"Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf." Lewis Mumford.

Enhancing the physical attractiveness of our world is an obvious goal. It was a principal function of early city planning in this country. We can and will make this country a great deal more attractive over time.

We will, also, make our environment safe and pleasant. Our water and air are substantially more clean and safe today than 20 years ago. It should be that much more improved within the next 20 years.


"Americans have a positive thirst for the hideous." Meinken.

The municipalities of the Chicago region should develop plans to improve their physical appearance. The Appearance Plan would be part of the Comprehensive Plan of each community. It would be composed of sketches, photographs, and guidelines for the beautification of the community. The plan would cover all portions of the community, with an emphasis on the commercial and industrial areas along major roads.

The plan is envisioned as a brief and attractive brochure that could be given to real estate developers, businessmen and ordinary citizens to illustrate what can be done to improve the physical attractiveness of communities. The document would be brief with emphasis on photographs and illustrations.

The document should logically be developed jointly by the local government and the local business community. Each Chamber of Commerce should work with its respective Plan Commission to cooperatively develop the document.

The Appearance Plan should, over time, serve to improve the physical attractiveness of suburban communities and enhance real estate values and economic vitality. A volunteer effort of all property owners to improve their properties can be particularly effective when tied to capital improvements such as roadway improvements.

There is no reason for "America the Beautiful" to be "coyote ugly." Our commercial strips are often a blight with garish signs, crooked telephone poles, and poorly maintained buildings. It is time to improve the aesthetics of our environment. The development of an appearance plan for each community would substantially improve the aesthetics of each community.


There are a number of business establishments that festoon their exteriors with signs, lights, garish colors, and pennants. They asphalt their entire frontages, employ little landscaping, and in general, blight the environment. They seem often to be awarded for their enterprise with substantial patronage.

The obvious way to upgrade the physical image of our environment is to avoid such business and, instead, patronize those establishments that spend time, money, and effort on their appearance. Then you must notify the offending business as to why you avoid their location. You can tell them, but most people don't like to confront the offender directly.

You can easily xerox the following passage, however, and mail it to the offender. Alternatively, you can include it in personal letters, surreptitiously drop it off in the offenders establishment, or even make it sign size and affix it to the offenders signs. Make sure you line up your friends on these campaigns but, proceed like a spy--don't let the business know who you are, to avoid legal harassment.


Your business has been identified as a purveyor of ugly signs, garish colors, and uncleanliness. This notice is to indicate to you that my friends and business associates will not patronize your establishment until you clean up your act. This means you must increase your landscaping, reduce the signage, reduce the garishness of your lighting and colors, and improve your property maintenance.



We spend an enormous amount of time driving on interstate highways. With a few notable exceptions, the appearance of the freeways in the Chicago area is boring at best, and often ugly. The freeways are set well into the ground throughout much of Chicago, which minimizes the noise level for surrounding neighborhoods, but the side slope from the pavement to the top of the grade is generally composed of grass or weeds, interspersed with trees and garbage. The cost of mowing the grass is substantial.

It is proposed that the state develop a new approach to the treatment of interstate landscaping. The entire side slope should be planted in trees, shrubs, prairie, and wild flowers. The plantings should be largely maintenance free. An attractive forest type of environment is certainly possible along many of our freeways.

The use of prairie flowers is also recommended. Illinois is after all the Prairie State. For many urban dwellers the only prairie we see is the side of the interstate. The right mix of wild flowers should provide year round color with little maintenance cost--most rural roads grow wild flowers without the aid of man.

The use of sculpture and attractive signs are also recommended to improve the attractiveness of the freeway. This is a little tricky--one man's notion of art can be anathema to another. However, occasional sculptures on the interstate would certainly alleviate some boredom, which might also make driving a little safer.

For the southern suburbs, it is recommended that the state begin work on Interstate 80 and Interstate 294 initially. It is the most important entrance to the region from the east and we certainly would like to impress itinerant "Hoosiers" and "Yankees" with our artistic appreciation. The tollway authority could likely be a leader in this effort. Their road is already one of the more attractive in the area.

