The start of the trial of Laquan McDonald’s killer today has had me thinking about Chicago. It took four years to get here and trying to understand why that is can make you crazy. I have had a long, close, and complicated relationship to this city. And the ways in which the city has left so many of its citizens behind and the manifold failures of government and policing often leave one in despair. Remedies and solutions, or simply justice, so often seem just unobtainable. It’s a hard city.
I arrived in 1988 as a graduate student entering the M.ARCH program at UIC and, despite spending the majority of my time now in the South, I have yet to leave. I realized many years ago that as deeply involved as I have been with Chicago I could never, and would never, consider myself a Chicagoan. I’ve lived a lot of places and I’ve been more attached to places I’ve spent little time in than I am to Chicago. As much as I love Chicago, I have never felt like I was home there.
But when Amanda Williams was at Clemson to give a talk last fall I realized something. In spite of my not being a Chicagoan, I am, absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt, a Chicago Architect. Chicago formed me as a practitioner and professional. And most importantly, as a citizen-architect. The issues Chicago faces are the issues that animate my approach to architecture. I see our role as architects to be inescapably bound up with the most serious concerns of our society today. Chicago taught me that. Stanley Tigerman was the first of many educators, architects, and peers who showed me how we might conduct ourselves.
In spite of the horrible pain I often feel being so tightly bound into this maddening magnificent city, I am very proud to say I am a Chicago Architect.
21 January postscript: the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald was sentenced to 81 months in prison and three fellow officers involved in the cover up went free.