency left was disillusionment. After years of sclerotic non-progress, where legacy costs continued to soar and budgets bled as insiders applied the same ol’ fix, the compact broke. Literally spent across every spectrum—the economic, social and human costs just rising too high—the political boundaries were fragmented.
The state broke in two.
Chicago and its collar counties, with its oversized demographic and economic contribution to Illinois, said goodbye to having its hands tied when it came to solving its own set of intractable problems. It sought out, as Richard Longworth prophesied, a new Hanseatic League to join. Illinois, sick of the cultural divides and bankrupt shadow across its flat plains, went out on its own too. The city and the state did the decoupling dance; it was simply the state of things.
—Ben Schulman is Newcity’s design editor
In thirty years, metropolitan Chicago will have a smaller footprint and a larger population. Urban density is one of the most important keys to a sustainable future.
To plan our dense livable city, we need radical new tools. For over a century, zoning laws have determined the “where and how much” of American cities. Semi-democratic, zoning laws seek to provide economic protections to landowners by restricting the use and size of adjacent buildings, usually without much concern for community quality. The result is flat, sprawling, disconnected cities that use an unsustainable portion of resources.
We need a dezoning tool: a set of planning guidelines and regulations that support the intelligent integration, rather than separation, of human activities. With a new zoning tool used in four dimensions (time will be a form-giver with the same importance as traditional Cartesian coordinates), we can repair our out-of-date city and create new synergies. For instance, can we reduce the extent of public transportation and increase capacity by changing the distance from home to work? Is recreational space limited to the ground plane? Dezoned Chicago will include intelligent and surprising juxtapositions.
—Carol Ross Barney, Ross Barney Architects
Improvisation in real life
Almost thirty years ago, I pretty much stopped performing improvisation for public audiences. It was about that time that Del Close’s “The Harold” was emerging at iO as a new performance art form. This was unlike at the Second City, where Bernie Sahlins believed in improvisation primarily as a way to develop new sketch material and where it was reserved primarily for special improv sets after sketch performances. Now, thirty years later, as I reengaged in improvisation as performance, the prevailing dichotomy is “long form” (as in The Harold) or “short form.” Thirty years hence, I believe the dichotomy will be “stage performance” versus “in real life.”
Today, AIN, “The Applied Improvisation Network” (appliedimprov.com), boasts thousand of members worldwide—all practitioners of improvisation in business and organizations that work and train their clients to solve real world problems by using improvisation skills. Many clients seek to create cultures that are innately and organically adaptive and innovative and that’s where the improv practitioners come in. No fewer than fifty professional improvisers are involved in this work presently in the Chicago area alone. Creativity coach Brendan Sullivan (creativitycoach.net) and Kim Greene Hiller, who teaches young children improvisation skills through The Laughing Academy (thelaughingacademy.com), both performance veterans and business consultants, enthuse that improvisation has transformed from a performance art into a fundamental life skill—as primary and perhaps more vital than the “Three Rs.” Pamela Meyer, author of the new book “Agility Shift” (tinyurl.com/j5odgv9) and who owns a Ph.D. in “organizational improvisation,” works developing resilient and adaptive cultures at cutting-edge companies like Chicago’s own Threadless. Gregg Fraley of KILN (kilnco.com) adds, “Thirty years from now, improv games in the boardroom will be the rule, not the exception.”
And I am betting that improvisation training will be so pervasive that the same will be true in day-to-day life, at least I hope. Clients and students alike agree that the training is game-changing. So, I am predicting in the future when one Chicagoan says to another, “I am an improviser,” rather than being puzzled by what that means, most fellow Chicagoans will respond, “Stage performance or real life?…or both?!”
—Doug Stevenson is a creativity/innovation facilitator and teacher who uses improvisation in his work with kids, adults and organizations.