It has been estimated that the average urban dweller will spend 25,000 hours on a freeway over a 70 year life span(If you have never before seen this estimate, it is because I just made it, using my computer and a complicated planning formula called "Pulling it out of the air". (The Department of Defense is reputed to have pioneered this formula, which I will henceforth describe by its acronym, PIOOTA.) Since we are destined to spend a great deal of time on freeways, it follows that we should make them attractive. Let's do it, and soon.


This is a logical expansion of landscaping the freeways. Our downtowns have always contained sculpture. However, they are getting filled. Anyway, all of us spend a great deal of time on freeways. A large number of people who have never been in downtown Chicago have "been to Chicago" via driving through it on our "attractive" freeways. In fact, using the aforementioned PIOOTA Formula, I have calculated that the number of people who have been to Chicago via our freeways exceeds those who have been to downtown by a ration of 3.673 to 1.

It is logical, therefore, to establish a freeway sculpture park in our region. We will, I think, be the first area to do such a thing.

The plan for the park must be a cooperative effort of art patrons and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Safe and potentially attractive locations for art works need to be identified. Once areas are identified, artists can develop art work designed for those sites and patrons of the arts can finance the projects.

The potential for upgrading our freeway appearance is substantial. This seems such an obvious idea, that I will predict that in future years it will be commonplace.


Great cities have great structures that provide a sense of identification. The Eiffel Tower is the internationally known symbol of Paris, while Big Ben and Westminster Abbey provide that function for London. The Christ Statue in Rio de Janeiro, the arch in St Louis, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco are other examples of large structures that provide a sense of identification to the city.

The best of these identification symbols are observable from large parts of their communities. They, thus, form two functions--they provide a visual identification for residents of the community, while providing an image of the city to people who have never been to the city.

The town cathedral provided this function for many towns and cities around the world. A typical feature of these structures is a large tower that attracts the eye and forms and symbol with which residents can identify.

The symbols of Chicago are somewhat diverse. Sears Tower, the Standard Oil Building, and the John Hancock Building provide this function for modern Chicago. The Chicago Water Tower provides this function for historic Chicago.

The pride of Chicago, however, is its lakefront and none of our current buildings emphasize this aspect of the region. Our status as a "City on the Lake" is not widely known outside of Chicago. A monument in the lake assume this function.

The monument could be an enormous sculpture, designed by a world renowned sculptor and erected by government and the private sector. The political will to construct such a monument is difficult to develop, however, and the financing of a major effort is difficult.

The construction of the monument could be tied into economic development by deciding on a location for the monument in the lake just offshore from downtown and planning and zoning the area for the largest building in the world. The publicly owned land would become a very valuable piece of real estate and the subsequent development of the building would mean jobs and tax base for the region.

The physical appearance of the landfill on which the building would be constructed could take on may different types of appearances, It would probably resemble the Planetarium peninsula, with an attractive drive connecting the structure to downtown. The peninsula could jut straight into the lake or it could curve to provide a new breakwater and additional boat slips. Underneath the drive should be an enclosed walkway lined with shops. The entire perimeter of the site and drive should be public park and beach.

The design of the structure is, of course, vitally important. The structure must be attractive, monumental, and functional. The building must be designed by a respected architect, preferably from Chicago. Perhaps it is capped by a sculpture designed by a world renowned sculptor. The building would obviously become a symbol of the city to enhance and project our image as the" City on the Lake."

This proposal is, of course, very controversial. It will likely be opposed by many groups that oppose any lake front development. It does, however, have the possibility of enhancing the attractiveness of the city, both by providing a symbol of the region and an attractive lake front park where the loop could be viewed by the public.


Downtown Chicago and most suburban downtowns could be substantially improved by the addition of street trees. Trees soften the appearance of a street, lower noise, and improve the air quality. They provide shade and a natural appearance.

All zoning codes should require the use of street trees in downtown urban areas. The codes should be carefully developed to preclude poor curbing around tree sites. The ongoing addition of street trees will, over time, substantially improve the appearance of our communities.


Many of our urban commercial strips are poorly landscaped. They provide a continuous asphalt and concrete pattern between parking lots and buildings. The pattern is broken only by telephone poles and signs.

Commercial strips could be substantially improved by the addition of landscaping and street trees. Zoning codes should require all new and existing commercial areas to provide landscaping along the street right of way.


