Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Herbert Muschamp's apologia for the travesty that is the new Soldier Field poohpoohs those who object to the defiling of a historic landmark, the squandering of an opportunity to have built an entirely new stadium at half the cost (and with all the cantilevering Muschamp raves about) in a neighborhood in need of revitalization, and the obscene expenditure of taxpayer money for the benefit of the corporate skybox buyers. To Muschamp, all the criticisms assume, wrongly, "that the city should somehow operate outside the economic system we have developed for ourselves in the post-cold-war world. Perhaps it should. Until that dubious prospect is realized, however, we shouldn't expect our architects to do more than aestheticize the actual urban condition."

But if the city -- and in this case it was the mayor who personally bulled the $600 million project through -- operates not just inside the economic system but on behalf of the rulers of that system and against the interests of the citizenry as a whole, then the result will be architecture whose aestheticizing of the urban condition is as ugly as that condition itself. The building, pace Muschamp, does not offer "extremities held in a dynamic state of imbalance" (just as it does not balance the interests of average fans against those of the season-ticket holding elite). Instead, the building destroys what was a historic monument, mars the lakefront, and wastes hundreds of millions of dollars that might have been spent on improving the cities parks and schools, helping struggling cultural organizations, beefing up police, or a hundred other public goods.

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