Personalized restaurant menus
Compared to thirty years ago, restaurants are more ready than ever to make menu adjustments based on dietary needs and preferences. It’s now possible to eat gluten-free, tree-nut free, meat-free and dairy-free at many restaurants, but that’s just the beginning of restaurant menu personalization. Recent findings by Israeli researchers in the Personalized Nutrition Project (findings published last year in “Cell”) have found indications that the metabolism of different people responds differently to the same foods (possibly because of variations in gut bacteria). In this study, some people experienced blood sugar spikes after eating sushi; others, more predictably, after eating ice cream. Different people respond differently to the same foods. Some Michelin three-star restaurants—like Grace and Alinea—already make a serious effort to track individual diner’s dietary needs, and there’s no reason why regular restaurants can’t track whether or not I should be having more or less of specific foods. This trend toward personalization of individual menu offerings might actually come first to fast casual restaurants—like McDonald’s—where it seems likely the cooking process will be largely automated sooner rather than later. With robotic chefs and other automated cooking equipment, an alert regarding individual customer preferences, triggered perhaps by a credit card used for ordering, could direct robot food preparers to quickly assemble the orders based on what a specific John or Jane Doe (or their doctors) have indicated they should be eating. Generating individual menus, perhaps sent to mobile devices, would give diners more feeling of control over what they’re eating. Once this approach has been tested against the billions who eat at McDonald’s, it could be deployed at mid- and high-level restaurants.
—David Hammond is Newcity’s dining and drinking editor
Chicago: Most powerful and populous city in the United States
Nobody was paying attention at first, or perhaps they were and didn’t want to believe what was happening. By 2040, Chicago had become the center of finance, government and power in the United States, with Denver and Dallas close behind. The street flooding along the coasts had gotten progressively worse throughout the 2020s as sea-levels rose, but it wasn’t until the 2036 hurricane season and following that year’s Pacific tsunami that people fled the coasts en masse, and by then, it was too late.
—Nick Cecchi is a designer at Lothan Van Hook DeStefano and a contributing writer to Newcity, Architect’s Newspaper, Archinect and others.
The coffee somm?
More than that of beer or wine, perhaps even food, the future of coffee is a fuzzy, fascinating prospect. At this moment in time, none of the others so perfectly and perilously straddle the line between utilitarian substance and pleasurable lifestyle choice, between something so accessible and so intimidating, so complex yet so clumsily handled. Assuming we have the means to do otherwise, eating simply for sustenance is to miss out on a nourishing sensory experience, we can agree. Drinking just to get drunk, while commonplace, is regarded as unseemly. For most people, however, drinking coffee entirely for the caffeine or via the most convenient method isn’t nearly the food and beverage blasphemy of the other two, even now after the rise and proliferation of Third Wave specialty coffee.
For two of my closest coffee confidants, Metric Coffee Co. co-founder Xavier Alexander and Caffe Streets owner/proprietor Darko Arandjelovic, closing this gap is of the utmost importance to the future of coffee in Chicago.
“The next step is to compel restaurants to up their coffee programs,” says Alexander. “Coffee is the last thing [they think about], but it’s the most complex beverage that they serve.”
“Beer you just open. Wine you just open. For us, once we deliver coffee, we don’t have any ability to control it.” says Arandjelovic. “Usually the last part of your dinner is dessert or coffee, and then if that’s not right, your entire experience is off. Because Chicago has an awesome food scene, every restaurant should have awesome coffee. It’s doable, and I think if awareness and demand are there, it will happen.”
This makes sense, but it’s nonetheless an interesting first take, putting some of the onus on restaurants rather than hoping the trend naturally spreads outward from specialty cafes. Most immediately, improving their programs would theoretically bring meals to a more fitting end, maintaining consistent quality from start to finish. But in a deeper sense, perhaps restaurants emphasizing coffee as a complementary yet essential aspect of the dining experience will have more far-reaching and cyclical effects—into our homes, down the street to our local cafes and around and around. So for the sake of our coffee—after dinner or any time—let’s hope the years to come see the appointment of many, many “directors of coffee” at our favorite restaurants, right alongside resident sommeliers and mixologists. Let’s hope we continue to explore these fertile grounds and finally give coffee a permanent seat at the table, not just a stool at the counter.
