Layers of the City: Chicago Edition

The first place to show me how a city can be stacked like a layer cake, Chicago provided ample opportunities to explore all levels of the city. The experience of noticing the expansion joints in roads that I assumed were on solid ground opened my eyes to the possibilities of stacking uses.

Underground Life

A vacant lot two stories below street level solved the mystery of the expansion joints, by exposing the inner guts.  Two more roads sit below street level to segregate trash pick-up and deliveries from the flow of traffic.  These lover levels also provide some opportunities for parking without monopolizing valuable real estate above.  Retail shops connected by pedestrian passageways are also interspersed in these layers.

River Life

At the same elevation as the “underground life,” the Chicago River flows through the heart of the city.  On and along the river are a variety of activities.  Pedestrian paths, cafes, housing, parks, industrial uses, and homeless encampments line the shores.  Meanwhile, the river abounds with ducks, boat tours, water taxis, construction staging, and marinas.

Street Level

Back up on the street level, life buzzes.  Vehicular and pedestrian traffic rush passed, occasionally pealing off to visit the numerous shops, offices, museums, restaurants, cafes, parks, and trails.

Pie in the Sky

Yet, more life looms above.  Several of the skyscrapers have penthouse, or nearly penthouse, restaurants.  Others have rooftop observation platforms.  Between these and the street are many other opportunities for enjoying life including a religious sanctuary, the “L”, gardens, art, pedestrian bridges, and of course, offices, apartments, hotel rooms, and shops.

Unlike Pittsburgh, in Chicago, the public is welcome in some form on every level to gain a full experience of the city.

London Bridge

London Bridge, perhaps the most famous of the bridges I walked because it fell down, rivaled the Waterloo Bridge for boring-ness (see July 29 post).  Both were similarly plain concrete structures.  The London Bridge is slightly more interesting for having a dedicated bus lane, but I can’t stand the maroon color of the bus lanes.  Luckily the surroundings were more interesting than those at the Waterloo Bridge.

I loved the geometry of these buildings visible from the London Bridge.  I went onto Google Maps to try and discover what they are as I did for Lambeth Bridge (see June 28, and Maps are Awesome! posts), but when I did, I found that Google Maps has the London Bridge miss-labeled.  The pinpoint for London Bridge sits right on top of the Tower Bridge.  As I mentioned in my Waterloo Bridge post, I had also at one time mistaken the Tower Bridge for the London Bridge.  While the London Bridge is the most famous in song, the Tower Bridge is the most famous in images.  I believe that it for this reason–that both bridges are the most famous in London, but in different media–that they get mistakenly identified.  (For some reason it is hard to imagine that there might be more than one famous bridge in London.)

The pointy building in the background is the London offices of Zurich, an insurance company.  The blue glass building houses Northern and Shell, a media company.  Next to that building and lower down is the Old Billingsgate Market, which used to house the largest fish market in the world (the market moved to Canary Wharf area, but is still the largest in the UK based on its website).

A battleship was parked in between the London and Tower bridges.  At first, I thought it was the battleship I saw on the news in the days before walking the bridge as the one moving up the Thames in an exercise to practice for the Olympic security measures.  Afterwards, I realized that this one (the HMS Belfast) was probably a permanent fixture and had not just traveled up the Thames.  It turns out I was correct the second time as the HMS Belfast is now part of the Imperial War Museums.