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I guess we all saw it coming

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0604220145apr22,1,3166143.story?coll=chi-news-hed
Soldier Field loses landmark status

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah

Tribune staff reporter
Published April 22, 2006

Soldier Field's controversial renovation, which critics dubbed a "flying saucer" and "a fish bowl," has stripped the stadium of its national historic landmark designation.

The National Park Service said Friday that former Interior Secretary Gale Norton had signed the order removing the stadium from the list of historic landmarks. The order followed an advisory board's finding that the glass bowl-shaped stadium set inside the colonnades of the old Soldier Field had destroyed the stadium's historic character.

"For national landmarks, we look more for restoration," said David Barna, spokesman for the National Park Service. "This one crossed the line in terms of too much renovation."

The city has maintained that the $660 million Soldier Field makeover, promoted by Mayor Richard Daley, added modern amenities without hurting the stadium's classic architecture. Officials argued that the stadium received its designation in 1987 not only because of its architecture, but also because of its historic significance in major 20th Century events.

But many historic preservationists said the loss of the building's original architectural style merited removal of the historic designation.

"The `Independence Day' flying saucer that dropped on top of Soldier Field" destroyed the building's historic architecture, said David Bahlman, president of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

Loss of the designation will make city officials across the nation think twice before major renovations of landmark sites, he said.

Officials at the Chicago Park District, which owns Soldier Field, were disappointed by the news. Parks spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said 90 percent of the stadium's architectural design was preserved.

Ben Wood, one of the lead architects on the renovation that was completed in 2003, blamed the media, especially Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, saying a barrage of unfavorable commentary influenced the federal decision.
 

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0407250421jul25,1,15826.story?coll=chi-news-hed

Why losing Solider Field's landmark status matters

By Blair Kamin

Tribune architecture critic
Published July 25, 2004

Avant-garde architecture has been on a spectacular roll in recent years, as the opening of the Frank Gehry-designed band shell at Millennium Park attests. But a nagging question has always lurked in the background: When would bold modernism become too bold? Now we know, courtesy of that legendary architecture critic, Uncle Sam: At the Eyesore on the Lake Shore.

When the federal government took the first step last week to strip Soldier Field of its National Historic Landmark status, it sent a message that resounds far beyond Chicago's aesthetically mangled lakefront football stadium: The government will react -- and strongly -- if avant-garde architects and arrogant politicians sack the nation's most extraordinary places.

The point is not to stop avant-garde architecture, but to save it from its worst excesses. In the last decade, cutting-edge designs such as Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum addition have won both critical praise and popular acclaim. Yet the public inevitably will sour on the avant-garde if it destroys cherished historic buildings and districts -- just as people came to abhor the soulless public housing projects and sterile towers on plazas they were force-fed in the 1960s.

There are better examples of how bold modernism can bring together the old and the new. Despite its chaotic curves, Gehry's band shell actually respects the beaux-arts symmetry of Chicago's Grant Park. And projects like the rebuilding of Germany's parliament building, the Reichstag, by Britain's Norman Foster demonstrate with extraordinary skill and sensitivity the idea of respectful (rather than violent) contrast: The new should strike up a pointed dialogue with the old rather than outshout it.

If that distinction is ignored, we can only expect the chasm between politicians and the public -- and between architects and those for whom they design -- to grow. And that is precisely what is happening in Chicago.

Last week, after the news broke that the staff of the National Park Service had recommended Soldier Field be taken off the federal landmark list, the Tribune's Web site posted a poll on the stadium's controversial design. By late Friday morning, 67 percent of the 7,188 people who had responded agreed that the design is the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore," as the poll put it, while 15.6 percent characterized it as a "superb synthesis of old and new." The remaining 17.4 percent said the stadium is "a pigskin palace and nothing else matters."

Compared to this admittedly unscientific snapshot of public disapproval, the reaction of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Soldier Field's prime political sponsor, was remarkably pallid. The mayor blithely told reporters he was unconcerned about the recommended de-designation. That suggests that (a) Daley wants the story to go away, or (b) he's clueless about the significance of National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) and the public's furor over what has happened to this one.

