Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13 -- Gapp on the State Street Mall

July 13, 1980 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, opens a piece on the State Street mall with these words, “The State Street mall is an esthetic failure, and that comes as a particularly harsh disappointment in a city that has produced so many triumphs of urban design in this century.”  The article lists a number of failures in the mall, summarizing the experiment that began in 1979 as “a collection of neutral, ambiguous design elements that are mostly boring, ugly, or both.”  Gapp points to the protective shelters built above the entrances to the State Street subway “destroying any feeling of openness, and blocking formerly unimpeded views.”  He sees the hexagonal asphalt blocks used for paving the pedestrian areas as “unspeakably depressing,” and the bus shelters as “absurd . . . with no walls to soften the bite of winter winds and ward off wind-blown rain.”  The only seating is “on the narrow, often earth-soiled rims of tree planters . . . because city officials have long rejected comfortable downtown benches on the theory that they attract unsavory loafers.”  Ending the article, Gapp writes, “Constraints notwithstanding, we could have had a handsome mall on State Street.  Instead, we have a civic embarrassment.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1980]

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