—Stefan Castellanos is a “coffee shop/dive bar correspondent”
The future of the neighborhood and the neighborhood of the future
Lily Be was born and raised in West Humboldt Park. Since then she has lived in East Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Lakeview and Albany Park. We talked about the past and the future of Chicago neighborhoods.
How is Chicago different from other cities?
Man, there is so much life here. Different walks of life. There is also a lot of death. Not just physical but cultural. Chicago is like its own nation. The neighborhoods are like little countries. I haven’t experienced anything like it outside of maybe NY, but even in NY they still add NY after the neighborhood. Not so in Chicago.
How is Chicago different now than it was when you were growing up?
Growing up, despite my neighborhood being labeled “dangerous,” it felt more like a community. The deaths weren’t so random to us. The gangs had a code that prevented innocent children from being murdered. I remember Latin Kings telling my grandmother what streets to avoid and who to avoid. Nowadays, I don’t even know my neighbors. If there is violence, I only have the news to rely on telling me what happened and it’s always wrong. Chicago is glitzy now. The neighborhoods cater more to money than they do culture and community. Real talk, I would rather know firsthand what’s happening from the comfort of my stoop than seeing what the news has to say about entire communities.
What is and will be the greatest challenge to Chicago in the coming thirty years?
Gentrification, violence and segregation. Communities of color need to be given the resources to help the people in those communities. It should not be left up to corporations. The big developers redlining POC out of communities they built and love. Communities that people left because they moved in. Communities that don’t need a Starbucks or a Whole Foods because they built their own. I don’t want Chicago to become Times Square. The violence will only get worse and start reaching into those “safe” areas of the city the more and more people are treated like they’re expendable.
What can individuals do to ensure that Chicago is better in thirty years than it is today?
Support each other. Lakeview residents should care what happens in Englewood. Newcomers, aka transplants, need to start venturing outside of their comfort zones. Visit places in Chicago besides Wicker Park, Rogers Park, Lincoln Park and Boystown. Make friends that don’t fit into your socio-economic circles. People need to support what’s happening in communities outside of the ones the media deems safe or up-and-coming. Just because an issue doesn’t affect your neighborhood, it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. People are dying because people choose to be blind to what’s happening. Give money, time, and other resources without wanting any credit. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because every person in this city deserves your support. If you like improv, go to places besides the Annoyance, iO and Second City. If you want to listen to music, hit up small clubs on the South Side and not just places like the Park West. Donate money to Chicago-based organizations. Give and do things from the bottom of our hearts, because if one part of the city is infected, the whole city suffers.
—Lily Be, a community activist, show producer, and award-winning storyteller, was the first Latina to ever win a Moth GrandSLAM and produces the monthly show “The Stoop” in Humboldt Park. She was interviewed by Dana Norris, founder of Story Club.
Wrigleyville will rise again
While by no means neglected, I forecast a rejuvenation of Wrigleyville in the coming years. The Ricketts family is working to establish Wrigleyville as a destination outside of Wrigley Field and their National League-winning Cubs. The Ricketts are pouring infrastructure into Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood blocks to transform Wrigleyville into a neighborhood that is vibrant year round.
