The Urban Network's Conference Highlights Chicago's Architectural History
By: Jane Bartman, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies
From Thursday, April 25, through Saturday, April 27, the University of Chicago hosted a conference entitled "Chicago and the Built Environment," an initiative of the Urban Network of the University of Chicago. This three-day conference explored the spatial history of Chicago.
Tim Samuelson, cultural historian of the city of Chicago, delivered the conference's keynote address. In his speech, Samuelson led the audience on a journey through the city's history, as reflected by changes in architectural styles and the city's built environment. Samuelson started off by asking "What was the magic that made Chicago famous?" His talk identified key themes that have shaped much of Chicago's unique culture: the "three In-s" of ingenuity, innovation, and insecurity. Samuelson said that the city's ability to "apply unusual solutions to any given problem" comes in large part from a desire to prove itself equal to older, more-established cities. He credited this drive for making Chicago great: "it's a good incentive that keeps Chicago trying things... as long as it doesn't lose its insecurity, it will always be on its toes."
Friday's events included a series of panels and a Resource Fair. The panels discussed topics such as "Infrastructure" and "Past and Future" and featured a wide range of panelists including University of Chicago faculty as well as community leaders, historians, and architects.
On Saturday, panelists led a tour of Chicago's built environment. The tour stopped at five sites of particular significance in the city's history: the Union Stockyards, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the Monument to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the City Farm, and the Haymarket Riot Memorial.