Exposing the Commission on Chicago Landmarks


Another local Chicago story that should provide some interest no matter where you are in this world (and good for you for not being here right now, given that it will apparently never, ever stop snowing). Unfortunately, this time it’s on a bit more of a down note. Found by way of Archinect, it’s writer Lynn Becker offering up an unedited piece he’d originally written for the Chicago Reader about the 40th anniversary of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and how little they’ve actually been able to do in labeling and even saving landmarks throughout the city. Compromise after compromise, often leaving just tiny facades of what used to be, he says, has led to countless fake marvels in a city that pride itself on its history of brilliant architecture. Here’s a bit:

Increasingly, an ordinance that was created to protect landmark buildings has been transformed into a mechanism for codifying their destruction. The bottom line is that the landmarks commission has become increasingly subservient to the will of its parent, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. If you’re a home owner in a landmark district and you want to make changes to your property, the commission will likely hold you to strict standards. If you’re a big developer in the planning department’s good graces, too often anything goes.