Flood control and parks have long been located together. This effort needs to be continued. About 10 to 11 percent of the region is in flood plain. This area should not, in general, be developed . It should be preserved as parks and forest preserves and floodplain.

In addition, we must add storm water detention for those areas that are built. Covering farmland and prairie with pavement and structures increases the amount and rate of stormwater discharge. Rainfall that formerly soaked into the ground to recharge the groundwater supply now rushes overland to increase downstream flooding.

Most cities and large counties have adopted stormwater detention requirements that require detention. This effort needs to be expanded and increased.

In appearance, these storm water detention areas can be quite attractive. The slopes into the detention areas should be gentle, with less than a one foot of drop to each six feet of lateral distance. The detention area should be designed to drain properly. It should have a positive use, such as park or open space. The detention area should be owned by an organization which will properly maintain both its detention facility and its recreational use.

Storm water retention is similar, but uses a dam to create a permanent pond or lake. During floods, the pond overfills and, then, is slowly discharged. These can make very attractive recreational areas. Unfortunately, liability suits have made these type of facilities somewhat dangerous to construct.

The region and its environment can be substantially improved, if most floodplain areas are preserved and protected.


Numerous efforts have been made over time to revitalize the area along the Chicago River. A number of private sector developments have begun to emphasize the river, including Marina City and River City. These two developments have been good prototypes for future developments.

The Friends of the River organization has been instrumental in promoting more active recreational and commercial uses along the Chicago River. Their efforts have also improved the river.

The clean up efforts of MSD and their deep tunnel project have also been instrumental in improving the river. It is now much cleaner and more attractive than formerly. This has been an inducement to further development.

Great water front developments are taking place all over the country. The Riverwalk in San Antonio and the Rouse festival marketplace developments are excellent examples of this type of development.

Most of these areas have a close proximity to the water. In contrast, most of the river edge property in the loop is far above the water. It is out of sight and out of mind. It is, also, difficult to provide continuity of pedestrian ways along the river. Most of the bridges in the loop preclude pedestrian ways from continuing along the river. In any event, the area is not that exciting, since Lower Wacker Drive is located on the rear of much of the river frontage property.

A bold and far reaching change is needed for the physical design of the land development along the river. The following outlines the parameters for a totally redesigned river front:

It is recommended that 30 to 40 feet of the loop side of the river front be leased for development !!! The design of this development may vary, but it must have these features in common:

1. Numerous temporary boat moorings.

2. A continuous pedestrian way along the river and only slightly above the river, similar to the San Antonio system.

3. Retail shops and restaurants along pedestrian way.

4. The roof of the structures to rise to the level of upper Wacker Drive, with roof top parks and outdoor restaurants.

5. Frequent stairs to provide access to and from the upper loop to the river.

This plan should induce a great deal of new investment into Chicago. The transport capabilities of the river will remain--the river will still be wide enough for commercial traffic. The restaurants and shops should induce a substantial investment into the city.

The riverfront could eventually be transformed into an attractive area for shopping and strolling. It could completely change the view and use of the river, making it seem much more like a marina festival marketplace.


The Chicago River is slowly becoming a more attractive part of the region. Shops and restaurants are being constructed along the river and the water quality has been improved by new sewer and water construction.

The quality of the water, however, is still too poor to support a large number of fish. A problem is the lack of oxygen in the water to purify the water and support fish life.

The addition of windmills along the river would correct this problem, while providing an attractive addition to the river and city streetscape. The windmills would be designed to add turbulence and, hence, air to the water. They could also be used to create fountains and become attractive outdoor sculptures.


Lake Michigan is too far from the loop. In most parts of the loop you are not aware that you are in a lakefront city. Unfortunately, our city is not built on a side slope and the lake is not readily visible. In general, the lake is too far of a walk from the loop for a stroll for shoppers and worker in downtown. Lake Shore Drive is also a major barrier.

This problem could be lessened by bringing the lake to the loop. One or more lake inlets could be cut through Grant Park to bring fresh lake water up to Michigan Avenue. The water must be kept in good quality by a circulation system.

This proposal is quite costly and difficult because of Lake Shore Drive and the ICG tracks. Cost will probably prohibit its construction, but it would certainly improve the area.