Well, here's a short course, Your Honor, in the NHLs: There are 2,364 of them, and they include such structures as the White House, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield and Louis Sullivan's masterful Carson Pirie Scott & Co. store at State and Madison Streets. Underscoring the gravity of last week's recommendation, the government rarely removes properties from the list.

`Exceptional places'

The National Historic Landmarks are, as the keeper of the list, the National Park Service, says on its Web site, "exceptional places" that "form a common bond between all Americans." In contrast, the better-known but less selective National Register of Historic Places has 77,951 listings, including both the NHLs and properties that are of state and local significance.

The use of the word "place" in the Park Service Web site is telling. Architecture is about construction -- it is about columns and beams and cantilevers -- but it is fundamentally about constructing cultural identity: Buildings both reflect and affect who we are.

In the vastness of a sprawling continent, the best buildings become landmarks -- places that literally (and beautifully) mark the land. Matching the authenticity of the spot where history actually occurred with the three-dimensional power of architecture, they tell stories about our common past that no theme park, with its stage-set artifice, can match.

Before its $660 million renovation was completed last September, Soldier Field (which opened in 1924 as Municipal Grant Park Stadium) fully lived up to the exacting standards of this exclusive list.

Its rows of paired Doric columns -- one on the stadium's east side, the other on the west -- created a powerful presence along the lakefront. They enclosed a multipurpose interior that hosted events such as the legendary Dempsey-Tunney boxing bout (won by Tunney after the infamous "long count"), speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the 1926 ceremonies that formally dedicated the stadium as a memorial to the 120,144 American soldiers killed in World War I.

To be sure, Soldier Field was a deteriorating hulk before the rehab, which was spearheaded by the Chicago Park District, the stadium's owner, and the Chicago Bears, who play there. But it was, at least, recognizable.

Today, if former Vice President Charles Dawes, who attended the 1926 dedication ceremonies, were to rise from the grave and check out Soldier Field, he'd undoubtedly gaze at its Klingon-meets-Parthenon mismatch and say: "Huh?"

Do no harm

That's what's really at issue here: As the nation's historical treasures adapt to changing circumstances, they should be altered in a way that does not do violence to the very qualities that made them special.

That balance has not been struck at Soldier Field, which was principally designed by Ben Wood and Carlos Zapata of Boston, with help from Chicago's Dirk Lohan. These are highly talented architects, and what makes analyzing their stadium so difficult is that the new structure -- at least when it is considered in a vacuum from the old one -- is in many respects outstanding.

With its dynamic diagonal supports, sweeping lines and angled planes, the new seating bowl possesses a superb stylized athleticism. Its cantilevered seating tiers afford a remarkably intimate view of the action on the field. The design already has won professional awards and can be expected to win more.
Yet, in the end, the power of place is more important than virtuoso architectural star turns.

As the strongly worded, three-page recommendation from National Park Service architectural historians makes clear, there remains something deeply wrong with Soldier Field's juxtaposition of asymmetrical, modern forms with those that are symmetrical and classical.

The stadium "no longer retains its historic integrity," says the recommendation, which will be taken up by the landmarks committee of the National Park System Advisory Board on Sept. 23. A final decision by the U.S. Department of Interior, of which the Park Service is a part, is expected next year.

Domination, not integration

Beguiling as Wood and Zapata's sweeping modern shapes are, they make the colonnades look like toys -- cute bookends on either side of the sweepingly monumental modern forms. The new doesn't exist independently of the old, as the architects insist. It dominates and interrupts it.

No longer do the once-proud colonnades etch a shape against the sky, as if they were the Acropolis of the lakefront. No longer does the stadium have a low-slung profile that harmonizes with the shoreline's horizontal sweep. No longer do the colonnades enclose a space in the tradition of the Coliseum and the great Roman architecture. Bears fans can't even see the old columns from their seats.