—Donnie Madia, co-owner, One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, Publican, Big Star, Avec, The Violet Hour, Nico Osteria, Dove’s Luncheonette)
Robots will build (and design) the city
With its Burnhams and its Wrights and its Mieses, Chicago is as enthralled by the Great White Men theory of architecture and design as any other architectural capital. As the theory goes, lone geniuses build our city out of twilight-hour inspiration, napkin sketches, wild-eyed manifestos and heaping helpings of hubris. (A cape, if you’re Frank Lloyd Wright, also helps.) That’s a “Fountainhead”-style caricature of how architecture worked in any era. Creating a building is really a team sport. But there’s reason to believe that architects will be giving up more of their cherished creative autonomy than ever before. That’s because, in the future, robots will build our buildings. Proposals range from relatively traditional auto-assembly-line robots (like one proposed by Austrian architect Wolf Prix) welding and soldering, stacking bricks and placing panels; to drone-mounted 3D printers that buzz over building sites like wasps. Believe it or not, some architects are working on ways to get these robots to not only build, but design these buildings as well. At London’s Architectural Association AADRL program, Robert Stuart-Smith is programming flying drones to react in real-time to changing site conditions. Some architects envision these robots as elements of buildings themselves. Stuart-Smith’s boss at the AADRL, Theodore Spyropoulos, for example, is developing a prototype robot that wriggles along through a series of pneumatic bladders and springs, and connects to other units via suction cups. Called the OwO, when several join together, they form into walking tripods, and would be able to form themselves in architectural spaces. This type of self-assembly architectural robotics is leading to a construction process that leaves no trace of construction waste, and yields rapidly reconfigurable space with machine precision and efficiency. Here, architects aren’t so much master builders; they’re more like master coders, setting the rules and context for their robotic minions to create on their own. It’ll likely be an experimental technology long after anyone ever figures out what to do with the Chicago Spire hole in the ground, so maybe it’s best to start with isolated structures on empty lots. Thankfully (not actually thankfully) Chicago has 15,000 vacant city-owned lots, mostly on the South and West Sides. Why not invite the robots in to put up a temporary community-block-party pavilion, or farmers market, over a weekend? They could trim the grass, drop some chalk lines and set up bleachers and concessions. Boom. That’s a ball field.
—Zach Mortice, architectural journalist, co-hosts Newcity’s design podcast, “A Lot You Got to Holler”
“Columns” of the future (not necessarily for Chicago, but of it)
—Ania Jaworska is an architect and educator whose work was exhibited at the MCA last year
What will it take to be state of the art?
A hundred years ago, Chicago’s economy was driven by industrial production. Meat, machinery, hardware and countless other material goods were made and traded in this city. By the 1980s, when Newcity began its coverage of Chicago’s arts, industrial fortunes had already built Chicago’s great cultural centers—the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Contemporary Art and even the Art Institute of Chicago have long benefited from the largess of industrialists. With the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art set to join the lakeside stretch of Museum Campus in 2018, Chicago will see its first major museum built by a patron who made his fortune within the arts itself.
No matter your stance on the Lucas, the project is a harbinger of what is to come in Chicago and elsewhere. Thirty years ago, the arts were treated as merely a symptom of a robust economy. Regarded as a luxury and not a necessity, it followed that where there was art, there was an excess of cash to fund it. Today, the opposite is true: art and culture are drivers of economic growth as creators of that invaluable, ineffable asset that we call creativity. More and more, artists are called upon to offer creative and beautiful solutions to practical problems or charged with telling important stories in compelling, novel forms. Artists entertain us, they explain us to ourselves and most importantly, they challenge us to imagine the world differently and better than it is it today.
The Stockyards are closed and the steel plants are lurching to a halt. The industries that built our great museums have moved to the Global South. Chicago’s bright future—and I do believe it will be bright—depends on us recognizing the vast wealth of creativity in our city and directing the appropriate resources toward supporting it. Like any professional, the artist needs space to work and live; affordable housing and studios are essential to guaranteeing that artists of all backgrounds have equal opportunities. International artist exchanges, including sustained, reciprocal residences with artists from far away places like Iran or Cuba, for instance, will cultivate the political and social awareness that our city will need in an increasingly global society. A return to funding the arts in public schools and greater collaboration between Chicago’s university arts programs will guarantee a continuum of education and training for Chicago’s creatives. Finally, and most importantly, aggressive and sustained efforts by Chicago’s museums, galleries, non-profits and foundations to implement racial equity within their institutions will ensure that the next generation of Chicago’s cultural workers will make the art that our city truly needs—art that is for everyone, so that everyone will be for art.
—Elliot J. Reichert is Newcity’s art editor
2046: They finally ran out of bullets
It’s hard to envision a bright future for Chicago, especially the South Side. Things seem desperate. Pundits of all stripes tell us how bad things are: relentless violence with daily shootings and murders, failing schools, mistrust of our police and tremendous financial woes.
And yet without a positive vision of the future we will be doomed. We can’t continue to wallow in this misery. What we need is leadership that looks for the good in our city and uses this as a positive force against the bad.
