Urban Fold

The Surreal Thing: Chicago's Broken Landmarking Process

Even as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the city's landmarks ordinance, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks not only continues to leave many essential buildings unprotected, it's upending the very definition of what a landmark is.

"If you're looking for someone to blame, you could start with Brian Goeken. A deputy commissioner of the city planning department, he heads its landmarks division, which coordinates landmarks protection with city planners and provides staff and research for the landmarks commission. By city ordinance, the planning department commissioner is a voting member of the landmarks commission along with eight mayoral appointees; Goeken is not, though he attends its meetings, weighs in on its agenda, and wields great influence over its decisions. Last year it held a hearing on whether a developer could demolish the landmark Farwell Building on Michigan Avenue and paste its facades onto a completely new structure, much of which would be a parking garage. When objections were raised about allowing a garage on Michigan Avenue, Goeken was Johnny-on-the-spot: "The commission has previously approved parking on street frontages as part of 6 N. Michigan and the Monroe Building . . . and also as part of 21-29 S. Wabash"-that is, the Legacy project. It didn't matter that this and the other examples were south of the river, almost a mile away in completely different landmark districts. Goeken was persuasive-the Legacy had become an argument for making parking on the Magnificent Mile A-OK. It's just one example of how Goeken is a master at expanding precedents; he can take a tiny rivulet and expand it into a superhighway."

Thanks to Lynn Becker

Full Story: Losing our Landmarks


Build Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245