As the recommendation says, "It is no longer possible to sit in the replacement stadium and relate to the events, speakers, and sporting contests that occurred in the historic period. The stadium has fundamentally lost its association with the past."

The bottom line: Parts of Soldier Field remain -- not the whole.

Perhaps that's why so many people have wondered aloud whether it would have been more honest to simply tear down the colonnades rather than go through the political charade, as Daley and the architects did, of saying that they were saving one of Chicago's great landmarks.

Of course, we'll never know about alternatives because the all-powerful mayor and his allies steamrolled the project through the Illinois legislature. Not surprisingly, his own landmarks commission never attempted to give Soldier Field the city landmark status -- and thus, the official protection -- it deserved. Because no federal funds were used in the project, the federal government was powerless to stop it.

Finding architectural harmony

s there a better way? Foster's Reichstag reconstruction, completed in 1999, reveals there is: He restored the classical German parliament building, yet he also made such bold steps as placing a glass dome atop the building and its legislative chamber. And he inserted within the dome a helical ramp that winds its way up to an observation platform.

Based on a visit to the site four years ago, I can say that the juxtaposition is at once spectacular and successful: Not only do the old and the new retain their integrity, they inform each other, both formally and symbolically. The helical ramps allow the people to rise above their political representatives in the chamber below, providing a powerful symbol of Germany's revived democracy.

There is no better example of how avant-garde architecture can avoid the carnage and controversy it has created in Chicago. To show it will not tolerate a repeat of Chicago's Mistake by the Lake, the government needs to put its stamp of approval on the courageous and carefully reasoned recommendation it received this week.

It should give Soldier Field the boot.
 

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I can see it all clearly now. It's been part of Daley's plan all along: lose the landmark status, which opens the door for demolition, followed by the construction of his dreamed for (and Olympic worthy) 100,000 seat stadium. That sly bastard.

Why the hell didn't they follow the lead of the Ohio Stadium renovation. They added over 10,000 seats and kept their landmark status.
 

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What'u smokin' Willis?
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^Why didn't they just build a stadium capable of handling olympic events? Or one with a roof so we could host the Superbowl? Or go for a design that tried to blend in with the exterior as opposed to overwhelm it?

He wasn't a sly bastard on this, he was a stupid bastard. On every level this was a wasted oppertunity to have done something better.
 

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With the personality cult people on this site have formed around that man, I really can't tell.
 

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While many, including myself, may not like the stadium, there was no other option to keep the Bears in the City. Approx 70% of the seats at the old Soldier Field were end-zone seats. No most are between the 20yard line, much better for most fans. As a fan who has attended many games at the old soldier field there was no space to build much of the infrastructure. I remember hundreds of port-o-pottys lined up, there were no proper restroom facilities. While many think the McCaskeys are cheap, the Bears could not survive financially and compete with other teams who had newer stadiums and more sources of revenue (i.e. Sky Boxes). Lets face it, this is the reality of modern sports. You need a new stadium to compete. Would people have preferred the city to lose the stadium to Elk Grove, Aurora, Gary, or some other suburb? Look at NY and Boston, their stadiums are no where near the city centers. Remember, the Stadium is owned by the Park District and is making money for the city. What would we have done with the stadium if the Bears decided to move to the burbs. There would be a 68,000 seat old stadium with no significant tenants, so do you think the Park District would be able to properly do the maintainence on it. Putting a Dome on the Stadium would have been very costly and a difficult thing in terms of engineering. All the new retractable dome stadiums that are built today are completely new and do not have to work in such a small footprint that the old Soldier Field was. The stadium already cost $500million +.

Having all our major teams within 5-10min of downtown is amazing and in the long run is beneficial to creating a more vibrant city. Who knows in 5-10 years when all the South Loop and other developments finally finish, Soldier Field will be a neighborhood stadium.
 

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Sorry, TRC, the City lost a great opportunity on several fronts. First, there is a site next to US Cellular Field that could have supported an 80,000 seat stadium with or without a retractable roof.