Recently, WTTW aired a program called “Chicago’s South Side” which featured positive stories as told by current South Side residents. Although some of these communities can be seen as ground zero for many of the problems outlined above, it was impossible to miss the positive outlook that so many South Siders shared.
Some of these positive stories revolved around art and culture. Some of them were regarding programs created to help children and families cope with the day-to-day stress of living in communities that suffer from a host of issues: lack of jobs, substandard housing, underperforming schools and a pervasive drug and gang culture that undermines family structure.
What the show did best was illustrate that there are good people who are trying to make a positive difference. If we are to have any chance at repairing and revitalizing our troubled city and South Side, we need a change in attitude: We cannot rebuild communities by putting groups down and focusing on only the negative aspects.
Let’s find those good people and help create opportunities for them. Let’s develop job training programs for youth, especially in the summer when they are most vulnerable. Let’s create short-term and long-term opportunities such as critically needed infrastructure. Let’s rebuild while developing training programs for the new manufacturing and tech jobs that go unfilled due to lack of training.
And let’s not stop there. We need to adopt policies that strengthen families, such as early childhood education programs, child care for lower income families, affordable and decent housing and, most importantly, a strategy to destroy the plague of gangs. Create a good, positive alternative and gangs will be diminished.
We start taking steps to accomplish the above and, thirty years from now, we will have a South Side strong from Englewood to Pullman, Roseland to Mount Greenwood, and all the neighborhoods pulling for each other and in one direction.
2046 will be—can be—a new day for the South Side and the city as a whole. It sounds tough, but it starts with one adjustment: attitude. Make it positive.The South Side—and all of Chicago—deserve nothing less.
—Willie Winters, lifelong South Sider
“Big shoulders” maybe, but “hog butcher” no more:
Chicago meat ban starts today
Chicago, February 1, 2045: A new episode in the city’s history begins today with the enforcement of the first-in-the-nation ban on public meat eating. The law, promoted by the Student Non-Violent Greenhouse Gas Committee (SNGGC) and the Vegan Rights Association (VRA), was signed into law last month by Mayor Malia Obama. It prohibits the consumption of meat in public venues including schools, restaurants, parks and hospitals. From a stage in the middle of Michelle Obama Plaza, the mayor told a crowd of some 10,000 people and animals that February 1 would hereafter be known as “Earth Animal Justice Day.”
Despite years of protest and struggle, EAJ Day came more with a whimper (or a “moo”) than a bang. The era of “chicken fried steak” is already a distant memory, and even bio-meat (grown in vitro but requiring vast energy inputs), has given way to urban-sourced beans, mushrooms, kale and the rest. Gone too are the days when the word ‘barbecue’ meant clouds of climate-warming smoke shrouding city streets. Today, solar cookers roast cauliflower a succulent brown in just minutes.
Not everyone in Chicago has gone vegan however, and the law allows them to continue to eat meat despite the cost to human and animal health and the climate. (At its height three decades ago, animal agriculture contributed fifty percent of all greenhouse gases.) Meat-eating zones will be established in parks and sidewalks (watch for triangular signs with pig effigies), and licensed butchers may continue to sell meat for another seven years. But few think these businesses will last that long. Demand has shrunk ninety-five percent from 2030, and the sight of a man or woman with a meat pierogi is as rare as one with a cigarette.
If current trends continue, Chicago is expected to be meat-free by 2050, beating the UN-mandated standard by a decade. Similar legislation has been introduced in Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans and dozens of other cities across the country. With mobilization by local and national branches of SNGGC and VRA guaranteed—and the ultimate threat of UN sanctions—passage is a near certainty. Besides, tastes have changed. When asked his reaction to the new law, Wojtek Kielbasa, a muscular, fifty-three-year-old construction worker enjoying lunch on the site of the recently demolished Trump Tower, lowered his McVeg sandwich and announced: “Meat is for losers.”
—Stephen F. Eisenman is an art critic for Newcity, the author of nine books including “The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights (2013),” and a professor of art history.