If Barack Obama were a building, Part V

    What building (or place) would Barack Obama be?
    This fine and well-considered submission came in from Chicagoland architect T. Paul Young:
    Just a few blocks east of the Obama family residence on the South Side of Chicago is a place where land and sea meet to converge with history, art, nature, culture, and politics. This is a Works Project Administration (WPA) project called Promontory Point.

    Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell (1903-1998) drew the plan for this park in 1936-1937. He had just left Dubuque, Iowa where he'd worked for two years heading outstanding Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) / WPA planning, landscape and building projects in the parks there. Even today it's well worth a visit to this Mississippi River locale to see those parks.

    Caldwell’s work for the Chicago Park District beginning in 1936 was a much needed job and a work of creative will, intellect and flowing sense of humanity. Our President Obama has these natural qualities also (though maybe needing more backup in the visual arts), expressed through his own creative approach and accomplishments - past and unfolding.

    The 55th Street Promontory was one of the many important Chicago Park District WPA projects between 1935 and 1942 representing a $82 million investment in Chicago park development.

    Caldwell’s plan comprised walks through interconnected spaces both large and small, spaces created by shaping the earth and planting native trees & shrubs.
    Features of the original plan, some un-built, include the:
    • large central Meadow open to the city center vista north and curve of the shore south
    • special plantings at the eastern lake shore, the Lake Garden
    • lawn passages with character emphasis, the Cherry Lane, Crab Lane, Rose Lane
    • pedestrian subway under Leif Erickson Drive (now South Shore Drive)
    • benches, picnic tables and fireplaces for cooking
    • stone bulkhead with flagstone walks along the shore, the Picnic Ledge at SE point
    • stone council rings along the shore

    The council rings represent another connection to our President Obama. These council rings were stone circles, seats for purpose. The concept was from the Danish immigrant landscape architect Jens Jensen, based upon an idea of people gathering in a circle, all equal from the get go, Jeffersonian; also important to Jensen was the idea of Middle West natives gathering around a fire for warmth, food, talk…plans, life, the future…

    Oddly, the 55th Street Promontory became an ARADCOM (Army Air Defense Command) radar site from 1955-71 and much of the original landscape had been destroyed – the missile site was located in Jackson Park – grim reminders of all artless military history. Happily, in 1992 Alfred Caldwell was asked by the Chicago Park District to make a new landscape plan, executed, and four council rings were built along the shore much as had been originally planned.

    Perhaps the point of this nomination is the example set by President Franklin Roosevelt in the now historic meaning of the CCC and WPA work produced throughout the country enlisting talent in all of the visual arts, through both documentation of the people and creation by the people…this is equally possible and needed today. Many of these extant works are in need of true stabilization, restoration and greening. Fortunately there is rising tide in CCC/WPA awareness, shown recently in the restoration of Alfred Caldwell’s Lily Pool in Lincoln Park and as exemplified by the National New Deal Preservation Association found at: www.newdeallegacy.org
    "The Point" exists today as a testament to Caldwell, the WPA, and many locals who "got the point," when it was threatened, and saved it. This unique and wonderful public space lays right the Obamas' neighborhood of Hyde Park. We of Chicago are proud of the 55th Street Promontory, this small piece of our special heritage of ideas, dreams and memory.

    President Obama will certainly be the catalyst for yet unimagined special new important work and the link to hope that all the dots will be connected between the Roosevelt history and solutions inherent in the creative people to be tapped today and tomorrow for both practical, necessary and creative work in this nation. Now I hear America the Beautiful

    Photos from HydePark.org

    Read more about what threatens "the Point" here.

    Thank you, Paul. Well done.

    What do you think?

    If Barack Obama were a building, what building would Barack Obama be?

    6/02/11 UPDATE: A video in which President Obama explains what architecture is all about
    ..Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/if-barack-obama-were-building-part-v.html
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