A stadium adjacent to US Cellular Field would have been cheaper to build than was the Soldier Field remake and would have brought in more revenue to the City. The 60,000 seats that the new Soldier Field holds and its configuration are not enought to qualify that stadium for either the Super Bowl or an Olympics

Furthermore, a retractable dome, though not essential could have brought the City an NCAA Final Four in addition to large scale concerts in the non-summer months.

If a site next US Cellular Field had been chosen, there could have been a new Metra Stop put in right next to the stadium, which would also be a stones throw from the current Red Line and Green Line stops.

At the same time the old Soldier Field could have been changed to serve as a soccer stadium and a mid-size concert venue. The demolition of the Park District Administration building and the north end zone seats would have restored the classical setting as intended between the south facade of the Field Museum and the matching pairs of colonnades of the U-shaped Soldier Field. That would have been an unmatched setting for mid-sized concerts.

Also, if the Bears had been moved to the site next to US Cellular Field, the land south of Soldier Field could have been converted to parkland. The city and the Bears claimed that they were going to create a lot of parkland, but what they did was bring back the two large parking lots south of Soldier Field.

One of these lots is a double decker parking lot, with much of the remaining land occupied by two lane and four lane access roads. There is no sense of the land south of the stadium being a "park." Go walk around there and you'll see what I mean. There was a lost opportunity to make this a terrific park.

The lesson was that when a benevolent dictator's plan is bad, and the public does not have input, then the bad plan can be pushed through.

I agree with TRC on one point, that the Bears playing so close to downtown does have some benefits. It brings fans to stay at downtown hotels and eat at downtown restaurants. Some of that would have been diminished by a site next to US Cellular Field.

But the upside of a site near US Cellular Field, with all the points above, combined with the great improvements that would have occurred in and around the old Soldier Field, means that the Mayor went with the wrong plan.
 

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TRC said:
While many, including myself, may not like the stadium, there was no other option to keep the Bears in the City.
But why did the stadium have to be ugly? Couldn't we have accomplished the same result--keeping the Bears in Chicago--by building an attractive stadium?
 

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This is a disgrace act to the historical stadium as Soldier Field!
But on the other hand, if these changes can bring luck to da bears, well, really don't mind! :)
 

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TRC said:
While many, including myself, may not like the stadium, there was no other option to keep the Bears in the City. Approx 70% of the seats at the old Soldier Field were end-zone seats. No most are between the 20yard line, much better for most fans. As a fan who has attended many games at the old soldier field there was no space to build much of the infrastructure. I remember hundreds of port-o-pottys lined up, there were no proper restroom facilities. While many think the McCaskeys are cheap, the Bears could not survive financially and compete with other teams who had newer stadiums and more sources of revenue (i.e. Sky Boxes). Lets face it, this is the reality of modern sports. You need a new stadium to compete. Would people have preferred the city to lose the stadium to Elk Grove, Aurora, Gary, or some other suburb? Look at NY and Boston, their stadiums are no where near the city centers. Remember, the Stadium is owned by the Park District and is making money for the city. What would we have done with the stadium if the Bears decided to move to the burbs. There would be a 68,000 seat old stadium with no significant tenants, so do you think the Park District would be able to properly do the maintainence on it. Putting a Dome on the Stadium would have been very costly and a difficult thing in terms of engineering. All the new retractable dome stadiums that are built today are completely new and do not have to work in such a small footprint that the old Soldier Field was. The stadium already cost $500million +.

Having all our major teams within 5-10min of downtown is amazing and in the long run is beneficial to creating a more vibrant city. Who knows in 5-10 years when all the South Loop and other developments finally finish, Soldier Field will be a neighborhood stadium.

