Wanderlust | Chicago

Wanderlust Chicago

Wanderlust | Chicago USA Cloud Gate in the early evening, with the famous Chicago street wall of Architectural wonderment reflected in the background

09_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_MIES_VAN_DER_ROHE

Mies, Mies Van Der Rohe

08_CHICAGO_STREETS_

Underneath the L downtown, Chicago’s raised platform train network.

*Though I wish someone would pay me to travel, this is not a sponsored post, just some places I’ve loved to visit.*

STAY | Katya’s Place, Wicker Park

25_CHICAGO_AIRBNB_WICKER_PARK

Living area, Katya’s place, Wicker Park. Katya has two rooms for airbnb-ers in addition to her own space. The bathroom, living room and kitchen are shared but spacious and modern. Bedrooms are well appointed with a large bed, wardrobe and small desk with TV. The room itself is small, but has everything you need. The heating is very good, a must for wintery Chicago and entry to the apartment is secure and just half a block for the nearest major street. I would definitely stay with Katya again.

12_CHICAGO_STREETS_

Wicker Park looking decidedly chilly. Seconds after I took this shot the lady on the bike learnt why nobody else was riding on the icy streets.

In researching areas to stay in Chicago I narrowed in on Wicker Park as the kind of place I’d like to call home; easily accessible by public transport, a great diversity of modern restaurants, cafes and bars and just the right mix of local shopping and conveniences.

Wicker Park regularly ranks highly on lists of America’s most hipster suburbs, and maybe it was so cold they were all rugged up in grannie’s beanies out view or maybe I’m so close to that target market I can’t differentiate anymore  – but my experience of Wicker Park was without any pretense. Shop assistants were friendly and helpful, and the streets a mix of gentrified renovations and untouched late 19th century townhouses decaying with style.

Wander | Architecture

I would be lying through my teeth if I said there was any other reason Chicago was right at the top of my US cannot miss list – Architecture. I won’t bore the non-designers who read this with with an essay on the richness of architectural expression in this city, except to say that is really is amazing and worth a visit for anyone who lives in a building. Also Mies rulz.

On my backpacker budget I bought a membership to the  Chicago Architecture Foundation which included free entry to a wide range of walking tours across all periods of architectural development in Chicago. They also run bus tours and a very popular lake cruise on the Chicago River in summer.

 

29_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_DOWNTOWN

Sexy legs for an old fella… Unfortunately visiting in the depths of winter I wasn’t able to see as much Mies as I would have liked. In summer there are tours of this building (built for IBM), as well as the IIT campus and possibly *the best house ever built*, the Farnsworth House (we can argue for hours, but I will win eventually) . Will just have to go again someday. Some summer’s day.

25_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_DOWNTOWN

Street wall inthe day time. Clear skies = extra freezing. Most days Chicago was a chilly -5 to 10 degrees celsius.

27_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_DOWNTOWN

The street wall up close on a tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation

 

Frank Lloyd Wright is the poster boy for American architecture and certainly has had an enormous influence on the way we live today, whether most people realise it or not.

I took the L out to Oak Park to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust housed in his former home and studio. The Trust runs tours of the home and studio interiors as well as other Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area (and there are quite a few).

22_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_FRANK_LLOYD_WRIGHT_OAK_PARK

Did I mention I was in the US just after halloween? This orange hued FLW home looked as if it was designed to hold pumpkins in those planters. Arthur Heurtley House

19_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_FRANK_LLOYD_WRIGHT_OAK_PARK

Laura Gale House

Frobel blocks first used by Wright and passed onto his children, displayed in the custom built children's playroom, complete with stage and balcony seating.

Frobel blocks first used by Wright and passed onto his children, displayed in the custom built children’s playroom, complete with stage and balcony seating.

23_CHICAGO_ARCHITECTURE_FRANK_LLOYD_WRIGHT_OAK_PARK_UNITY_TEMPLE

Unity Temple. Another of FLW’s well known masterpieces is just a few blocks from the L station in Oak Park.

Wander | Art

06_CHICAGO_ART_INSTITUTE_GRANT_WOOD_AMERICAN_GOTHIC

Grant Wood American Gothic, Art Institute of Chicago. I was sheltering in the Art Institute one particularly blizzar-y afternoon, and realised after the ‘fifteen minutes to closing time’ announcement that this particular American classic was hidden away in a gallery on the opposite site of the Institute from me (and from the exit). Thus ensued a crazed rush (as much as one can when trying not to attract the attention of Museum staff) across this enormous complex of buildings to make sure I ticked this artwork off the must see-list. Given I am writing this now as a free citizen, you can assume I was successful in my art-mad-mission.

 

03_CHICAGO_ART_INSTITUTE

Internal staircase, Chicago Art Insititute has to be one the most memorable spaces I’ve ever whiled away the afternoon in. Essentially its a stairwell, but the combination of light from above, great art and monumental interiors means the space resonates with the passing of time.

02_CHICAGO_ART_ANISH_KAPOOR_CLOUD_GATE

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate. Surely the most instagrammed public art in America, and also a great collector of people.

01_CHICAGO_ART_ANISH_KAPOOR_CLOUD_GATE

It was amazing to sit and watch as people gravitated towards Cloud Gate, or ‘the bean’ as it’s its colloquially known. A product of our selfish culture, or a mirror to the innately curious human nature?

07_CHICAGO_ART_CULTURAL_CENTRE_EXHBITIONS

The City of Chicago cultural center is housed in an impressive 19th Century monolith and has three exhibition rooms championing visiting and local artists.

 

17_CHICAGO_STREETS_DOUBLE_O

Graffiti on the L. Don’t know why, but ‘Double OO No’ has been stuck in my head ever since.

Wander | Shopping

16_CHICAGO_STREETS_MACY'S

You really haven’t experienced consumerist Christmas until you’ve been to the US. And Chicago was just the beginning… (New York! New York!). This particular arrangement was in Macy’s downtown, with the barrel dome one of many stunning original features of the 19th century department store.

14_CHICAGO_STREETS_

Sunset on the L. Waiting for the train in Oak Park. Clear skies means extra freezing – see next image…

11_CHICAGO_STREETS_

And this is just what you need. Heating at the push of a button. Oak Park L Platform

10_CHICAGO_STREETS_

Says it all really.

What are your travel experiences of Chicago?

I challenge you to name a more perfectly formed home than the Farnsworth House – leave me a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.

%d bloggers like this: