Friday, July 22, 2011


The first time we headed downtown, we took the El, the elevated rail system. It's a slow train, stopping many times between Evanston and Chicago, but it's interesting for both people-watching and for views over the surrounding houses and yards.
We disembarked at one of the downtown stations. Since the El runs so frequently, every few minutes, there's never a crowd waiting for a train. It might be different in rush-hour, which we avoided.

On the way down to street level, a cute warning sign caught my eye. Unlike many railway diagrams, the message is clear enough without the text.

From underneath, the whole structure makes a great piece of sculpture...

 ...though I did wonder, as trains rattled over, whether we all got a dusting of rust in our hair.

 We had arrived at the Harold Washington Library, an imposing building of dark red brick and granite, which would look even more dramatic if the canopy over the stairs to the El station wasn't right in front of it.

The most extraordinary thing about the building was the metal sculptures on the roof. (The architectural word for them is acroteria, I have learned, and the corner ones are supposed to represent owls.)

From this point it was just a short walk to Millennium Park where the famous Cloud Gate sculpture (more popularly known as "The Bean") is the biggest attraction. 

Like everyone else, we had to photograph ourselves in its shiny surface with the Chicago skyline behind.

Just like the El, the best photo op was from right underneath. That's us, bottom centre.

The park also includes an open-air stage and adjoining bridges by Frank Gehry, who is best known for the design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I didn't care for the stage much, but liked the sinuous curves of the bridges.

Best of all, from my point of view, was the adjoining garden designed by Piet Oudolf. His sweeping style really lends itself to a large site like this.

The view to the north has the Gehry amphitheatre looming in the background.


The garden is enclosed by dark evergreens and surrounded by a watercourse. On a hot day, it's a tempting place for a couple of young lovers to sit.


Across the street from the garden was a suitable plate-glass window for another mirror shot,although we appear only as silhouettes.

Also in the vicinity is the Cultural Center, which has a dome by Tiffany...

...and the dismantled and reassembled main room of the old Chicago stock exchange, too vast for my small camera to encompass in one shot. The room is all that was preserved when the building was torn down.

We returned to Evanston on the Metra, and used it for the rest of our stay when we wanted to go downtown. The terminus is in a large glass and steel skyscraper that people enter from the street and trains enter on an elevated line through a hole in one side. Inside, it's a vast, dark cavern with about 12 platforms lo-o-ong platforms. At some of them, huge locomotives wait for passengers to board or disembark.

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