^^^^to hell w/ the bears they suck and are cheap anyhow...this is a Situation Negative All Fucked Up
 

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NearNorthGuy] First, there is a site next to US Cellular Field that could have supported an 80,000 seat stadium with or without a retractable roof.
True. there are also tons of lots by the UC that could have been used as well to serve as a "sports complex" and that would now be close to PT. Or it could have been put in what is now planned to be Riverside Park? Or on the Comisky lots like said earlier. Or it could have gone where the south lots are now and just north of McCormick Place East if everyone was so insistant on keeping the team on the lake front.

The fact is that this is not Manhatten. There are tons of sites all over Chicago where a new stadium could have gone and some of them near downtown. As long as the city was going to keep up a good part of the tab the Bears likely wanted to stay in the city.

The 60,000 seats that the new Soldier Field holds and its configuration are not enought to qualify that stadium for either the Super Bowl or an Olympics
Exactley. The Bears said they wanted a 64,000 stadium anyway and had to cut down the size and make it the 2nd smallest stadium in the 2nd largets market in the league. How does that make sense? They said they couldn't fit in more seats or dig deeper due to the water table so once that was the case they should have just picked another spot to do what they wanted.

If the Bears/city hadn't insisted in fitting a square put in a round hole then they could have been as innovative and as large as they wanted to make the stadium (for an Olympics, Super Bowl, etc.) The inside of the stadium is great (would have liked to given it a horseshoe shape and rip down one endzone so that one end zone opened up onto the city with a kick azze view, but all in all a kickazze interior design).

If the Bears/city didn't try to make these lame quasi-attemps at incorporating the colonnade's that they treat more as a structural and aesthetic hindrance then as a real asset they could have made a very similar or even better design if they just relocated the stadium on a plot they could do what they fancy with.

As of right now it looks like the colonades (even though it still gives the stadium a kind of unique aspect) just got in the way of what they really wanted to do with the stadium in some fake attempt to appease the preservationest and fans who identified them with the stadium.



Furthermore, a retractable dome, though not essential could have brought the City an NCAA Final Four in addition to large scale concerts in the non-summer months.
Exactley. And with Chicago's high profile and good resources for tourist I would be willing to bet Chicago would have gotten a convention/Super Bowl/NCAA finals virtually every four years at the least. Not to mention big music acts that could easily fill up such a stadium in the winter months instead of playing at the UC.



At the same time the old Soldier Field could have been changed to serve as a soccer stadium and a mid-size concert venue. The demolition of the Park District Administration building and the north end zone seats would have restored the classical setting as intended between the south facade of the Field Museum and the matching pairs of colonnades of the U-shaped Soldier Field. That would have been an unmatched setting for mid-sized concerts.
Yea, it would have. They could have either left the East/West grandstands for concerts or for large high profile high school or college football/soccer games.
Or they could have torn down all the stands and just make it a very awesome park (leaving the colonades to straddle the park). Either way it could have been a very unique gathering place along the lake just ozzing out charechter.
 

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The only flaw in the makeover of Soldier Field was retaining the collonades; I side with Frank Lloyd Wrights' great distaste for foreign architecture on our soil; he would have expected the ushers in the stadium to be wearing togas.
 

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the soldier field renovation is a billion hail mary touchdowns rolled into one. it's one of the best sports venues in the world. what a fantastic addition to our city.

i couldn't care less about the place losing its national landmark designation because the honor was entirely undeserved in the first place.
 

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Steely Dan said:
the soldier field renovation is a billion hail mary touchdowns rolled into one. it's one of the best sports venues in the world. what a fantastic addition to our city.

i couldn't care less about the place losing its national landmark designation because the honor was entirely undeserved in the first place.
Geez, Steely, don't edit yourself.
 

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I guess the time is coming when the collonades are dismantled. The stadium would look a hell of a lot better. This might have been Daley's plan all along. Give the people time to adjust and accept the loss. They'll have to keep some of the old stuff and move it to the Art Institute campus. Put parts of all the old buildings there and make it a graveyard for old buildings.
 

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The NEW soldier field is incredible, and should show how modern architecture can coexist with older architecture, anyways i dont think stadiums should recieve national historic landmark designations.
 
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